Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Bringing Issue of Suicide out of the Shadows

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Bringing Issue of Suicide out of the Shadows

Article excerpt

EAST RUTHERFORD -- Faith Banca and Rebecca Cruz are continuing to shine the light on the issue of suicide, hosting their fourth annual Sing into the Sunlight Concert and Festival last Sunday to raise public awareness about such deaths.

The two borough residents, now college students, launched their concert event in 2013, when they were 16-year-olds at Becton Regional High School. Now the women, both 19, still see the need to educate North Jersey residents about suicide, to try to remove the stigma surrounding it and to advocate for its prevention.

At last weekend's festival at Sesselman Park and Bandshell, Banca and Jenilyse Figueroa of Carlstadt addressed the gathering about the topic, which some people don't even think should be discussed, Banca said.

"I started off with the misconception that if they hear someone tried to commit suicide, they call them crazy, they say that they were selfish," Banca said. "Mental illness is just like any illness, but it's an illness to the brain, and there's a whole stigma about it."

She also said that talking about suicide "isn't glorifying the issue."

At the festival, which was switched from Saturday to Sunday because of the weather, there were also handouts and materials on suicide. Proceeds of the event are being donated to programs for suicide prevention, mental health awareness and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

The festival featured food vendors and musical performances by GoodWorks, Pursuing JC and Sam Houston. People were also able to participate in arts and crafts, yoga, face-painting and a volleyball tournament. Admission was free, but it generated money by charging vendors a fee for their spots, holding raffles, soliciting donations and charging $5 per person for those who took part in the tournament, Banca said.

Over the years, she and Cruz have raised about $15,000, with $8,000 of that going to the suicide-prevention foundation and the rest being plowed back for awareness-raising events. There isn't a final tally yet for last weekend's festival, but it raised more than $1,500, Banca said.

To Banca, a psychology major who just finished her freshman year at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. …

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