Student Discusses Staying Strong During Suicide Prevention Month


Jeanette Falotico, Staff Writer

“I used to never really think much about mental health and probably believed in the negative stigmas that were attached. Then in high school, I started to suffer from depression and anxiety. It was the scariest thing to deal with, but I was able to overcome the hardest part, which was accepting the fact that I had mental illnesses and people would look at me differently,” said Melissa Valeroso, a Brookdale student.

“September is suicide prevention month, a very special month that always reminds me to stay strong whenever I’m struggling with something,” Valeroso said.

As a mental health advocate and speaker for the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI,) “I turned fear and anger into a passion. I wanted to educate others on different mental illnesses and explain what one goes through, how it feels, what helps and just try to break the stigmas,” Valeroso said.

“National Alliance on Mental Illness is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.” According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, “Suicidal thoughts, much like mental health conditions, can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or background. In fact, suicide is often the result of an untreated mental health condition. Suicidal thoughts, although common, should not be considered normal and often indicate more serious issues.”

“Joining NAMI was one of the most exciting achievements I accomplished in hopes that I could change the minds of others who believe that mental illness means weakness,” Valeroso said. “With NAMI, I’m able to visit different schools and events and share my story with others. I hope sharing my story makes others feel like they’re not alone and that things can get better.”

REMEMBER: Brookdale Community College is a STIGMA-FREE ZONE!

Brookdale works to raise awareness of mental illness and substance use disorders, promote inclusive language, and encourage those affected to seek services and feel supported. Navigating life with a mental health condition can be tough, and the isolation, blame, and secrecy that is often encouraged by stigma can create huge challenges to reaching out, getting needed support, and living well. Brookdale will encourage the use of the many mental health resources available, so that no student needs to feel hopeless or alone.

If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or call 911 immediately.

Additionally, Brookdale has 24/7-arrangements for students with Monmouth Medical Center Psychiatric Emergency Services at (732) 923-6999 and Second Floor Youth Helpline at (888) 222-2228,

For an appointment with a Brookdale faculty counselor, call (732) 224-2329.

For more information about the National Alliance on Mental Health visit their website at