Esperanza (2018)


Melanie Cervantes
20" x 16"
5 color screen print, 140#/300 gsm, Canson Cold Press Watercolor paper, Printed in San Leandro, 2018
Edition of 60

In the past few years there have been several high profile suicides of people who have achieved celebrity and a high amount of visibility. Many of us mourned their losses because their art moved us or they made us laugh and because we empathized with their struggle. For some of us we felt frustrated by the lack of attention given to the losses happening in our own communities, to those we care about and whose losses we had to bear.

New research, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, suggests the suicide rate is roughly two times higher for black children ages 5-12 compared with white children of the same age group. Suicide rates for Native youth is at a crisis level with some communities death rates at 5 to seven times the average. Every other day someone dies of suicide in Hawai’i. A teen in Hawai'i is nearly twice as likely to attempt suicide as a teen elsewhere in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2015 youth high-risk behavior survey released in 2015, 15 percent of Latina adolescents in the U.S. have attempted suicide….the highest rate of attempts at the time. There are also large disparities when examining suicide rates in the Global South.

People do not want to stay in this world. The disparities tell me that there are factors that lead to this kind of despair. The traumas are carried across generations and the wounds are deep and need healing.

I’ve struggled with anxiety and feeling suicidal my entire life and I never discussed it with anyone until recently. It often frustrated me to see suicide prevention messages suggest reaching out to a hotline because the depths of despair I found myself drowning in often meant I was isolating myself from people and could never imagine talking to anyone about feeling worthless and alone.

Being diagnosed with metastatic cancer brought up a lot of these issues and in many instances exacerbated old feelings. I still struggle. Sometimes it’s a daily struggle. I’ve started to create more personal work about the root causes of my pain, about the oppressive structures that have impacted my life and as a way to remind myself that there are good days.

This image is as reminder to myself that I am capable of loving myself enough to heal. That the world is better with me in it.