The recent suicides of celebrities Lee Thompson Young, 29, who played in the 2004 film, "Friday Night Lights," and Glee star Cory Monteith, 31, has moved the topic of suicide into the spotlight and mainstream discussion. However, those with star status are not the only ones affected by the national health problem.

A few months ago, The New York Times reported that suicide rates among middle-aged men and women "have risen sharply in the past decade, prompting concern that a generation of baby boomers who have faced years of economic worry and easy access to prescription painkillers may be particularly vulnerable to self-inflicted harm."

An interesting fact, the New York Times notes, is that more people die by suicide than car accidents. Such is confirmed by local mental health experts, Ellen Eggert and Meghan Boaz, and psychologist and Cal State professor Yvonne Ortiz-Bush, who are involved in different organizations, including the Kern County Mental Health Department and the local chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, to raise suicide awareness locally and support prevention efforts to save lives. The trio is encouraging the public to come out and make a difference in the efforts by participating in an upcoming three- to five-mile walk at Beach Park.

The Out of the Darkness Community Walk, organized by the AFSP, will be held 9 a.m. Saturday Sept. 14 at Beach Park. Those who sign up can indicate how much they would like to donate as part of their participation. Monies raised from the event will benefit the nonprofit's educational and research work for suicide prevention, awareness and support of those who have lost loved ones. Local organizers are hoping to raise about $20,000 from the event. So far, they are about half way there. For more information, please contact Eggert via email at or by phone at 868-1552.

Young Explorers

Bakersfield is fortunate to have a group of youth who are training to become future law enforcement officers. Just recently, the Kern County Sheriff's Department recognized its latest selection of sheriff explorer graduates. These are local youth who completed the sheriff's Explorer Post Academy. The graduates were: Noemi Mora Silva, Colin Desmond, Josie Gonzalez, Isaac Solis, Cameron Snyder, Tomas Ibarra, Jesse Ghuman, Anthony Hidalgo, and Arthur Carreon.

Another highlight of the graduation ceremony was a special recognition of explorers who attended the San Diego Sheriff's Regional Academy in early August. Local explorers were selected to join explorers of other law enforcement agencies in the state for a weeklong academy. The local explorers who completed the San Diego academy were Eric Diaz, Jeff McCuan, Augustin Uribe, Colin Desmond, Isaac Solis, Anthony Hidalgo, Cameron Snyder, Patricia Ruiz, Noemi Mora, Julianna Jimenez and Jacqueline Jimenez, who received a "top female" award from San Diego.

Devil Pups

Congrats to the 19 local youth who graduated from the Devil Pups program at the Marine Corps base in Camp Pendleton this summer. The Kern County youth were: Dustin Avila, Jenifer Castaneda, Colin Clark, Ellis Skyreese, Victoria Espericueta, Dalton Grogan, Dakota Harbuck, Dylan Harbuck, Josh Harper, Edgar Hernandez, Barrington Lewis III, Gabbie Lugo, Triston Mends, Timber Miriah, Nathan Perry, Eddie Rodriguez, Jacob Ruiz, Victoria Scoggin and Jovany Suarez. "Kent Sloan, a 2012 graduate of the program returned to serve as an Eagle -- a much sought after position to assist Devil Pups staff," said Dick Taylor, Kern County liaison representation for the local Devil Pups Inc. although most people know him as the county's new veterans service officer.

Taylor said about 300 youth between the ages of 14 to 17 from California, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona graduated from Devil Pups in late July. Kern County always sends a group of solid teens to the program, which is lead by Marine instructors and emphasizes personal responsibility, self-discipline, good citizenship, confidence, teamwork, and respect for others, their family and country. Applications for the 2014 Devil Pups encampment will be available in March. Tryouts are usually held in May and camp is typically at the end of July. For more information, email:

Olivia Garcia is editor of Bakersfield Life and BWell magazines and a columnist of The Bakersfield Californian. These are her opinions, not necessarily those of The Bakersfield Californian. Send her tips at

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