Ralph Romero, 50, is back in school at Pima Community College. But his story doesn't start in the classroom - it starts in his childhood home.
Romero tells News Reporter, Jennifer Martinez that he grew up in a loving, normal home with a mom, dad, and two siblings. But underneath, Romero was dealing with pain and sorrow.
"My first suicide attempt was when I was 5-years-old and have attempted to kill myself, 14 times," says Romero. "5-year-old kid trying to kill himself - not feeling right with the family, not feeling as important in the family from what I thought."
Romero says, he felt like he didn't belong and never felt like he was as good as his brothers."They're phenomenal. They can read, they knew what they were doing, they knew where they were going, they could joke, they could do a lot of things and I never felt part of it. Once again this is all racing thoughts. My own thoughts. My own downfalls. Not what was going on in my life but what I saw. What I closed my eyes too. It was hard."
Ralph's attempts to kill himself continued and at the age of 11 - his family sought help.
Manic depression symptoms:
- mood swings
- elevated mood
- general discontent
- loss of interest or loss of interest or pleasure in activities
"Our people, Native Americans - we don't believe in that. It's going to pass. Take this, do this, do that."
Romero says in his culture as a Yaqui-Navajo Apache Native American there's a stigma surrounding mental illness. Now, he wants to work with the Native American community to talk to them about asking for help when needed.
Romero hasn't attempted suicide since 2001 when he was in his 30's.
Community-Wide Crisis Line (520) 622-6000 or 1-866-495-6735
Call 911 When calling 911 - state it is a mental health crisis for either yourself or family/ friend and ask that a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT ) officer be provided.
National Crisis Information National Crisis Line (800) 273-TALK (8255)
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (888) 333-AFSP (2377) (not a crisis line) www.afsp.org
"People look at me and say, 'you don't look like you're crazy.' I tell them, I have mental issues. I know what I'm doing and I know where I'm going."
Romero says the struggle isn't over for him but now that he's managing his illness he's making up for lost time with the family who helped save his life.
"I think about my daughter and I think about the loss of my son when I wasn't there with him and all the things I can do with my dad. Everything we were doing that I missed. We're back doing it again. I'm part of the family."
For programs and services at the National Alliance on Metal illness Southern Arizona, click here.