Challenging society to handle suicide differently
Title: Founder & President
Organization: National Hispanic Suicide Prevention Network Inc.
Gabriela Vargas is a social entrepreneur; founder and owner of Poiema Studio, a safe space for community mental wellness in the city of Elgin where the National Hispanic Suicide Prevention Network Inc. was born. With the support of co-founder Alejandro Ramirez, Vargas leads NHSPN, a nonprofit organization centered on suicide prevention with an increased focus on marginalized communities.
Vargas’ passion for preventing suicide in the Hispanic community is based on personal experience with anxiety and depression, the impact of becoming a suicide attempt, and suicide loss survivor. She began making a difference in her community by sharing her personal survival story and advocating for changing the way society remembers suicide loss victims and offers support to survivors.
Through Vargas’ leadership and advocacy, the city of Elgin proclaimed March 1 as Suicide Grief Awareness Day to shed light on suicide grief, and the city proclaimed July 18 as Vanessa Guillen Day to highlight the three main public health problems affecting minority and military communities: sexual abuse and harassment, mental illness, and suicide loss.
Vargas shares the challenges of fellow immigrants. She was born in Zacatecas, Mexico, and grew up bi-culturally as an undocumented child in Palatine, Illinois. She became a mother at a very young age. As she raised her two sons and worked in a community hospital as a medical interpreter for 14 years, Vargas experienced firsthand the needs in her community. She learned the value of service from her parents, to whom she is grateful for always being an example of leading in service, and who taught her to always have faith in God, and how to be resilient in adversity.
Words of wisdom: Lead with your heart, and trust the process.