As far as Nipomo High School senior Austria Holland is concerned, she received the perfect birthday gift recently.
"I did not want any birthday presents," Holland said. "I told my parents and anyone else who was considering giving me presents to donate to the suicide and crisis hotline."
They obliged and the campaign to raise awareness for suicide prevention is up and running.
"The campaign started Jan. 31," Holland said, beaming.
The national suicide and crisis hotline number is 988.
"It's three digits - easy to remember," Holland said. "It's a school hotline, but anyone can call it. Someone will answer and put them in touch with a professional," for counseling.
Holland spoke after the Central California Athletic Association (CCAA) Wrestling Finals for varsity girls and junior varsity boys that Nipomo hosted last Saturday.
Holland, who placed eighth at 111 pounds at the CIF State Wrestling Championships last year, was named the Outstanding Lower Weights Wrestler at the CCAA event last Saturday after winning by fall in the championship match at 106 pounds.
As for the Nipomo High School suicide and crisis hotline project, "It's been a passion of mine," said Holland.
Holland said she, along with schoolmate Lucca Hart, a senior who is a top scorer for the Nipomo boys basketball team, had been working on the project since the start of the school year.
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"We've both had some losses," said Holland. "Mine was a family friend. She had a Type-A personality. Her personality lit up the room when she walked in. No one suspected anything was wrong.
"We felt bad. We felt we couldn't just sit there, not doing anything."
"It was set up in order to encourage people to donate to our #988, the 'You Matter' suicide prevention and awareness movement that we have started throughout our school and town," said Holland. "The GoFundMe reads. 'We decided to start this movement due to personal experience and losses that we both experienced this past summer.'"
Suicide is the 12th-leading cause of death in the country, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (ASFP). According to the AFSP, 45,979 Americans died by suicide in 2020, and there were an estimated 1.2 million suicide attempts that year.
"I just feel like it's something that's close to my heart," Holland said of the suicide issue. "I feel it can be overlooked."
A banner that reads "You Matter," contains the suicide and crisis hotline number and sports a suicide and crisis hotline aqua-and-purple-colored ribbon hangs on a wall along with the other banners inside the Nipomo gym.
"The enthusiasm among the students about the ribbons has been great," said Holland. "It's been received so well."
Holland will compete at the Central Section Area Meet at Bakersfield Golden Valley High School Saturday.
Kenny Cress is a sports reporter for the Santa Maria Times, covering local sports in northern Santa Barbara County. You can send information or story ideas to him by emailing it to KCress@SantaMariaTimes.com.