PETALUMA, Calif. (KGO) -- More than a dozen tattoo artists gathered in the town of Petaluma to donate their time for a day, raising almost $15,000 for a North Bay suicide prevention program Buckelew.
Many of the artists participating in the event have been personally affected by suicide loss themselves.
Petaluma Tattoo owner Nick Rodin, who hosted this event at his shop for the second year running, lost both his brother and best friend to suicide in 2009.
"One of the hardest things was watching my mother lose one of her sons to this, all while she was fighting cancer," Rodin said. "Watching my mother mourn and grieve for him was really sad."
Shortly after, Rodin also lost his mother. It took him a decade to be able to talk about his experiences of loss.
However, taking action to help others and organizing the benefit has helped with his healing journey.
"It took me close to 10 years to have the courage to be able to do something and help the people that have these tendencies or just feel like that they're lost," he said. "That's when I realized having this job, we have this connection to people personally, and we get to immortalize people, for them through tattooing."
Greg Rojas, a Petaluma Tattoo artist who participated in the event, had similarly experienced some devastating losses.
His first experience with losing someone to suicide took place when he was 10 years old -- his next door neighbor who used to play with him.
"He was in high school and I was in elementary school," Rojas said. "He had an older brother and we all used to play with neighborhood kids, playing football or wrestling or doing stuff."
He went on to say, "The worst part about it for me was to watch his family, because they still lived in the house. And they continue to live there, and to see the parents grieving or family members grieving, for years, and then they ended up moving."
It was the first of many.
When he was in high school he lost another friend to suicide due to family pressure to perform in sports and most recently a close friend last year who had a baby on the way.
"There's been other people too, but that one, like, really just, it blew my mind," he said. 'I was just like, 'Dude, you know? Just why?'"
In a statement, Buckelew Programs CEO Chris Kughn said, '"As California faces a devastating mental health crisis exacerbated by the pandemic, it's more critical than ever to talk openly about suicide and find ways to expand access to mental health care. One in six Californians live with a mental illness, and suicides have been steadily increasing by 25% nationally over the last two decades. The generosity of Petaluma Tattoo, the artists and the participants not only raises vital funds for services for our diverse population; it helps shift public perception and spread information."
"I've done a lot of memorials for people," said Rojas. "Whether it's suicide or people passing away. I've done a lot of tattoos like that," Rojas said.
Nearly 60 tattoos were inked at the event that ran from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Artists donated 100% of the day's proceeds to Buckelew Programs for suicide prevention services. All proceeds from Lou's Luncheonette, a Petaluma-based food truck, were also donated to the cause.
Other local businesses also made donations: Stemple Creek Ranch donated beef for the burgers, Lagunitas Brewing Company Petaluma Taproom donated beverages, and Paqui Yollotzin Ballet Folklorico of Petaluma provided entertainment.
Buckelew is the largest nonprofit provider of comprehensive mental health and substance use services in the North Bay.
Buckelew also operates the region's 9-8-8 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, one of 13 California call centers participating in the new national 988 network. Trained hotline volunteers respond to approximately 1,000 calls 24/7 each month from Marin, Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino counties.
If you or someone you love is in crisis and dealing with suicidal thoughts or mental health issues, here are some organizations that offer help and hope.
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