Making a difference

This gay athlete hopes to raise $10,000 in honor of his best friend lost to suicide

University of Arizona student Josh Velasquez

Josh Velasquez is a 21-year-old senior pursuing a degree in neuroscience and cognitive behavior at the University of Arizona. Six years ago, he lost his best friend to suicide. Now, the former high school swimming champ hopes to honor his friend’s memory, Outsports reports.

“In 2011, my best friend, Aaron, became another suicide statistic,” Josh says. “Like others, Aaron felt that no one understood him or his place in the world. He thought it would be best if he was no longer around. It destroyed everyone that knew him.”

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Josh is preparing to run in a half-marathon in Long Beach, CA next month. The marathon will raise money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. He’s set up a fundraising page and hopes to raise $10,000 by October 8. So far, he’s raised just over $2,000.

Josh came out earlier this year in a joint coming out story with fellow swimmer Axel Reed and published by Outsports . He spoke candidly about being sexually abused as a child and his struggles with depression.

“Last year I was really struggling with what happened to me as a kid,” Josh told OutSports. “Last November, something happened on campus that triggered a memory, and with school being hard I fell into deep depression.”

Related: LGBTQ People Far More Likely To Suffer From Mental Health Issues, Study Claims

Sadly, Josh’s experiences are not that uncommon. A 2016 study by the National Alliance on Mental Illness found that LGBTQ people, teens especially, are three times as likely to suffer from certain mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and PTSD often as a result of being bullied and abused.

Read Josh’s touching Instagram post about his friend…

Most of you know my friend Aaron passed away because he felt alone. He thought it would be best if he was no longer around. It destroyed everyone that knew him. Last year, like tens of thousands of others, I was suffering with extreme depression and suicidal thoughts. But I was a lucky one: I was pulled out of the dark hole I had dug for myself by close friends, family and assistance from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). On October 8th of this year, I will be running the Long Beach half-marathon in support of those taken too soon by depression and suicide. If you or anyone you know has ever been affected by suicide, I ask that you please consider making a donation to AFSP, whether it be small or large, it all can make a difference to someone. Link in my bio. #yourenotalone #lbmarathon #asfp #suicide #prevention #depression #love #charity #thankful

A post shared by Josh Velasquez (@whoisjoshv) on

h/t: Outsports