• Tue. May 28th, 2024
Mental Health Awareness Article

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, we bring you the story of a young woman whose life ended by suicide. If you, a loved one, or anyone you know has shown signs or is at risk, please call Ohio’s Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988. Every suicide is a preventable tragedy we as a community can help stop. As this article illustrates, we are all affected by suicide: those of us left behind by a loved one and those of us deprived of a chance to ever know the departed. 

Rare are those of us that will ever change the life of another. Rarer still are those who will be remembered after their passing. For one member of the Sinclair family, however, that is a reality she is not here to witness. 

Since July 22 2023, the college’s ASL faculty have not been the same, the date forever associated with one name. Jeni Haber. Even all these months later, her teachers cannot think of their late student without smiling. On campus everyone that knew her remembers a remarkable ASL major brimming with life, ready to change the world.

“She was bright, she was intelligent, she was full of joy when she was here. She, on the outside, was living what appeared to be her best life. She had purpose here and she applied herself 110% to what she was doing while she was here in our classes and in our program,” Amy Gibson, an ASL Professor at Sinclair, told The Clarion. 

Gibson was one of three professors that agreed to share their memories of Jeni and the impact of her death. Its clear she was loved, respected, and had a real impact on the people in her life. 

“The memory I have of Jeni was the positive energy she brought in 100%. She had a positive supportive attitude no matter who was around.”

– Julie Foleno

“Jeni was in my interpreting theories and practices class which is really where they start to learn what the role of an interpreter is,” Nicole Morris, another ASL instructor said. “She always had thoughtful discussions and would provide another perspective to her peers that maybe they had not thought of before. She might not have been the youngest person in the class but she was by no means the oldest either so she had the ability to see where the younger peers were coming from and bring that additional element of having experience, seeing different perspectives to the role of an interpreter.”

Julie Foleno shared how lucky she was to have Jeni during her first year as an instructor at the college. Unfortunately, it would be the last year she had the ASL-major as well. 

“The memory I have of Jeni was the positive energy she brought in 100%. She had a positive supportive attitude no matter who was around,” Foleno said.

Her instructors recalled a young woman in the prime of her life, who was mature, and determined to help the deaf community. ‘Bright’ is a word that comes up often but is by no means a cliché- the effect she had on ASL faculty is apparent in their tearful memories of Jeni. 

“I know she tried multiple things prior to realizing Asl was where she led, that she felt drawn to get involved with interpreting. We had a deaf student in one class and Jeni really bonded with her. They often partnered up, fed off each other, and learned from one another,” said Gibson. 

According to Gibson, Jeni showed a real passion for interpreting. She thrived during her Practicing Interpreting Experiences (PIE) sessions. Foleno recalls her brimming with positivity even during the toughest times. 

“There was a time when I referred her to student services on campus because she was struggling and didn’t have access to therapy off campus. She came back with great feedback and said she recommended it to anyone else,” Foleno said. 

Her death caught Sinclair’s ASL team by surprise. After reaching out to student services, she appeared to be living life to the fullest. 

“I don’t know how much we were privy too. But from my perspective, there was a self-awareness and a willingness to do and take advantage of what was offered and available,” Foleno said. 

Gibson was the first of the trio to find out and would later have the difficult task of informing her professors that she would not be joining them that fall. It was a first for both her and Foleno. Each of the professors remains heartbroken over what could have been. 

“Just based on who Jeni was she would have been phenomenal wherever she went. She was mature, well-versed, and had a lot of experience. She could have gone anywhere and done anything,” Gibson said. 

Suicide remains a leading cause of death according to data from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). In 2021, over 1,400 people in Ohio took their own life. Rates between 2000-2022 have risen 36% with 49,476 people in the US committing suicide in 2022. That year it was also in the top nine leading causes of death for Americans aged 10-64. 

At her hospital, Jeni was given a walk of honor to celebrate her wish to donate her body to those in need. Over 150 people received tissue and organs from Jeni, according to Gibson. Had she lived, however, one wonders how many more lives she would have affected. 

Sinclair offers confidential counseling to students and faculty free of charge. To contact Counseling Services call 937-512-3032. In cases of emergency, contact Crisis Care at 937-224-4646. 

All images sourced from Canva

Written by Ismael David Mujahid, Executive Editor