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The Silent Epidemic

Clark Flatt

We believe that most suicides can be prevented if we are aware of the real threat of suicide, recognize the warning signs, and know the resources available to help.

 

On July 16, 1997, nightmare became reality. After receiving a phone call from one of my son’s friends, I arrived home to find that Jason, my 16-year-old son, had shot himself. I sat on the floor, holding his lifeless body and crying, “Why?”

Jason was a good student and an above-average athlete. He enjoyed his friends and was active in his youth group. He did not have a problem with drugs or alcohol. Why would Jason kill himself?

Trying to deal with the loss of my son, I looked further into the research about suicide. The statistics I found were alarming:

  • Suicide is the SECOND leading cause of death for college-age youth and ages 12-18.
  • In ages 10-14, we have seen an alarming 128% increase in suicides since 1980, making it the third leading cause of death for that age group.
  • More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease COMBINED.
  • Each day in our nation, there are an average of over 5,400 attempts by young people grades 7-12.
  • Four out of five teens who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs.

 

The Jason Foundation, Inc.

JF app image

In response to Jason’s death, my family and a few friends began The Jason Foundation, Inc. Through educational programs for youth, parents, and teachers, we hope to reduce the number of suicides among youth. The Jason Foundation programs teach people to look for warning signs and discuss ways of reaching out to youth who may be suicidal. We believe that most suicides can be prevented if we are aware of the real threat of suicide, recognize the warning signs, and know the resources available to help. Visit the Jason Foundation website to download the “A Friend Asks” app and find lots of other resources.


I have talked with people who have attempted suicide. Most do not want to die; they just want the pain to stop. Pain is sometimes related to emotional issues, family or school problems, even medical conditions. Friends can help friends find safe, constructive ways of dealing with pain. By offering support and concern, friends can make a difference. Let’s help bring teens back from the brink of suicide.

 

DIG DEEPER

Read Deuteronomy 30:19-20.

How does choosing life—deciding to live a long life for God—give you a sense of purpose and hope?

Pray for people who are struggling with the possibility of suicide. Then pray: God, remind us that you have chosen life for us. Amen.

 

How can you help a friend choose life?

  • L-isten to your friends and hear what they are trying to say.
  • I-nsist on honesty. Say, “How do you feel?” or “Tell me what’s really going on.”
  • F-eelings — yours and your friends’ — should be discussed openly.
  • E-xtend a hand. Go with your friend to an adult you both trust and ask for help.

If we work together, youth, parents, and teachers can provide support, understanding, love, and action. Never keep a secret. If a friend tells you that he or she is thinking about suicide, tell someone!

Clark Flatt is the president and CEO of The Jason Foundation, Inc. He is also a part-time United Methodist minister in Hendersonville, Tennessee.

—from devozine (July/August 2001). Copyright © 2001 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.
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