Man Hopes to Curb Teen Suicide

By: Vicky Nguyen
By: Vicky Nguyen

The numbers are sobering. Nearly 100 teens commit suicide every week in this country. Here in Nevada, one in 10 young people has attempted suicide.

A non-profit education agency hopes to change that. The Jason Foundation opened 2 offices in Reno Monday. I now bring you more on this group's mission.

It's called the "silent epidemic," and according to the Center for Disease Control, Nevada has the highest rate of youth suicide in the nation.

Monday we met a man on a mission to change that. He brings resources, education, and most important, a commitment to help.

Clark Flatt tells the story of how he found his 16-year-old son, Jason, one summer day 6 years ago. "I tripped over my son's body, he says."
"He had taken my 38 pistol and placed it next to his head."

Four months after Jason's suicide, his father started the Jason Foundation. The mission is to educate young people, parents, and teachers about the threat of teen suicide.

"It builds awareness, tells you signs to look for, and how to get help," Flatt says.

Skate park fan and high school sophomore Anthony Berryhill says he'd like to learn more in the classroom. "Not a lot of people out here talk about it," he says.

Health experts say there's a stigma about the subject and many worry talking about it will lead to experimentation.

But Berryhill says the information would've helped when a friend recenbtly wanted to commit suicide, and he wasn't sure what to do.
"This girl was having problems - family stuff. she always said I'm gonna kill myself. I tried to help her and tell her not to be so stupid," he says.

But for many teens, the solution isn't so simple.

Jason Foundation organizers hope they'll make it easier with school programs and parent seminars. It is how founder Clark Flatt continues to cope with his son's death. "I'm handling my grieving process through this - helping myself and others also," he says.

The Jason Foundation offices will be at West Hills Hospital and the Willow Springs Center.

Organizers are now on the next phase of their campaign - working with schools to provide lesson plans and materials. All of it is free to educators and parents.

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Suicide Facts: 1999

  • Suicide was the 11th leading cause of death in the United States.

  • Suicide was the eighth leading cause of death of males and 19th leading cause of death for females.

  • The total number of suicide deaths was 29,199.

  • There were twice as many deaths due suicide than deaths due to HIV/AIDS (14,802).

  • Suicide outnumbered homicides (16,899) by five to three.

  • There were almost exactly the same number of suicides by firearms (16,889) as homicides (16,599).

  • Suicide by firearms was the most common method for both men and women, accounting for 57 percent of all suicides.

  • Suicide was the third leading cause of death among young people 15 to 24 years of age, following unintentional injuries and homicide.

Attempted Suicide

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  • There are an estimated eight to 25 attempted suicides to one successful suicide; the ratio is higher in women and youth and lower in men and elderly

  • More women than men report a history of attempted suicide, with a gender ratio of 3:1.

  • The strongest risk factors for attempted suicide for adults are depression, alcohol abuse, cocaine abuse and separation or divorce.

  • The strongest risk factors for attempted suicide in youth are depression, alcohol or other drug use disorder and aggressive or disruptive behaviors.

Source: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/research/suifact.htm (National Institute of Mental Health).


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