Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Jason Foundation

The Jason Foundation is a private charity dedicated to educating the public on youth and suicide. Phil Fulmer, our football coach at the University of Tennessee, became involved with the foundation after the death of Jason Flatt, a young athlete:

Jason Flatt: 3/20/81 – 7/16/97
In 1997, The Jason Foundation was founded in response to a family and friends loss of Jason Flatt - Age 16 - to the tragedy of youth suicide. JFI’s mission is to provide information, tools, and resources to confront the “silent epidemic” and prevent the tragedy of youth suicide.

Jason's father found him the day he killed himself:

Jason was my youngest son. He was an average 16-year old. He got mostly B’s on his report card, and he loved sports. Especially football. He was active in a youth group and he had a lot of friends. Jason was the one who was always up for going places and trying new things. From all appearances...my son loved life.

But on July 16, 1997, he placed a .38 caliber pistol to his head and pulled the trigger. I was the one who opened the door to his room and stumbled over his body. Believe me when I say, there are no words to describe that kind of pain.

I helped with a news segment on Volunteer TV in Knoxville which aired tonight to help the Knoxville area become more aware of youth suicide--I wish they would have mentioned more about the high rate of boy's suicides but at least they are pushing the idea that youth suicide is a concern. Here is a short print version of the segment.

Update: Video of this segment on teen suicide is now up. Click here and then again to the left where you see a red camera icon.


Blogger DADvocate said...


I came across an article at UTSports.com regarding earlier in the day. It's great that highly visible people are getting involved. But, as you say, too bad that they can't point out how tremendous the problem is with young males. Here's a link to Suicidology.org that clearly shows the problem. Of course, I originally find out about Suicidology.org through one of your posts. Keep up the good work.

8:33 AM, February 15, 2006  
Blogger politikalpressure said...

We need to put the division of Katrina behind us, stop pointing the finger, and focus in on real problems. We all (black or white; Christian or Jew) need to unite for a common good, preventing suicide (especially teen).
I'm glad that such foundations do exist.

10:10 AM, February 15, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Depression in general seems to be a bigger problem now than it was in the past, and it seems -- just going from personal observation, not statistics -- as though the boys are the most severely affected. I'm not certain why.

I have to wonder whether medications are part of it, though. Family doctors are handing out antidepressants without requiring counselling to go with it. This is troubling to me.

When my son's best friend committed suicide a number of years ago, they discovered afterward that he had quit taking his antidepressants and was taking a "nutritional supplement" for "energy" which consisted of mostly ephedrine. I wonder how common that is, and if communication on a regular basis with a mental health professional might have prevented this tragedy. But the clinic at school just wrote him a prescription and sent him on his way with instructions to come back if he didn't feel better.

4:39 PM, February 15, 2006  
Blogger k said...

Dr. Helen: What about the boys who never let you know they're depressed? My nearly 16 y.o. son died six years ago this month, a suicide due to ... well, we still aren't sure. We think girlfriend trouble (she may have wanted to break up). Until that very night, he gave no indication to us that anything was amiss. And yet, he was gone by morning. I have searched and searched my soul, and I still do not believe I could have prevented it, much as I would have wanted to. So you don't know how it distresses me to even hear the words "suicide prevention," because in my experience, I was never afforded the opportunity to "prevent" my son's death.

1:14 PM, February 16, 2006  
Blogger k said...

Oh, and Greg... we don't own any handguns. We do own bedsheets, so I guess we should burn them all. Prevention, you know.

1:15 PM, February 16, 2006  
Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

In the United States, it's only an epidemic among teenagers whose parents own handguns. There are some suicides among teenagers whose parents don't own handguns, but the rate is much lower. So it's up to handgun owners to figure out what the problem is in their households.

1:16 PM, February 16, 2006  
Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

k: Look, I said that there are teen suicides in other households as well. Just not as many. Teen suicide is a terrible problem, and all parents who witness it deserve sympathy. But there is a difference between problems and epidemics.

And I didn't say anything about what anyone should or shouldn't do. I'm just commenting on where most of the problem is.

1:24 PM, February 16, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...


First, let me say how sorry I am for your loss.

In some cases, it is very hard to tell what goes on in a person's mind--especially for young men, who often give no indication that anything is wrong. One of my psychologist colleagues told me that her secretary comitted suicide--and not one of the seven psychologists who worked with the secretary knew anything was wrong--obviously, it is hard to tell. Adolescent boys who kill themselves are much more likely than girls to have experienced a crisis event in the twenty-four hours prior to suicide. It is very common for break-ups with girlfriends, public failure or rejection to play a part but psychiatric illness is usually present also--depressive illnesses along with substance abuse is common and coupled with a triggering event, can be deadly.

Many parents, in fact, most, are unaware of the depression and suicidal thinking in their adolescent children. Some male adolescents who kill themselves are not only depressed, but aggressive, quick-tempered, and impulsive. On the other hand, some are high--achieving, anxious or depressed and perfectionistic. These kids may try very hard to appear normal, please others and not call attention to himself. The adolescent puts the events of his life together in a distorted way, and that can be hard to read for anyone--since none of us are mind readers.

2:13 PM, February 16, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have sat through a lot of suicide prevention training, since it's an annual requirement in my government job. In a class years ago they told us about how women had many more attempts, but men had more actual deaths. That was due to men's choice of more lethal means, and women's underlying goal being more 'cry for help' than an actual desire to end their lives. Men decide they are going to end it all, then plan it out. They may go from troubled to very calm, since they have a solution in mind. They sometimes give dear possessions away to friends. The kind of triggers for suicide in men were loss of job, loss of relationship, things like that.

A friend of mine ended his life about two years ago. I wasn't in town when it happened, but I gather he showed up to work one day and was irrational, then left work and did the deed in some place other than home or work. I didn't get the details. Nobody saw signs until the day of the event. When they saw his behavior, they didn't know what to do. What does his case tell us? Not sure. Just talk to your friends and family. Know what's going on, and maybe you'll get lucky and stop someone from taking a permanent solution to a set of problems that are really temporary. If it happens, don't blame yourself. You didn't do it or cause it.

9:46 PM, February 16, 2006  
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