Last year, my son was killed. His murderer is still out there, preying on people of all ages but on teens in particular. You may think your loved ones are safe. I thought the same. And I was wrong. I hope you can learn from my experience.
My name is Jason Reid and on March 12, 2018, my son turned 14. He spent that week laughing and joking like always. He watched March Madness with his mom, jumping up and down on the couch, excited as his teams won. He promised his mother that he would always be there to watch it with her.
Nine days later, while my wife and I were in Mexico celebrating her birthday, he hanged himself in the attic of our home.
To say that moment changed our lives forever, well, to be honest, I am not sure there are words in the English language to properly describe the depth of pain we now live with daily.
I am confident that as you read this you will feel sympathy for my family, me and others like us. We all appreciate your thoughts and prayers but they won’t change anything. I, for one, am not writing this looking for your sympathy, I am writing this to help educate parents so that they won’t have to go through the same pain we are living with.
My son’s murderer was his own depression, and I did not see the signs that his murderer was living in his room with him. I did not see the signs that my son was deeply depressed. He was, as far as I could tell, a happy kid. Sure, he was grumpy from time to time, but I have three other teenagers. If you asked me who I was worried about, he was the last one on the list. As I look back on that question now, I would still answer it the same way.
What I did not know was that my son Ryan was hiding an illness. An illness that had taken over his mind. He did not see the world the way the rest of us did. When he was alone in his room, he saw only darkness, felt only sadness and saw only one desperate inevitability.
Depression is a disease that too often leads to suicide. We need to shift our mindset to view depression the same way we view other diseases, like diabetes and cancer. Diseases that need to be treated with changes in lifestyle, therapy, diet, and sometimes with medications. Diseases that, if left unchecked, eventually will kill. Everyone needs to realize that depression, just like the other diseases I mentioned, can be a constant battle for someone their entire life.
We need to bring our depressed kids out from the shadows, shine a light on them and start having the conversations that will help them cope with this disease.
The world needs to understand that talking about suicide does not increase the risk of people killing themselves. The reality is that not talking about it, not feeling that you can openly share your feelings, feeling alone and hopeless, and the fear of being judged are what drives people to suicide.
Suicide is an epidemic in the United States right now, specifically among teens. Since 2006, suicide in young people has increased more than 70 percent. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in people ages 10 to 24. It is not a coincidence that mainstream social media came into our worlds with the launch of Facebook in 2004. More than 500,000 teens attempt suicide each year in the United States and 5,000 take their own lives. Our world has changed tremendously in the last 15 years. As parents, many of us are not equipped to deal with the changes that have happened.
To help, I did a TEDx talk titled “The Most Important Conversation You Will Have With Your Kids.” I am also doing a documentary film titled Tell My Story. I have partnered with Philippe Diaz and his Cinema Libre, one of the premier documentary film studios in Los Angeles. The film is focused on educating parents on how our world has changed and what we can all do to save our kids.
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Please don’t wait for someone else to save your kids. Start the conversation today and take action in your own family. School administrators and educators are not going to save our kids. My own school district refused to share my TEDx talk with teachers and parents. They are paralyzed by the fear of making the problem worse.
In this time of great pain, I have chosen to run toward the problem and not away from it. You can find out more about the project and watch my TEDx talk (the one my school district does not want you to see) at chooselife.org.
If you are so inclined to learn more about this project you can go to chooselife.org to view the TEDx talk and click on the GoFundMe to help finance the documentary.
The world is a different place than it was a mere 15 years ago. To keep our kids safe, we need to act on our own, educate ourselves and, above all, talk with our kids.