WHAT'S WORKING: Locals band together to stop teen suicide

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - A group of locals are banding together to try to stop any more young people from committing suicide.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is currently the third leading cause of death among young people. Researchers say there are many reasons behind the issue, including: bullying, sexting, and cyber-bulling. One group in the Tri-state is now banding with a nationwide advocacy organization to try to get lawmakers to pass a law to making it mandatory for teachers to learn the signs of suicide.

The proposed law is called the Jason Flatt Act. It's currently in play in nine states. Ohio isn't one, but locals are working hard right now to ensure that changes in 2012.

Senovia Byndon wants you to talk about what many would rather keep quiet about:suicide.

"When you talk to someone who doesn't understand the thought of suicide or someone contemplating that; they freeze," said Byndon. "They get the look in their faces. You can tell it right away. They're look. Oh! I don't wanna talk about this."

After watching a story on FOX19 last summer about a teenager who took his own life, Byndon said she wanted to do something to help. In June, she started a program at the Bond Hill Recreation Center. She spends hours every week with young girls-- just listening to them.

Byndon learned the signs of suicide after volunteering with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention or AFSP.

Michelle Bauer is a field advocate with AFSP. She also helps run a local 24-hour call center at Centerpoint Health.

AFSP recently paired up with The Jason Foundation, Inc. (JFI). Members of both AFSP and JFI are gearing up to pass the Jason Flatt Act in nine more states: Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Michigan, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia.

The legislation is the brainchild of a father in Tennessee.

"It was a parent whose son committed suicide," said Byndon. "{The son} was 16 years old. {The father} said I didn't know. The counselor said I didn't know."

The bill was first adopted in 2007 in Tennessee. Clark Flatt pushed for the legislation after he founded JFI after his 16-year-old son, Jason, took his own life in 1997. Since then, it's been adopted in nine other states-- including Kentucky.

Volunteers are trying to make it mandatory for teachers, counselors, cafeteria workers, and coaches to have at least two hours of training to see the signs. In most states, the Jason Flatt Act mandates two hours of suicide prevention training for school personnel, although the requirements vary in some states.

"Look for things that might be there or a child might not be saying that they're suicidal, but then a teacher can ask," said Bauer.

Members of AFSP will head to Washington, D.C. in February to meet with Ohio lawmakers to try to pass the Jason Flatt Act. AFSP research shows 24 states plus D.C. have no laws that mandate, encourage, or promote suicide prevention training in schools, for school personnel, or for students.

Janet Walsh, a spokesperson for Cincinnati Public Schools, told FOX19 that right now all-school staff are encouraged, not mandated, "to be alert to the signs of students and emotional difficulties and refer students for assistance to appropriate internal staff or mental health partners."

However, Byndon hopes all Ohio school districts soon take it a step further, before it's too late.

Byndon has a message for anyone contemplating committing suicide: "Think about the people that love you. They love you. Don't you think you deserve to give them a second to hear you say Help me! Help!"

The 24-hr suicide prevention lifeline is: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or 513-281-CARE (2273). If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the number anytime.


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