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Other young people have made their efforts a year-round endeavor.
Last year, students at Baylor University started the Alive Campaign with a bike ride from Texas to Alaska with a friend who had attempted suicide. They made stops along the way at colleges, churches and community gatherings to host talks about suicide and continue those efforts today.
Jamie Tworkowski, 29, was inspired to action by a suicidal friend who told him she was cutting herself and using drugs. A story he wrote about her ultimately helped save her life and resulted in a Florida-based nonprofit called To Write Love On Her Arms.
Tworkowski posted the story about his friend on the MySpace social networking site in 2006 and sold T-shirts to raise money for her treatment. After another friend who played in a band wore one of the shirts during a performance, he says he received more than 100 online messages, many from young people who said they were depressed or suicidal. Now his organization, which has eight full-time staffers and five volunteer interns, uses social networking to put people suffering from depression in contact with professionals.
"It made me realize, OK if a hundred people respond this way, why wouldn't 100,000 or even a million respond this way?" Tworkowski says. "There was this need to talk about it."
Talking openly about suicide can still be tricky, especially in the media.
Joseph Bustos, a reporter in Sterling, Ill., discovered that when his editor asked him to check into a local teen's recent suicide. There was a time when newspapers didn't run stories on suicide, or even mention it as a cause of death in obituaries. But the teen's family agreed to talk -- and the story about her, and her family's grief, ran on the front page.
"As a paper, we wanted to reflect what everyone was talking about," says Bustos, who works for Sauk Valley Newspapers. He says he also wanted to see if "anything positive could come of it," and included a list of suicide resources.
Bustos said the comments he got from readers were positive, though the schools superintendent dropped off a copy of nationally recognized media guidelines for covering suicide. Among them was a suggestion to avoid putting stories about a particular suicide on the front page.
Mental health experts worry about coverage that pays homage to a person who takes his or her own life, because research has shown that it can encourage others, especially teens, to do the same. But there is middle ground.
"We have to be careful about doing things that inadvertently glorify suicide," says Alec Miller, chief of the child and adolescent psychology department at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. "But at the same time, we don't want to conceal it and pretend like it didn't happen."
On the Net:
CDC youth suicide page:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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