Jason Reid was a highly successful entrepreneur and author with a wife and four children. By all accounts, he had his life all figured out. Then one evening he received a text message from his youngest son, Ryan.
“He said, ‘Goodbye,'” Reid recalls in the documentary Tell My Story. “It essentially said, ‘Dad, it’s not your fault. I love you. There’s nothing you could have done.'” Reid chokes, the pain still present. “And I just don’t buy that.”
That was the night 14-year-old Ryan took his own life.
Ryan left behind a sticky note for his family that simply said, “Tell my story.” Reid us doing just that. He started an organization for suicide prevention called ChooseLife.org and worked with a crew to create the Tell My Story documentary, which came out March 23. His goal? To raise awareness about the suicide epidemic we are experiencing in this country.
A Crisis in the Country
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the instance of suicide amongst people aged 10-24 increased almost 60% between 2007 and 2018. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for kids between the ages of 15-19.
“I believe we’re in the greatest mental health crisis of our lifetime,” Reid tells Parentology. In an attempt to find out more about teen suicide and his son’s death, Reid came across people from all over the country with eerily similar experiences. Tell My Story chronicles not only the Reid family’s story, but the stories of other teens and families around the country that have experienced suicide or attempted suicide. “I’m hoping that the film, as it gets out there and people see it, inspires them to have a different conversation with their kids.”
Tell My Story Documentary
Reid felt like he had a great relationship with his son, but now realizes there are some things he would do differently. With the film, he encourages parents to learn from his mistakes.
“There are a lot of people like me who never thought they’d be affected by this. There are a lot more parents like me that never saw it coming,” he says. “It’s all about owning your kids’ mental health.”
Reid believes parents should talk to kids about their mental health, normalize the conversation in the same way you would if your child had a stomach ache. Although that may be uncomfortable, Reid believes it’s essential.
“It’s the trickiest conversation you’re ever going to have, because no parent wants to walk into their kid’s room and say, ‘Are you thinking about killing yourself?’” Reid says. “It’s not a normal conversation to have. Should it be? Probably.” The key is finding opportunities to talk to your children when they’re open to communicating. “Every kid is different, but every kid is the same in this one way: there’s one point when they’re comfortable to talk to you, and you as their parent know that’s when they always talk.”
Eliminating Teen Suicide
The suicide prevention program Reid founded, ChooseLife.org, has an aggressive goal to eliminate teen suicide by the year 2030. However, what Reid has found while traveling the country and talking to people about suicide is not a lack of awareness, but a lack of action.
“We’re not changing it,” he says. “So, what I wanted to say is let’s change it. Can I eliminate teen suicide completely? No. I know I can’t eliminate teen suicide completely, but we’re not trying hard enough. We need to change the number in the next five to ten years.” While Reid doesn’t discount the role of public policy or educators, he believes the responsibility ultimately falls on parents, “The only way we’re going to save our kids is with parents stepping up and owning mental health. There’s no one else that’s going to do it for you. No one else can.”
While the subject of mental health can be daunting to many parents, Reid wants parents to know that you don’t have to have all of the answers, you just have to start having the conversations. “You don’t need to be a psychologist to save your kids, you need to be aware to save your kids,” he says.