Facebook page offers help, hope to suicidal teens
Every year, 8 million people consider or attempt suicide, and 16 percent of those people are high school students. Many times, their parents have no idea about the pain their kids are suffering inside. But now there's a new way for kids to reach out and get help.
Lamar High School football player Jack Williams' nickname said it all, 'Sunshine.'
His mom, Michele Williams told Local 2, "He was just a very bubbly, happy kid. He was very happy, had friends from every group imaginable. It could've been the football team or a girl in his poetry class, to the kids who ride their skateboards."
But, behind the rays of sunshine lay dark, ominous clouds that no one, even Michele, knew of until Valentine's Day 2011.
"I came home to police cars and fire trucks and all of that all along my street and my driveway," recalled Michele.
Michele learned her smiling, lovable son shot himself to death in his bedroom. He was 16-years-old.
"It was just total disbelief and I just collapsed in my driveway," Michele said.
Jack's childhood friend, Nicholas Asper, told Local 2, "It was hard because no one knew anything that was going on. I thought he was happy, but not everything is as it seems. He was always a carefree guy. Everyone was his friend. You couldn't meet someone who didn't like Jack."
Nicholas took to heart words said at Jack's funeral, "don't choose a permanent solution to a temporary problem."
So Nicholas started a Facebook page called "The Sunshine Project." Completely student-run, it's a place where kids can vent, call out for help and most importantly, link to medical professionals.
"You can turn something bad into something good. It will hurt for quite a while and we'll never forget him, but in the long run, he was there for us and we can make a change with it," said Nicholas.
"I think it's really neat. It makes you realize how much Jack meant to his friends, and for Nick to take the time and the effort to start something like that is pretty awesome," Michele said.
Nicholas told Local 2, "If I can save one person one person's life, then I feel I've done my job."
To this day, Jack's family still doesn't know why he did it, but they did learn he had reached out to a friend.
Michele explained, "He had told a friend about a week before and I didn't know this until afterward of course, that he did feel like that feel like committing suicide. She told him, 'No, think about your family, your friends.'"
That same friend saw him the day before his death.
Michele said, "He said, 'No, I'm fine. I'm good.'"
Awareness and prevention are now the goals of a new national initiative launched by U.S. Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin.
Benjamin told Local 2, "We also want people to decrease the stigma, to get rid of the isolation, the silence about it and to bring it into the open."
"I feel like the more it's talked about, the more people who do have depression will feel open about discussing it. They won't keep it hidden as he did," said Michele.
It's been a year and a half now since Jack's passing.
Michele said, "The first year was very, very hard having to get through the first of everything, whether it was a holiday or his birthday, was very difficult."
The pain only bearable as his friends prepare for graduation and their lives ahead.
Still, his family must move forward, never forgetting their 'Sunshine.'
Michele said, "I told my family he made the choice to stop living, but that was not the choice that we were going to make. We were going to continue on."
The Sunshine Project sends donations to a non-profit suicide awareness group called To Write Love on Her Arms.