Tony Servin knows all too well the rift that a suicide can cause, especially when that person has her whole life ahead of her.
The senior at Centennial High School, also a recent varsity football transfer, has lost five friends to suicide.
He distinctly remembers his eighth grade year, when his school principal and two police officers came to his last class of the day and shared that one of his friends had committed suicide.
He had barely seen her 24 hours earlier and they made plans for the coming day.
“Everything was fine,” Servin said. “We had talked about going to lunch the next day because we had an early release and I had a flag football practice that day. But I never saw her in first period the next day. Nobody knew what was going on, even her mom,” he said. “Sometimes people are afraid to be judged, and feel like nobody is around them, but there really is. It’s ok to ask for help.”
Servin is getting this message out, letting teens know they are not alone when it comes to suicidal thoughts and encouraging them to seek help in the ongoing effort to reduce teen suicide and suicide attempts.
He is one of 15 football players from 12 Arizona high schools starring in a series of video public service announcements designed to provide messages of hope to fellow teens who may be struggling with depression, anxiety or thoughts of suicide.
The project is a collaboration of Teen Lifeline, Grand Canyon State Gridiron Club, as well as the high school football players and their teams to help save lives during Teen Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in September.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Teen Lifeline has received more calls and texts from teens in all parts of Arizona than it has in its 30-year history.
In 2020, the nonprofit received nearly 35,000 calls and texts to its suicide prevention hotline. Most of those calls came from Arizona adolescents ages 10-19.
Teen Lifeline Executive Director Michelle Moorhead said these PSAs make a big impact because teens trust their peers.
“Collaborations with organizations like GCSGC and high school athletes are critical in spreading the message that there is hope and help available to teens who need it,” he said.
In addition to the PSAs, teams of the participating players will recognize Teen Suicide Prevention Awareness Month at select games throughout September, with members of cheer and pom squads wearing a custom Teen Lifeline ribbon in their hair, coaches wearing custom green suicide prevention shirts and representatives from Teen Lifeline conducting the pre-kickoff coin toss.
Teens who are struggling to feel hope in their lives are encouraged to call Teen Lifeline any day or time at 602-248-TEEN (8336) or 800-248-TEEN. Teens can also text with a teen peer counselor at 602-248-8336 between noon and 9 p.m. on weekdays, and 3 p.m. until 9 p.m. on weekends.
The hotline is staffed by teen peer counselors from 3 p.m. until 9 p.m. daily. Trained, professional counselors are available at all other times.
Philip Haldiman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @philiphaldiman.