It was a typical Saturday for Jim Baker and his 12-yearold son, Brandon.
"Brandon came out with me . . . and we spent the day working in the garage and on his dirt bike for the upcoming season," Baker said.
Then a friend called and asked Brandon to come out, but he was grounded.
No one suspected that Brandon — a popular, athletic Gilbert Junior High School student, in a family with parents active in his life — would take his life that day: April 20, 2002.
"Parents talked to their children about drugs when I was a kid," Baker said. "And in the ’80s, it was sex and STDs. This is the new talk we need to have with our kids."
Baker bravely shared his story Tuesday with about 50 other parents in the Mesquite High School auditorium in hopes the other parents could learn the warning signs of suicide. And, learn how to help others cope with the tragedy.
"The fact of the matter is, unless you’ve held your son or daughter in your arms and tried to breathe life back into them, the whole time praying for a miracle that you know won’t come, then you don’t know how I feel, or felt," Baker said.
It was the first parent education meeting sponsored by the Gilbert Junior High School Teen Suicide Prevention and Substance Abuse Education club, formed by Kaelin Gilman, 13, a friend of Brandon’s. Kaelin’s club has established suicide prevention and response classes for teachers and students throughout the district, which administrators hope to expand next year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta calls suicide the third leading cause of death among ages 15 to 25.
Patricia Kempker, manager of the EMPACT Suicide Prevention Center in Tempe counseled and gave parents advice. All parents should talk to their children about suicide, and keep in mind the acronym FACT, she said.
Feelings: Is your child having negative thoughts he can’t share with anyone? Access: Does the child have access to a means to commit suicide such as pills or guns? Changes: Are there dramatic changes in the child’s behavior? Threats: Does the child make threats of suicide, which should be treated seriously and help should be sought?
Shirelle Jowell, a Gilbert teacher’s aide and parent, wiped a tear away as she left the meeting, memories returning of a time she considered suicide at age 15.
"It’s important for kids to feel they can trust someone and talk to them," she said. "You don’t think about it as being final. You think it’s just a quick solution to a problem."
For more information go to www.EMPACTSPC.com or call (480) 784-1500, (800) 784-2433.