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Father who lost his son to suicide says mental health education crucial for schools

Sep 13, 2017

Jeff Edwards is on a mission to go into as many schools as possible to talk to as many kids as possible about mental health, depression and suicide.

Edwards is the board chairman of the Southeast Michigan Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and this issue is very personal for him. 
 

Jeff Edwards keeps this photo of his son Chase in his wallet.
Credit Lindsey Scullen / Michigan Radio

His son Chase was 12 years old when he died by suicide in 2003.

(If you or someone you know is considering suicide, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. You can find more Michigan resources for mental health crises listed by county here.) 

Edwards' son's suicide was not something anyone saw the warning signs for.

"He was active, and well-liked, and popular, we're partial, but handsome," Edwards said. "He was artistic. He was funny. He was compassionate.... He always had your back. He was always the champion of the underdog. He was the type of kid that the mainstreamed handicapped kids would invite to their birthday parties. He was just a loving, sweet boy. He was so antithetical to what it was that you would have anticipated [from a suicide victim] at the time."
 
The experience of his son's suicide is at the heart of Edwards' message to kids when he speaks at schools. He talks to them about "blind spots" when it comes to identifying people who may be suffering from depression.

Edwards wants more and more teachers and students to become aware of the warning signs – warning signs the average person might not think to look for.

Listen to the interview above to learn what Edwards said schools should do to stop suicide from taking their students. You'll also learn what the Chase Edwards law accomplishes in Michigan, and about current efforts to bolster that law.

Click here for warning signs that could indicate someone may be suicidal. You can reach Edwards at jeffhashope@gmail.com.

Minding Michigan is Stateside's ongoing series that examines mental health issues in our state.

Michigan Radio originally broadcast this story on June 6, 2017.

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