Mississippi educators to learn suicide prevention

Published 10:42 pm Saturday, April 18, 2009

Teresa Mosley hopes a new Mississippi law will help other families avoid the kind of heartbreak her family experienced because of a child’s suicide.

Starting in the 2009-2010 year, public school teachers and principals will be trained to identify warning signs that a child might be considering taking his or her own life.

Attorney General Jim Hood said Friday that a Tennessee-based teen suicide prevention group, The Jason Foundation Inc., will donate materials for the training in Mississippi — a bonus in tight budget times.

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“We know this bill will save a child’s life,” Hood said.

Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds in Mississippi, according to the state Department of Mental Health.

Clark Flatt is president and CEO of The Jason Foundation, a nonprofit group he founded and named for his youngest son, who committed suicide in July 1997. He called teen suicide a “silent epidemic.”

“I can’t do anything about my son’s loss,” Flatt said during a news conference at the Mississippi Capitol. “But … there is a lot we can do to help prevent this happening here to another young person.”

Nearly three years ago, Mosley’s 15-year-old daughter, Elisabeth, had just finished ninth grade in Clinton and was looking forward to starting high school. Elisabeth had struggled with anxiety and depression but was a bright girl who scored 22 of a possible 36 on the ACT college entrance exam when she was only in seventh grade.

Mosley said that during the second semester of ninth grade, Elisabeth started making zeros on some school assignments and was sent to detention. As the school year ended, Elisabeth seemed to get better. She talked about finding a job to help pay for car insurance and gasoline. She also got in touch with a childhood friend she hadn’t seen in years.

“And then, two days later, she was gone,” Mosley said.

The night of June 13, 2006, Elisabeth kissed her mother goodnight and went upstairs to her own room.

The next morning, Mosley found Elisabeth, who had hanged herself in a closet.

“I cut her down,” Mosley said. “And we started the rest of our life.”

Mosley, an educator, has one surviving daughter, who’s now 12. Mosley travels the state to speak to groups about preventing teenage suicide.

“I have a quote that I use in presentations that says, ’When the pain of living exceeds the fear of dying, people will choose to die.’ And I just basically think that’s what happened,” she said. “I think the pain of what she went through every day, she couldn’t deal with it anymore. So now she just speaks through me.”

One of the bill’s sponsors, Democratic Sen. David Blount of Jackson, said he pushed the legislation because he was impressed by Mosley’s determination to help other families.

“We’re elected to do things that are hard, things that sometimes are uncomfortable and not always things that are easy,” Blount said. “And this is the chance to do something on an issue … that’s hard to talk about. But it’s the right thing to do and it’s going to make a difference in a young person’s life, in a family’s life in Mississippi.”

The bill is Senate Bill 2770.

On the Net:

The Jason Foundation Inc.: http://www.jasonfoundation.com