Using his name recognition as former Tennessee Volunteers Football head coach to the cause of youth suicide prevention, Phillip Fulmer was featured speaker during a special gathering at Farragut High School last Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 1.
Following three reported suicides of FHS students during spring 2017 semester, Knox County Schools has responded — with Fulmer giving teeth to the effort.
“All of our employees will be participating in a two-hour suicide awareness training that will be provided in partnership with The Jason Foundation, which is an organization dedicated to the prevention of suicide,” Bob Thomas, KCS superintendent, told his subordinates during a gathering of KCS health and physical education teachers about youth suicide prevention in Vickie B. Wells Auditorium.
“… Suicide is the third leading cause of death nationwide among ages 15 to 24, and second most common cause of death among children ages 10 to 14,” he added.
Fulmer addressed the gathering as “national spokesperson” for The Jason Foundation, Thomas said. “… Since 1998, [Fulmer] has remained committed to building public awareness about the problem of youth suicide with resources that are available through The Jason Foundation.”
As for how he got involved, Fulmer said, “I got a letter from a group of kids at Hendersonville High School in Middle Tennessee telling me about The Jason Foundation. Clark Flatt, who has become one of my best friends in the world, had lost his 16-year old son [Jason] to suicide. … He never expected anything like this in his life to come up. He was a part-time minister at his church.
“He decided he was going to start a foundation … to try and make sure other parents didn’t have to go through” a similar tragedy, Fulmer added.
Assisting the foundation “has been one of the most rewarding things that I’ve done,” he said.
Bringing up social media bullying, which has been known to drive youth to commit suicide, Fulmer added about bullying in general, “I’ve seen that firsthand and how it works even on a team.”
Mel Whaley, director of business development with Village Behavioral Health, serves as The Jason Foundation’s representative in Tennessee.
At VBH, “We house up to 90 kids every single month. We’re talking about kids that have attempted suicide several times,” which often involve “drug issues,” she told the teachers.
Whaley said 14 is the age in which suicidal factors often begin to form. “And you add on, maybe, previous trauma. And you have genetics that is a factor as well,” she added.
Concerning warning signs, Whaley said teachers “are going to see more things than a regular family member probably would just because they spend a portion of time with them.
“At thejasonfoundation.com we list out those tutorials that are free on the website to actually go through all the warning signs,” she added. “Any change of behavior is obviously a warning sign.”
Speaking to the teachers, Whaley said suicide is a “silent
epidemic, people don’t talk
“The biggest initiative of The Jason Foundation is to give everybody materials for free,” she added. “Just be educated on what those warning signs are. … It’s amazing how little information is known out there today.”
Even among professionals such as herself, “There’s still unknowns about the prevention,” Whaley said after her address to teachers.