It was an early January morning when I was broken from my sleep with the news that a dear family friend “was gone;” he had died by suicide. I couldn’t fathom the thought.
Shock and disbelief swirled in my mind. Weeks before, his family had called for an intervention with him and I was planning to attend but decided not to go as I felt it should be a family affair. I started to blame myself. If I had gone to the intervention, would my presence, my love, my words been a healing balm in his moments of crisis?
A few years later, a teenage friend of mine was experiencing suicidal ideations. The thought that I had was that I wasn’t going to let this happen again; I had to do something. My wife told me recently that I “like to fix things and situations.”
I decided to be proactive in suicide prevention. In November 2019, I produced an anti-bullying and suicide prevention PSA entitled, “You Matter.” The two-minute video gives the message that no matter our race, religion, social standing, physical capabilities or sexual orientation, our lives matter, and that bullies only see in you what they want to see, not the beautiful soul that you are.
While the PSA was in post-production, I asked an up-and-coming singer/songwriter from Utah, Ben Olsen, and former America’s Got Talent quarterfinalist, Sophie Pecora, to write a song for the PSA. Choose to Stay was born. Joined by Disney Channel star, Dakota Lotus, Ben and Sophie perform a song that is a plea for those struggling with thoughts of suicide to “stay with me…just hold on” and “Choose to Stay.”
Is “Choose to Stay” a chart topping song by mainstream music standards? No. But it is a powerful and moving song that aims to inspire the lives of those who listen to it. One YouTube listener commented, “I will stay. It’s hard, but I’m gonna stay.”
Others have commented how the song inspired them while they were in the hospital dealing with thoughts of suicide. The official music video was produced in partnership with Stand4Kind, a non-profit organization that I am proud to be part of. Our organization works with students and teachers to promote anti-bullying, kindness, and mental health support in schools through assemblies and training for students, parents, and teachers. (www.stand4kind.com)
While we have experienced moments of elation hearing that young lives have been inspired, and maybe even saved, the work is far from done.
Given the millions of young people experiencing hopelessness and thoughts of suicide, it is more important than ever to send messages of hope into communities that need it. Choose to Stay is our message of hope to those individuals who may be struggling.
If you are having thoughts of suicide, or know someone who is, choose to stay. If you need help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. (Serve Daily submission.)