By Sarah Harris | August 20, 2021
Greg and Julie Cook have seen firsthand the devastation youth suicide causes families.
“We have five children and each one has either had a friend or classmate die by suicide or attempt suicide,” Julie Cook said. “As parents, it is heartbreaking to see this continue and know that it is an epidemic and happening everywhere. Each day, 500 children attempt suicide in the United States and 20 children die.”
The co-founders of the Cook Center for Human Connection felt the need to devote their time and effort to this issue, which has become the leading cause of death for Utahns ages 10-24, according to the center’s president and CEO Anne Brown.
“Suicide is preventable, so they sought to address this issue through social change, reaching young people where they are and in a way that engages them and starts a conversation,” Brown said.
The Pleasant Grove nonprofit has teamed up with Wonder Media to create “My Life is Worth Living,” the first animated series about suicide prevention, according to its website.
“We are very proud to bring stories of teens who are dealing with suicidal thoughts to life through animation and share them with the world,” Brown said. “We want kids to know that these stories are worth sharing and their lives are worth living.”
Brown is an executive producer of the series along with Wonder Media CEO Terry Thoren, former CEO of Klasky Csupo Inc., a company that worked on the first 65 episodes of “The Simpsons” as well as “Rugrats” and “Wild Thornberrys.”
“Through the animated stories, teens learn that it’s OK to get help and how to get help,” Brown said. “These are stories of hope kids can see themselves in.”
The 20-episode series follows five characters experiencing risk factors of suicide including mental disorder and depression, bullying and substance abuse, trauma, abuse and homelessness, family pressure and antagonism due to an LGBTQ+ orientation.
“These stories represent some of the most common issues kids face that make them feel so hopeless they might consider suicide,” Brown said. “They can show kids they are not the only ones to face these issues and they don’t have to face them alone.”
The first two episodes went live this week on YouTube. A new episode is set to be released each week through the end of the year.
“Our goal for this series is to help kids identify that they are not alone in their struggles and that they may find help and support in unexpected places,” said Greg Cook. “We also want to destigmatize conversations about suicide and provide a safe space to talk about their fears and concerns.”
Suicide prevention takes everyone getting involved, according to Cook.
“The more conversations about suicide we can help jumpstart, the more lives we can save,” he said.
Julie Cook said the Cook Center for Human Connection is committed to providing resources that involve everyone from family and friends to teachers and neighbors in the fight against suicide.
“Our series shows the struggles of the children, but also how someone should respond and support someone who is struggling,” she said.
Suicide prevention is important not only for Utah but also the country and the world, according Julie Cook.
“Such talent is lost when anyone takes their life,” she said. “So many people are affected when one person dies by or attempts suicide. Our hope is to save lives and stop this senseless loss.”