Charlene Westgate's son committed suicide two years ago. As her project in the Self-Expression and Leadership Program, she created a series of tea parties to raise both funds and awareness to fight teen suicide. NBC News in Tucson ran a story about Westgate's events, the first of which was held July 15 and the next of which will be held August 8.
Mother Raising Awareness about Teen Suicide
Charlene Westgate is the "Tea for Teens" creator. She tells News 4, "My 19-year old son committed suicide two years ago. He was a freshman at the U of A and even though he was a gifted student, he struggled his first year. He had trouble finding his way and I think he was depressed about the fact that he lost all his credits."
Westgate wants nothing more than to get Joseph back, but she can't. What she can do is organize "Tea for Teens" parties to raise awareness about teen suicide and spread hope that no matter how bad it gets life is worth living.
She says, "As many as 100 teens commit suicide every week and that was pretty alarming to me. I don't want other mothers to have to experience what I have."
Speaking at this "Tea for Teens" party is an expert in the field. He's Michael Barr and he's with the Southern Arizona Mental Health Clinic. Barr tells us, "The majority of people who complete suicide or contemplate suicide don't want to die. They find, though, that suicide seems to be their only option because they don't talk about it."
He says suicide has been such a taboo subject for so long that kids aren't able to vocalize their way out of it. Instead, like Joseph, they spiral down. Joseph died from his second suicide attempt.
Michael Barr adds, "You run that tape through your head and you get no input from anyone else and there's kind of a momentum that develops in and of itself where you're almost compelled to complete the act."
According to the Arizona Department of Health, suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15 to 24 year olds. Many times, drug use and child abuse are contributing factors. But, at these "Tea for Teens" parties, the focus is on brighter things written on balloons. They're reasons, big and small, to keep going.
Barr says his job would be a lot easier if more families would sit down together for dinner. And, don't be afraid to talk to your kids about suicide.
The next "Tea for Teens" party is coming up on Friday, August 8th in Tubac at the Café Presidio from 6PM until 8PM. Please call (520)398-1010 to reserve your spot.
More information about Families for Depression Awareness is available by clicking here.