Arizona TV stations join fight against youth suicide epidemic

Arizona TV stations join fight against youth suicide epidemic
More than 25 television stations on Tuesday, Jan. 12, will air a half-hour, commercial-free student-produced documentary about youth suicide in Arizona and what can be done prevent it. (Source: Cronkite News)

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Dozens of TV stations from all across Arizona will join together on Tuesday, Jan. 12, for a rare effort to fight back against the growing epidemic of youth suicide.

In partnership with The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, KOLD News 13 and KMSB Fox 11 will be among more than 25 TV stations to air a student-produced documentary about the youth suicide rate in Arizona and how we can help stop it.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, youth suicide rates climbed by 56% across the United States between 2007-2017, making it the second leading cause of death for young people. In Arizona, the rate of suicide among adolescents has remained significantly higher than the national average, and since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, the CDC estimates that 1 in 4 young people have contemplated taking their own life.

The Arizona TV partnership to air this documentary is expected to include all major network affiliated stations in Phoenix, Tucson and Yuma. It will also include Arizona’s largest Spanish TV stations, public television partners and independently owned stations across the state. The 30-minute program will be broadcast Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. (5 p.m. on Spanish TV stations).

The documentary, titled “Life is…”, has been produced in partnership with a grant from the Arizona Community Foundation and distribution support from the Arizona Broadcasters Association.

The entire effort has been managed under the direction of Cronkite Visiting Professor David Ariosto, an author and journalist who has managed, produced and written for National Geographic, Time Magazine, NPR, Reuters, CNN, and Al Jazeera America.

“This project has made important progress on an extremely pressing issue,” said Ariosto. “The students who worked on this project not only aided in sharing the stories of youth suicide, but also helped uncover possible solutions to benefit our community and across the country.”

Over the course of the past year, Cronkite students have developed, researched and produced digital, print and broadcast stories on nearly every facet of this crisis. They have released these stories available on a dedicated website at confrontingyouthsuicideaz.com.

The youth suicide project follows a multi-year partnership between the Cronkite School and Arizona broadcasters to help shed light on some of Arizona’s most pressing issues. In both 2015 and 2017, the Cronkite School produced documentaries for air across the state about alarming rises in prescription opioid abuse. The first documentary was watched live by an estimated 1 million Arizona viewers and won numerous honors, including the region’s top Emmy and a national Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award.

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