Rally aims to fight teen suicide

Dark times pass, event speaker says

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Les Franklin lost two sons to suicide, one as a teenager and another as an adult.

He's since devoted his life to helping those who may be considering suicide and who have suffered its impacts. Franklin is among several speakers who will highlight the LoveMirrorMirror teen suicide prevention rally, set for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 14 at Highlands Ranch High School.

Other speakers will include Cresthill Middle School Principal Sid Rundle, Second Wind Fund director Richard Eveleigh and Katie Higgins, a recent high school graduate.

The three-hour event also includes a resource fair, with booths representing a variety of youth-oriented community groups, a video presentation and a free fitness class sponsored by Littleton-based Ballet Physique.

The rally was organized by a Douglas County resident who was moved to action after witnessing her teenage daughter's reaction to a friend's suicide.

“She attended her first funeral for a high school friend last year,” said Robin Pasley, a mother of four who works at TW Telecom. “I just started seeing the struggles she's been having, and the pressures kids are under.”

To date in 2014, four Douglas County teenagers have been lost to suicide, according to Coroner Lora Thomas.

Pasley was surprised at the amount of resources available to help teens, and realized others might be similarly unaware of those resources, as well as the issue of teen suicide.

“I want to bring it out into the light so other people can see,” she said.

Franklin, who's given thousands of presentations in both the United States and Canada, looks forward to sharing his message with Douglas County families. Franklin and his wife Marianne founded the Denver-based Shaka Franklin Foundation for suicide prevention and awareness, named after the 16-year-old son they lost to suicide, in 1990. In 2000, the couple's only other child, 31-year-old Jamon, was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning.

“Not a day goes by I don't think about my sons,” Les Franklin said. “I miss being called `Dad' and `Pops' by my sons, the Father's Day cards I'd get from them. I look at my friends who have grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I'll never have any of those things.”

But, Franklin said, “We know what we're doing has had an impact.”

“I never would have ever done anything like this if it hadn't been for the loss of my sons. It's committed us to reach out and try to help other young people. We need to find ways to stem the tide.”

Franklin encourages parents to nurture an open, loving, nonjudgmental relationship with their children, one that lets teens feel comfortable discussing any aspect of their lives. He also encourages kids to talk to adults if they fear for a friend's life.

“It's better to have an ex-friend than a dead friend,” Franklin said. “I tell children, never, ever keep it secret. It's something you'll live with the rest of your life, if they're telling you something like this and you don't speak out and tell someone.”

He also lets teens know life's darkest moments will pass.

“Everyone's going to be in the valley at some time, but ultimately, you'll get out of it; you've just got to give yourself time,” Franklin said. “Learning how to deal with adversity is part of becoming an adult.”

For more information on the rally, visit lovemirrormirror.org.