Why is the film called “Tell My Story”?
After Ryan passed, I was going through his room and drawers. The top right hand drawer was empty except for two sticky notes. One had his usernames and passwords. The other said “tell my story,” and that’s what i’m doing. I think what Ryan meant by “tell my story” was to tell the story of what he did so other kids and parents wouldn’t have to go through this. He wanted me to tell the story from his eyes, other kids’ eyes, and other parents’ eyes so parents would start looking at their kids in a different light. I am telling Ryan’s story in hope that everyone sees a little bit differently.
Why should people see the film? What do you hope to achieve through the movie?
“Tell My Story” is a documentary to educate parents and to show them that depression is a disease and not something that you can just shake off. I hope this film gives parents the tools they need to take care of their kids.
People always say to me “Jay, this project must be really healing for you” and the answer is no. I have had to relive my son’s death at least 1,000 times. There is nothing healing about this. So why am I doing it? I'm doing it because Ryan asked me to. I am doing it in hopes that at least one parent will go have that conversation with their kids that will change their lives and save someone. I need others to help me start this conversation because I can’t change this world by myself.
What is Chooselife.org and why is it called “Choose Life?”
Chooselife.org is the foundation I created to end teen suicide by 2030. I thought the name “Choose Life” was fitting as people should choose life over death. Chooselife.org was available so I bought it. I didn’t know why it was $10,000 dollars, I just paid it. I got some of those rubber wristbands that say “Choose Life” and I was ready to go. The next week a buddy of mine said “Jay, you know that’s the old anti-abortion website from the 80s.” That was the first 12,000 dollars I spent. Learn more: https://www.chooselife.org/
What do you think parents should do to support their child’s mental health?
Parents need to take action now and understand that suicide is at the epidemic level amongst teenagers today. Parents need to pay attention to their kids’ social media, keep an eye open for changes in behavior, keep and open dialogue and let them know it’s okay to be sad, realize that they view the world through a different lens, and most importantly, if you are worried get them to talk to a mental health professional.
Not talking about suicide with your kids is like not talking about the elephant in the room. The world’s only going to change if we decide as parents that we’re going to make a change, if we all decide to be that person that kids want to talk to and that our kids feel safe with. We need to tell our stories and start to have real emotional connections with our children. When kids start to realize we’re not those superhuman people they think we are, and that we’re normal, then we can have a real conversation about how we feel. You can make a difference with your own family. I'm making a difference with the family I have left.
How is your family doing?
The last couple of years have obviously been very hard on my family. I wish I could say it gets better and you move on, but that is not how this works. The very public direction that I have gone in is not the direction my wife and kids choose to go in.
The making of the movie, my Tedx talks, Goalcast etc have been hard on them. We have found a way through it all. Kim and I have been married 28 years and we will stay that way. Derek, Ashlyn and Kyle, all have very different paths but are all doing extremely well and I am very proud of all of them.