SEARCY, Ark. — It was almost five years ago in September that Jesse James’s parents woke up to the unimaginable, and they decided they didn’t want another family to go through the same thing.
National Suicide Prevention Week runs from September 4th to September 10th, and sadly taking one’s own is a growing crisis with America’s youth.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third-leading cause of death in teenagers, and it was the second-leading cause of death for those aged 10 to 14 in the most recent statistics from 2020.
In Arkansas, thirty-one 15 to 19 year olds committed suicide in 2020. In all age groups, Arkansas had the eleventh highest suicide rate in the nation. The family of Jesse James in Searcy is trying to do something about this.
From poetry to playing chess, golf to baseball, fishing to gaming, Jesse had a lot of interests.
“Jesse was a very gifted boy,” his father Jeremy James said. “Very social, yet shy. He gets that from me. He’s very witty like his dad,” his mother Jennifer James added.
On the surface, he was a carefree 14-year-old freshman at Searcy High School, but within weeks of the 2017-2018 school year, Jessie took his own life.
Jeremy said it is “the most empty feeling you can ever have.” To this day he says, “Somedays are okay and some days it’s just like September 29 again.”
On September 29, 2017, Jesse’s trumpet no longer made noise. His shoes no longer marched, but in the days, weeks, and months to follow, the community surrounded Jesse’s family asking to host a music festival fundraiser in his honor. They called it Jamming for Jesse.
The generosity exceeded what Jeremy and Jessie James knew to do with themselves, so they started the Jesse Dylan James Foundation to raise awareness about how peer pressure, bullying, and online chatter can have horrific effects, including suicide.
“Nobody wants to talk about it (suicide). It’s that thing that you sweep under the rug and you don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings by bringing that up, and it’s something that should be brought up in conversations and talked about,” Jeremy stated.
“And a lot of people think that if you bring it up then you are putting it in someone’s head, but actually it relieves those thoughts,” Jennifer added.
Through cookoffs and concerts over the years, the Jesse Dylan James Foundation brought in speakers to Jesse’s school and has given nine scholarships to graduating seniors. It isn’t to make themselves feel better though.
“It is to help prevent any family from feeling the way we feel every day,” Jennifer said. “I wish that the information I know now I knew back then.”
The next fundraiser for the JDJ foundation will October 15 around the Searcy Courthouse. There will be ribeye steak dinners grilled by world-class chefs. The general public is also invited to compete
These events and education to prevent bullying and suicide have no end in sight.
In Jeremy’s words, “I see that going on longer than I am around. I see it just going forever.”