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Cronkite School Launches Website Examining Teen Suicide Rates Across Arizona

September 9, 2020
Cronkite School Launches Website Examining Teen Suicide Rates Across Arizona

Cronkite broadcast reporter Melanie Porter shoots an interview with Johanna Moya Fábregas, executive director of Con Mi Madre. Photographer Delia Johnson and digital reporter Miranda Cyr also worked on the story. Photo by Cronkite graduate Melanie Porter.

The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, in partnership with the Arizona Community Foundation and the Arizona Broadcasters Association, is launching a student reporting project on youth suicide, a growing concern in Arizona.

The students’ work, which includes articles, information and resources related to youth suicide, is available at www.confrontingyouthsuicideaz.com. The website is being launched in September in recognition of Teen Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month in Arizona.

In addition, student journalists are producing a 26-minute documentary entitled “Life Is…” that is scheduled to be released in January 2021. The documentary analyzes the underlying societal, cultural, technological and medical causes behind the state’s troubling statistics.

According to the United Health Foundation, the rate of suicide among adolescents in Arizona remains significantly higher than the national average. In 2019, public health researchers reported that Arizonans aged 15-19 were 21 percent more likely to die by suicide than the average of their peers nationwide.

“After learning about the increasing numbers of teen suicides in Arizona, we recognized the importance of investigating the factors contributing to these staggering numbers,” said Steve Seleznow, CEO of the Arizona Community Foundation. “The decision to support this investigative journalism project was important to shine the light on the difficult issues facing our teens and determine how to support them in the future.”

Cronkite students developed, researched and produced print and broadcast stories on mental health, isolation and loneliness, at-risk gene variants, the LGBTQ+ community and more. They worked 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. In addition, students in Cronkite News, the news division of Arizona PBS, contributed reporting throughout the year.

Ariosto said the students documented the problems but also looked for solutions. “Cronkite, in collaboration with community partners, hope this documentary creates awareness, but also drives positive prevention efforts within Arizona communities to reduce incident rates and the many factors that lead to related cases in our youth,” he said.

The Cronkite School has completed two other major projects in conjunction with the Arizona Broadcasters Association that called attention to some of the state’s biggest challenges.

“Hooked: Tracking Heroin’s Hold on Arizona” focused on the growing perils of heroin and opioid use in Arizona. It aired in 2015 on all 33 broadcast television stations and 93 radio station in the state, attracting an audience of more than 1 million.

In 2017, “Hooked Rx: From Prescription to Addiction” built on the 2015 effort by investigating the alarming rise in prescription opioid abuse in Arizona.

This year’s project is being produced with support from the Arizona Community Foundation.