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Watch Cronkite’s “Life Is…” Documentary on Youth Suicide in Arizona

December 29, 2020

Dozens of students spent the past year reporting and producing the documentary and related digital content on mental health, isolation and loneliness, at-risk gene variants, the LGBTQ+ community and more. Their stories are available at www.confrontingyouthsuicideaz.com.

Dozens of TV stations across Arizona will join together in January in a rare effort to combat the growing epidemic of youth suicide.

In partnership with the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, more than 25 TV stations will air a half-hour, commercial-free student-produced documentary Jan. 12 about youth suicide in Arizona and what can be done stop it.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, youth suicide rates climbed by a staggering 56% across the United States between 2007-2017, making it the second leading cause of death for young people. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, the CDC estimates that one in four young people have contemplated taking their life.

In Arizona, the rate of suicide among adolescents has consistently exceeded the national average.

All major network-affiliated stations in Phoenix, Tucson and Yuma are expected to air the documentary. Other partners include Arizona’s largest Spanish-language TV stations, public television partners including Arizona PBS, and independently owned stations across the state. To maximize its reach, the 30-minute program will be broadcast in unison Jan. 12 at 5 p.m. on Spanish-language TV stations and at 6:30 p.m. on English-language TV stations.

The documentary, titled “Life is…”, was produced through a grant from the Arizona Community Foundation and with the support of the Arizona Broadcasters Association. It analyzes the underlying societal, cultural, technological and medical causes behind the state’s troubling statistics and offers resources and potential solutions.

“This is a critical issue impacting our youth in Arizona. The investigative reporting conducted by these students will enable us to work on solutions within our community to support teens in the future” said Steve Seleznow, president and CEO of the Arizona Community Foundation.

Dozens of students spent the past year reporting and producing the documentary and related digital content on mental health, isolation and loneliness, at-risk gene variants, the LGBTQ+ community and more.

The students 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.

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

The youth suicide project follows a multi-year partnership between the Cronkite School and Arizona broadcasters to 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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About the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication
The Cronkite School at Arizona State University is widely recognized as one of the nation’s premier professional journalism programs. The school’s 2,500 students regularly lead the country in national journalism competitions. They are guided by a faculty of award-winning professional journalists and world-class media scholars. Cronkite’s 15 full-immersion professional programs give students opportunities to practice what they’ve learned in real-world settings under the guidance of professionals.

About the Arizona Community Foundation
Established in 1978, the Arizona Community Foundation is a statewide family of charitable funds supported by thousands of Arizonans. With five regional offices serving communities across Arizona, ACF is among the top 25 community foundations in the nation with more than $1.0 billion in trust and endowment assets and is certified under the National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations. Since inception, ACF and its affiliates have awarded more than $900 million in grants, scholarships and loans to nonprofit organizations, schools and government agencies. More information is available at azfoundation.org.

About the Arizona Broadcasters Association
The Arizona Broadcasters Association is a statewide nonprofit group that represents more than 200 Arizona radio and TV stations. The ABA financially supports the defense of Arizona independent journalism in legal court proceedings, funds broadcast scholarships and training programs at all three state universities, and lobbies on behalf of radio and TV stations to help create a long-term future for Arizona’s local media and its critical role in communities across the state.