Chandler Councilman co-hosts mental health event for teens - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler Councilman co-hosts mental health event for teens

December 9th, 2021 development
Chandler Councilman co-hosts mental health event for teens

Chandler Councilman co-hosts mental health event for teens

By Ken Sain, Staff Writer

Doretta Thomas says she wasn’t surprised when her son Micaiah took his own life in July.

“We knew, we actually had taken him at the end of February to a hospital and he stayed there for nine days,” Thomas said. “We knew the severity of it. It’s just that I couldn’t stay with him 24/7.”

His death came after Micaiah had told his mother that he didn’t want to be a burden to her. He had struggled with mental health issues and Doretta noticed a change in his behavior after he started taking medication in November 2020.

“He would tell me, ‘I’m tired of living like this, I can’t live like this, I won’t live like this,’ she said. “He would tell me that.”

The death of Micaiah Thomas and too many others inspired Chandler City Councilman OD Harris to put together a teen suicide awareness program. On Dec. 12, about 200 youth are expected to attend a bowling event at Main Event Tempe. It will cost teens only $1 for bowling, food and other activities, including rock climbing and laser tag. Teens who want to register should visit Parents are welcome to attend as well.

“Children, report to children,” Harris said. “Children often don’t report to parents. And by the time the parents know about it, it’s too late.”

Harris says that’s why he wants to make sure more youth are looking for the warning signs and will hopefully take action before it’s too late. During the pandemic, he said, things have gotten much worse.

“The teen suicide line has been up about 30 percent since COVID has began,” Harris said. “You’ve seen this increase the past two years because of COVID, kids being locked in, sheltered in to one place. I said I need to do something to get this awareness out.”

Doretta Thomas formed a foundation called the Micaiah E. Thomas Memorial Fund soon after her son died. Its goal is to raise awareness in the Black community of mental health issues and suicides. Micaiah was a graduate of Arizona State University and 24 years old when he died at the Tempe home he shared with his twin brother.

“He was the type of a young man that had a heart, a heart for the underdog and forsaken and so when he passed away I decided to do the foundation this helps me to get through my pain. If I can help one mom not to have to get a phone call, that would be all worth it to me.”

The foundation is one of the co-sponsors of this month’s bowling event. Other sponsors include Waste Management, and the Ready Set Go Foundation. Harris is the founder of the Ready Set Go Foundation.

Harris said he hopes to pair the youth who come to the event with influencers. He said there will be therapists on hand if anyone feels the need to talk.

One of the influencers expected to be there is former Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman Michael Bankston. He played nine seasons in the NFL, six of them with the Cardinals.

“I’m seeing so many different scenarios when it comes to our youth now days,” Bankston said. “We’ve been seeing some suicides, we’ve been seeing some drug activity, we’ve been seeing sexual trafficking. We’ve been seeing a lot of ray of negativity. So, I think I can add a voice of hopefully encouragement to deter them from making some of these poor decisions and choices in life.”

He is one of the special guests scheduled to appear. Others include the mayors of Tempe, Chandler and Gilbert, as well as state Rep. Jennifer Jermaine, D-Chandler.

Thomas will also speak, most likely to the parents who attend the event. One of the things she plans to warn them against are the ANTs, which she says stands for “Automatic Negative Thoughts.”

“When the Automatic Negative Thoughts rise up, sometimes they’re just too powerful.”

She also plans to tell them to do their research, and that medication may not always be the best answer. Thomas said some medication can include suicidal tendencies as a side effect.

“I would caution the parents to be very, very involved,” she said.

Harris said he keeps hearing about more and more cases like Doretta Thomas’ son.

“Countless,” he said. “I just ran into a mother who will be coming to the event. … Just talked to another mother and she was just telling me her son died by suicide in October. Suicide is like one of those conversations that no one really wants to talk about. It just has that stigma, … but I wanted to do something to help people.”

Chandler Councilman co-hosts mental health event for teens

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