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Suicide among teens and young people -- more so the prevention of it -- was discussed openly and candidly during the Marie Interfaith Civic Leadership Awards program, held the afternoon of Sept. 25 at Temple B'Nai Israel. William McCastlain, along with the Blackwood family -- Steven, Cindi and Ariel -- were honored during the 12th annual awards event.

Gallery: Marie Interfaith Civic Leadership Awards

The Marie Award, named for the late and great community servant Marie Seeman Spitzberg, recognizes those "who mobilize people of different faiths and different segments of the community to address important issues and challenges facing Arkansas."

McCastlain, accompanied by his parents, Heather and Cal McCastlain, founded the #3people4life campaign in honor of his older brother, also named Cal, who took his life while he was a student at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. The movement encourages young people to have three people they can go to during any time of need. William McCastlain, now 20 and a student at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., started #3people4life while in junior high school with the help of the Rev. Jay Clark, youth minister at Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church.

"I couldn't let this all be for nothing," McCastlain said of his loss. He said he is still coping with his brother's death. He has continued to raise money and set up new programs, some at Vanderbilt, to deal with mental health issues that can lead to suicide.

The Blackwood family lost their son and brother, Alex, to suicide when Alex was 19. They've since established the Alex Blackwood Foundation for Hope, which, among other things, established Camp Alex as a place where adolescents can go to share their thoughts and feelings about friends or siblings lost to suicide.

"I plead ignorant," Steven Blackwood said. "I was completely ignorant to the fact that people suffer from depression and that people take their own lives."

After snacks and the awards, Christopher Epperson, board chairman for the Arkansas chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, noted recent research suggesting that suicide prevention efforts are grossly underfunded despite the fact that it can be the most "curable" of the nation's leading causes of death.

-- Story and photos by Cyd King

High Profile on 10/02/2016

Print Headline: Four honored for devotion to teen suicide prevention

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