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Guest Editorial: Baseball program raises awareness of youth suicide

This week, September 8-14, is National Suicide Prevention Week.

In Minnesota, suicide ranks as one of the top 10 causes of death among all ages, and is the second leading cause of death among youth (exceeded only by automobile accidents).

According to the 2010 Minnesota School Survey, 17 percent of freshman and 12 percent of seniors thought about taking their life in the previous year, and 3 percent of freshman and 2 percent of seniors attempted suicide in the previous year. For perspective, in a class of 50 seniors, six will consider suicide and one will attempt it.

Each youth suicide results in an average loss of 53 years of life and $432,000 of economic productivity, adding up to a staggering 262,000 lost years and $3.19 billion each year.

Suicide is preventable.

The Highway 10 Baseball Classic, in collaboration with the Christopher Benz Foundation (, conducted its second annual tournament this past June in Perham and New York Mills. This tournament features 12 teams from all areas of Minnesota and Fargo, N.D. The purpose of the tournament is to bring together young boys, ages 15-16, to learn about suicide prevention, with baseball as the platform for increased awareness and education.

The tournament is made possible through the generous sponsorship of KLN Family Brands. Additionally, KLN’s sponsorship has made it possible to award $1,000 grants for suicide education, prevention and awareness activities to the schools associated with the communities represented at the tournament. These grants include local schools in Perham and New York Mills.

The Christopher Benz Foundation was born out of tragedy after a good friend of mine, Janet Benz, lost her son to suicide.

Chris died Jan. 11, 2007 when he was only 17 years old. He was a loving young man with lots of friends, family and a bright future. In the wake of his death, the lives of his family and friends were changed forever. 

The Benz family did not want Chris’ death to define his life; rather, they wanted his life to become a lasting legacy of serving others. In the summer of 2007, the family and their friends started an annual baseball tournament to honor Chris’ memory by connecting with kids and educating them about suicide and the resources available to help.

Together, we at the Highway 10 Baseball Classic and the Christopher Benz Foundation are doing what we can to realize our goal — to eliminate suicide in our greatest treasure, our youth.

You can help by recognizing the warning signs of suicide:

-Threatening or talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself.

-Looking for ways to kill oneself.

-Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide when these actions are out of the ordinary.

-Feeling of hopeless.

-Feeling rage or uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge.

-Acting reckless or engaging in risky behavior.

-Feeling trapped, like there is no way out.

-Increasing alcohol or drug use.

-Withdrawing from friends, family and society.

-Feeling anxious, agitated or unable to sleep or sleeping all the time.

-Dramatic mood changes.

-Seeing no reason for living or having no sense of purpose in life.

If you see or hear any of these signs, talk with the person. Help him or her to make an appointment to get help. Take it seriously, because it is a serious matter.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available at 1-800-273-TALK.

Additionally, please do not judge or condemn those who have chosen to end their emotional suffering with suicide. Pray for these troubled souls, that they may find some peace with the Lord. And pray for those left behind, that the Lord will help them go forward without stigma, guilt or blame, and that they will find the peace they need. Support them and talk with them. The silence that many times shrouds suicide is very damaging.

Dan Peterson, Organizer

Highway 10 Baseball Classic

and Christopher Benz

Foundation board member