Father who lost son to suicide wants you to know the signs

BATTLE GROUND, Wash. - Brad Hazen's son, AJ, was a bright boy and grew to be a stellar 15-year-old who won trophies and got good grades in middle school.

But "when AJ hit freshman year at high school, that's when everything changed," Hazen said Thursday.

It started while AJ was a freshman at Battle Ground High School over six months. Hazen said there were three warning signs of suicide that he missed.

"The first warning sign was in November, he wouldn't do his homework," he said. "I said, 'It's your responsibility to do homework and my responsibility to go to work.' He said, 'Dad, I don't want to live anymore.'

"The second sign happened in middle of December when he again wasn't doing homework, and I said, 'AJ, do your homework.' I went into his bedroom. He had some knives in his bedroom."

The third sign was after AJ was bullied in class, his girlfriend left him and he was wrapped up in the juvenile system.

"When he was at the probation office, he said, 'All I want is a gun and a bullet.' And that was the third sign. That was on a Wednesday and then AJ took his life on a Friday - the following Friday," Hazen said.

That was Feb. 18, 2011. For two years Hazen has met with school leaders trying to get a program for youth suicide.

"You need to get the whole community involved to educate the parents and the kids about suicide," he said.

Hazen believes that education and communication will prevent other suicides and pain for other families.

"No, it doesn't get any easier. They said it would, but no," he said.

He wants people to recognize the signs of suicide so they can get help immediately.

Last week the district connected parents with mental health experts about monitoring their children's cellphones and Internet activity.

The community of Battle Ground came together Thursday night to shine a light on teen suicide. The meeting with parents, teachers, school board members and just people from the community tried to figure out what resources they have and how to move forward.

A previous KATU News story from On Your Side Investigator Anna Canzano showed how the Internet seemed to play a role in these cases.