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Lawrence High School junior Jordan Ott recalls feeling many things in the wake of his brother Isaiah’s suicide in 2013.
Jordan, now 17, recalls he was a little bit young to realize exactly what was happening, but it’s a sense of loss that sticks with him every day.
This also drives him to bring awareness to make more people aware of potential triggers to suicide and possibly help those at risk of suicide.
He is organizing the “We Got Your Back – Suicide Awareness Walk” from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, March 23, at the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence Teen Center, 2910 Haskell Ave. in Lawrence. There will be counselors available and private areas for those who want to talk. He’s been working with staff members at the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence to bring awareness to the event.
Prioritizing prevention in behavioral health is a key strategy in the current Douglas County Community Health Plan. The county's age-adjusted mortality rate is 16.3 per 100,000 population, which is higher than the Healthy People 2020 goal of 10.2 suicide deaths per 100,000 population.
With Jordan’s work, he hopes to help the community work to reduce suicide rates. For one, he has noticed it’s typically only talked about when it happens, and by then it’s too late to help that person and his or her family.
He works to humanize and tell stories as often as possible about his brother, Isaiah. They grew up playing sports together. They had a brotherly rivalry often. Things could be frustrating for Jordan as the younger brother. Basketball has been a huge part of the boys’ lives, as their father, Elwood Ott, coaches basketball at Haskell Indian Nations University.
“Isaiah was just so driven to succeed in sports. I found things in his room that showed how dedicated he was to his workout regimen, and things like that,” Jordan said.
He also recalls one of the final times he heard his brother’s voice on the phone when he called him from Oklahoma. Jordan was stressed about his own things, and Isaiah — instead of needling him — told him how proud he was of him.
“He said, ‘I love you,’ and I’ll never forget that,” Jordan said.
Maybe it’s something he took for granted, but he hangs onto that moment now. And it keeps him going as he seeks to help bring awareness to suicide prevention. He talks about how he’s learned to help support friends and family who might be showing signs.
“I would do whatever I could take your mind of it, even if it’s just for a little bit. I’d get you some Skittles, if that was your favorite candy,” Jordan said. “Then I’d make sure to keep checking in with you. Make sure you got the right help and that I was not being judgmental about it.”
- Jordan sat down for a conversation recently with his longtime friend, Analise Reeder, and her mother Christina Gentry, the Health Department’s community liaison.