MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Coming Next on The World And Everything In It: Suicide Awareness. On average, there are 132 suicides every day in the United States. September is National Suicide Prevention Month and I talked to an award-winning singer/songwriter who’s using his music to bring attention to this issue.
MYRNA BROWN, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Matthew West brings rhyme and rhythm to the hard places in life.
SONG [FORGIVENESS]: It’s the hardest thing to give away and the last thing on your mind today…
In 2012 the singer/songwriter wrote the song “Forgiveness,” inspired by a grieving mother and the drunk driver who took her daughter’s life.
SONG [UNPLANNED]: I’m looking at a masterpiece. I’m looking at a work of art..
Seven years later, producers asked West to pen a song for the 2019 anti-abortion film, Unplanned. West was undaunted. Then in February of 2020, he released his eighth album and the song he hoped he’d never have to write.
WEST: Without question. I mean, because it deals with the topic that I wish we didn’t even have to deal with or that my kids would never know about.
West is the father of two daughters. In the fall of 2018, his eldest, Luella, was starting sixth grade.
WEST: This song hit a little too close to home because it’s inspired by a young boy who was my oldest daughter’s classmate and the first week of sixth grade, he took his own life. I’ll repeat that…the first week of sixth grade.
West says the suicide was understandably devastating to the young boy’s family, his classmates, and the entire community of Brentwood, just outside Nashville. As parents grappled with how to talk to their grieving and confused children, West offered his thoughts in the song “Too Young, Too Soon.”
WEST: Like it talks about cliques, to be kind, choose love, reach out your hand, don’t point, don’t laugh. Life’s too short for that. And man, even when you’re an adult, it’s all cliques and people being that way toward each other. We’re all guilty of that sometimes. And it’s not like Sam was being bullied, that’s not necessarily the cause of his suicide, but it just felt like it needed to be said in the context of the song.
He also shared his memories through the music.
SONG [TOO YOUNG, TOO SOON]: Hey there, Sam, that sure was some smile on your face. Standing on the stage in the 5th grade Christmas play. You were everybody’s friend and nobody’s enemy. But there were storm clouds deep inside you. Nobody else could see what was really going on. Now we can’t believe you’re gone.
WEST: I’m talking about him in the Christmas play. And as a dad, I’m always that annoying dad that is doing goofy things in the audience to try to get my daughter’s attention before the play starts. They’re standing up there, dressed up, getting ready to sing the Christmas carols. And I was like waving and being goofy and my daughter wouldn’t give me the time of day. But this kid, this kid had this big smile on his face. And he looked right at me and started waving back and forth to me. And it was just this funny moment.
A fleeting moment West says has changed a community’s perspective.
WEST: Just to say like man, who’s around you right now that could use a friend? You know. And maybe for all of us to look at the world a little differently like that.
SONG: Who needs a friend, reach out your hand. Don’t point, don’t laugh, life’s too short for that. Hearts break in two for the too young, too soon.