Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Frank Fantozzi is determined to do his part to change that.
Last year, LifeAct visited with 30,000 middle and high school students, reaching individuals at one of the most vulnerable points in their lives. More than 2,500 of those students, or 8.4 percent, came forward in search of further support and/or information.
“It’s shocking how open these kids are because the way these teachers teach in the content of the program,” says Fantozzi, trustee, advancement committee chairman and annual fund co-chair at LifeAct. “They feel very safe, and they share things like, ‘I thought about committing suicide,’ or ‘I have a friend that tried to cut themselves,’ and so on. It’s a two-day program, and a lot of schools are asking us for it. But the challenge for us is more instructors.”
Fantozzi came to LifeAct about eight years ago. The founder and president of Planned Financial Services was finishing up a stint on a board at Cuyahoga Community College and was looking for a new place to help. He has always had a soft spot in his heart for programs that help youth, which drew him to LifeAct. In addition, Fantozzi had a friend in high school who had committed suicide.
“If I had been through the same program, maybe I would have been able to pick up the signs of my friend who took his life,” he says. “Like a lot of other people, I had no idea that he was struggling with something.”
It’s a critical point for LifeAct: The program isn’t just for the individual who may be contemplating suicide. It can also save lives by compelling friends, family members and fellow students to be aware of a problem. The more students LifeAct can reach, the more lives that can potentially be saved, Fantozzi says.
Before it was LifeAct, the entity Fantozzi leads was known as Ohio’s Suicide Prevention Education Alliance.
“I wanted our name and branding to be something more positive,” Fantozzi says. “It’s about doing a life act to help someone else. There’s no real data to know that we prevented a suicide. We can only assume that if someone is at risk, but they’re getting help, logic dictates that some of those could be a suicide that gets averted.”
Time is valuable, too
Business leaders who want to make a difference in their communities should not underestimate the value of providing their time and talents, in addition to their treasure.
“Find something you’re passionate about and find a way to give some of your time,” says LifeAct’s Frank Fantozzi. “Charities are starving as much for talent as they are for money.”