5/6/05 David Granger, 334/844-9999 (grangdm@auburn.edu)
Charles Martin, 334/844-3698 (marticd@auburn.edu)

AU BROTHERS USE FILMMAKING HOBBY TO COMBAT TEENAGE SUICIDE

AUBURN – After a high school friend’s tragic death, Auburn University students Chris and Matt Thomas of Hueytown decided to use their filmmaking skills to bring awareness to teenage suicide.

Chris, a sophomore in veterinary medicine, and Matt, a math and aerospace engineering major, have produced a seven-minute film titled “Saving Jeremy” about their friend who committed suicide during his senior year of high school in 2002.

“We make short films usually in the summers or whenever we have the time,” Chris said. “‘Saving Jeremy’ is an effort to increase public awareness about the importance of mental health since suicide is a major problem, especially in teenagers.”

In March they submitted it to Auburn University’s Jay Sanders Film Festival and finished in the top 20 from more than 200 entries.

“If this film saves just one life, then making it will be time well spent and its goal will be fulfilled,” Chris said. “Many people do not realize the seriousness of this issue until it is too late to intervene and prevent loss of life.”

The film takes place in one day, beginning with Jeremy writing the suicide letter to his mother and older brother the night before. As they get ready for work the next morning, they are unaware of Jeremy and his unusual behavior at the breakfast table in their haste to get to work on time. Later, they both discover Jeremy’s suicide letter that he placed in their briefcases, and frantically race home to try to save him.

“This unfortunate event took place just months after Jeremy’s father died of a heart attack, making Jeremy’s death even more unbearable to his family,” Matt added. “His family is similar to many families that fail to realize their son or daughter has a serious problem before it is too late.”

Chris says his chosen profession of veterinary medicine is not exempt from the risks of this situation due to the high workload that strains the balance between work and family life. He plans to submit the film and a paper on mental health to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for its Secretary’s Award competition for innovations in health promotion and disease prevention.

Matt would like to continue his filmmaking career by studying at New York University.

This summer they plan to work with Dr. Charles Hendrix of the College of Veterinary Medicine to shoot a public service film for Auburn University to promote diversity in the veterinary medical profession.

Auburn University is a pre-eminent land-grant and comprehensive research institution with nearly 23,000 students and 6,500 faculty and staff. Ranked among the top 50 public universities nationally, Auburn is Alabama’s largest educational institution, offering more than 230 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degree programs.

(Contributed by Charles Martin; photo available upon request.)

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