HOUSTON - Suicide rates are on the rise with numbers spiking in some areas during the pandemic.
But a new, locally-produced TV series is being released this September for Suicide Prevention Month and hopes to help.
At 18-years-old, Jacob Johns has been through more than most.
“At five or six years old, I experienced his abusive behavior and psychological manipulation,” he says describing how his battle with mental illness began.
He says after his parents separated, he was kidnapped by his father at the age of 12.
"He would say things, verbally abusing me, saying you're ugly, you're fat,” says Johns.
He says years of brainwashing led to depression, and at age 14, he attempted suicide four times.
"I would lock myself in my room, refusing to eat or even drink... I kept on cutting myself,” he explains.
He's sharing his story at the premiere of the pilot episode of “Breaking Strongholds.” It’s a new streaming series dedicated to bringing awareness to growing suicide rates.
“You know it's escalated over the years, and so we started partnering with some other organizations that are, kind of on the front lines of it,” says executive producer Carla McDougal.
The series is shot in the Woodlands area, which ranks among the highest teen suicide rates in Texas. It tells the story of one teen whose plan to end his life gets unexpectedly interrupted and also spotlights Montgomery County's Suicide Prevention Task Force which started in 2019 to combat the epidemic.
“It kind of shows as a team and as a community- this is what we can do together,” adds McDougal.
Producers hope to air the project in schools and on several streaming platforms, letting those in crisis know help is a phone call or text away. They also want to spread the word that anyone can step in to save a life.
“It's okay to ask the question, ‘are you having suicidal thoughts’, because that gets them to open up that dark side to bring it to the light,” says McDougal.
Jacob says that's what a school coach did for him.
With professional treatment, he's moving forward and now studying to become a therapist to help others overcome mental illness and break the strongholds that once held him.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7 service via a toll-free hotline with the number 1-800-273-8255.
“Breaking Strongholds” premieres Sunday. Visit https://www.breakingstrongholds.com/ for showtimes and more information.