Oregon Senator Gordon Smith’s son, Garrett, battled learning disabilities and clinical depression for most of his life. At the age of twenty-two, while attending the University of Utah, this popular young man took his own life. As parents, Smith and his wife Sharon, who had adopted Garrett as a newborn, were heartbroken. And, as a senator, Smith was forced to question whether he had the strength or even the desire to carry on in politics.
Senator Smith struggled with the crippling sadness he and his wife faced in the aftermath; and how, with the help of faith and those around him, he not only returned to politics, but became a fearless advocate of suicide prevention. His moving speech on the Senate floor upon the passage of his Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, which increases federal funding to combat the ever-growing problem of youth suicide, brought a rare moment of bipartisan support on the Senate floor and helped open a long overdue national discussion.
The Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act (P.L. 108-355) created a grant program at SAMHSA to help states, tribes, and colleges/universities to develop and implement a youth, adolescent and college-age early intervention and prevention strategies to reduce suicide and authorized a suicide technical assistance center (the Suicide Prevention Resource Center). It is under this grant that Daytona State College takes the lead in addressing this national problem.