Taylor’s Story: Part 1
Taylor, my youngest son, was two weeks past his 17th birthday when he committed suicide. His mom found him hanging on the door in his bedroom with two belts fashioned into a noose.
Taylor, a 6’3″, 175-pound pitcher at Plano West High School in Plano, TX, appeared to have everything a teenager could desire: popularity, good looks, a 3.8 grade point average, excellent SAT scores, and a well-mannered disposition that endeared him to peers and adults alike. We were initially at a loss to figure out WHY Taylor would do something like this.
Anabolic Steroids and Suicide
While the police were investigating his death, they inspected his room and found vials of steroids, needles and syringes. It quickly became clear that Taylor had been using these drugs. When the police asked me whether Taylor had been using steroids, it was clear to me by the officer’s demeanor and his tone of voice that he thought there was a connection between anabolic steroids and Taylor’s suicide.
This was the first catalyst that I had to begin reading and digging to see if I could find out if anabolic steroids could be a key to unlocking the mystery about why a suburban Texas kid would do something like this.
Over the next 4-6 weeks, I dug and dug – reading article after article on the Internet about anabolic steroids. Low and behold, there were many articles written by world-renown physicians and scientists pointing out the severe depression that can occur when steroid users cease taking these drugs.
We Started Educating
Armed with this new knowledge, I contacted the principal at Taylor’s high school to see if he could arrange for me to speak to those parents and students who were interested in hearing more about what happened to Taylor. He agreed, and I spoke to a group of about 600 parents and students about 6 weeks after Taylor’s funeral. They also arranged for the President of the world-respected Cooper Clinic to present with me in that first program. Together we explained the relationship between steroids and suicide as well as discussing the very serious physical side effects of these drugs.
And, we explained what the kids had told me in the days following Taylor’s funeral about the huge number of kids in Taylor’s high school that were using these drugs. Over half of the kids on Taylor’s baseball team were actively using. And, the kids told me that over half of the football players and others were using, too. (Of course, the local school officials denied that this behavior was going on!)
Judging from the reaction to the dozens of adults we spoke to in the coming days and weeks, it was clear that everyone was shocked by the prevalence of the youth usage. We believed we’d uncovered a steroid epidemic in North Texas and committed to reach out to schools in the Greater Dallas area to spread our new knowledge.
News Coverage of Taylor’s Story
Unbeknownst to me, the Dallas Morning News was covering the event and wrote a huge story in the paper a few weeks later. In hindsight, I am convinced that the reason that it took several weeks for them to publish the story was because they were “investigating” to make sure that what I was alleging had happened had actually happened. That I wasn’t some crazy dad looking for an excuse to explain our loss. And, that Taylor wasn’t some druggie or alcoholic that was suffering from depression that came from another source.
A few days after the story ran in the Dallas Morning News, Jere Longman a very senior sports reporter with the New York Times called and scheduled to spend 3 days with us in Texas. We introduced Jere to Taylor’s friends, his girlfriend, his doctor, his coaches, and his teachers – anyone that might provide insight into Taylor’s behavior in the time leading up to his suicide.
On the day before Thanksgiving in 2003, the NY Times published a top-of-the fold story about Taylor and his death’s connection with anabolic steroids. Two days later, a producer from CBS 60 Minutes called and said, “I guess you know why I’m calling.”
As it turned out, we didn’t just uncover an epidemic in North Texas. We uncovered a secret epidemic of Appearance and Performance Enhancing Drug usage that was national in scope. Secret use by the youth of America.
Our work was just getting started.
- How big is the youth APED problem? Vol. 2
- TAYLOR HOOTON FOUNDATION FOUNDER APPLAUDS THE PUBLICATION OF BILL KASHATUS’ NEW BOOK, “SUICIDE SQUEEZE”