RIVERTON (News4Utah) – The first day of school was a lot more somber for students at Riverton High School Tuesday. They returned without one of their own, James Chuon who fell victim to suicide two weeks ago.

“It was really hard to let it sink in. I think for the first few hours, I didn’t even cry. I was in shock, and fear, in denial,” said Chandara Chuon, James’ dad.

Chuon said James was outgoing, charismatic, and kind. He played lacrosse at Riverton High School and spent a lot of time at Riverton Skate Park, practicing tricks on his BMX bike.

“I even came to the skate park with him a few times and threw on his helmet because he was trying to teach me a few tricks. Now I come here just to be closer to James, just to feel his presence,” said Chuon.

He said his son would often turn to him for advice because their relationship was open and honest.

We’d have heart-to-heart conversations in the car and talk about if somebody got picked on or if somebody was different at a young age. He would ask me why people make fun of them,” said Chuon. ” He always cared but he do something about it. If there were kids that were alone, he’d invite them to play soccer or introduce them to the rest of his crew.”

Among many prevention techniques, Jordan School teachers are learning intervention tactics and types of red flags to watch out for. The district has hired a full-time health and wellness administrator and offer the Jordan Family Education Program, where students and families can receive up to 12 free psychological treatments.

We don’t want to lose kids,” said Voorhies. “As a teacher for many years, those were my kids that came to my classroom.”

Now, Chuon said using James’ love and memories, he’s ready to be part of the solution.

It’s a scary subject that no one wants to experience. I’ve had trouble with depression in the past and I’ve overcome it and I’ve had the fear of those demons coming back and haunting me and not being able to come back,” said Chuon. “Those demons can be loud. But together, we can be a lot louderand fight this.”

Chuon also has this encouraging message to James’ friends struggling to return to school without him, “Just keep his spirit alive in the hallways. Dance those weird dances and pull those pranks and make each other laugh because he’s there with us.”

Chuon’s family and friends will be participating in the “Out of Darkness Walk” at Liberty Park on September 15th from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. To participate or donate to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, click here.


If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts help is just a phone call away. You can call the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. For more information, click here.