El Dorado teen hopes to raise awareness about suicide in honor of her friend, Alex “AJ” Hicks Jr.

Arkansas News

EL DORADO, Ark. (KTVE/KARD) — September is suicide prevention month. One teen in El Dorado is hoping to help others by sharing the story of a friend she lost in March.

Six people in El Dorado have died to suicide this year with the youngest being 18-year-old Alex “AJ” Hicks Jr.

Hicks was a senior at the El Dorado High School and was known as the town’s star athlete. His athleticism was unmatched and his personality was rare.

“He was funny. He played a lot. He could be really serious though. Around my house, he was goofy. We had fun. He liked to eat. We ate wings and cookie brownies and rotel,” Kayla Hill said.

Hill, a sophomore at El Dorado High School, met Hicks while she was in the 7th grade. They became close friends as the years went by. She supported Hicks while he mourned the loss of his friend and teammate, Octavius Critton Jr., who murdered in August 2019.

“It was real hard. It was hard the whole time,” she said. “I don’t think it ever just let up. It was an always constant thing.”

Hicks was dealing with more than just that which took a toll on his mental and emotional state. So much so that he took his life in March. For Kayla Hill, hearing the news was difficult and even coping with it thereafter was a new experience.

“I probably shut down. I was mean. I didn’t want to talk,” she said. “I had my moments but we were stuck in the house at the time and no one saw that.”

Adding to the pain was the loss of her uncle just two months later. She never fully coped with Hicks’ death when her uncle soon passed away.

Hill never expressed thoughts of suicide during our interview but she did take both of those back to back deaths really hard.

Hill is involved in many activities at her school and kept busy to try not to think about it all. Once her busy world began to slow down as the night hit and she went to bed, that’s when all of the thoughts would fill her head.

She found a way to positively deal with it all by seeking a counselor.

“I mean I was tough. You rarely see me cry. You rarely see me upset,” she said. “I’m probably even tougher now.”

Since her turnaround, she’s now using her story and Hicks’ story to help others. Hill has been planning a suicide prevention rally since June with her mom’s help. There were many obstacles with finding the right venue but she persevered.

“It’s for a good cause,” she said. “Some people say I’m keeping his name alive. I’m going to always do that but it’s bigger than just that.”

Hill says what it’s really about is making sure others know they aren’t alone, that they are loved and that there is help for those silently facing these thoughts of suicide.

The event she’s planning will be at the El Dorado Racquet Club. There will be food, door prize, a DJ and several counselors on site to help anyone who needs support.

Shaneil “PJ” Yarbrough and Rev. Barry Dobson will be the guest speakers. Hill hopes all teens especially young males will be a part of this event, not just for AJ but for themselves.

Saturday’s gathering won’t just stop be a one-time deal, Hill hopes to make it an annual event.

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