Podcast on father’s suicide gets Lubbock teen national recognition

Noura Shoukfeh announced as 1 of 8 winners of New York Times podcast contest

Lubbock High Student wins NYT Podcast contest
Noura Shoukfeh, right, sits next to her mother, Lama Shoukfeh, left.
Noura Shoukfeh, right, sits next to her mother, Lama Shoukfeh, left. (Source: KCBD)

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - One Lubbock teenager’s personal effort to bring awareness to the issue of suicide is gaining national recognition.

Noura Shoukfeh, 17, is one of eight winners of The New York Times’ Podcast Contest. Her podcast entry centers around her reading a letter to her father, who died by suicide in March of 2010.

Listen to Shoukfeh podcast here: A Message To My Father, And Millions Of Other People

In less than five minutes Noura Shoukfeh is able to share a message to her father and help those who may suffer from issues related to suicide.

“I wanted people to see the growth that could happen in the aftermath of a passing of that sort,” she said.

When her father died, Noura Shoukfeh was 6 years old. Her older brother was 8 and her younger sister was 4.

It was hard to hold back the emotions while reading the letter aloud. It took her about 20-30 times before she was able to get the recording just right.

“It felt so natural and so heartfelt,” Lama Shoukfeh, Noura Shoukfeh’s mother, said. “I could just see she was having a conversation with her late father.”

The entire time her daughter was putting the piece together, Lama did not even know.

“She surprised us with it,” Lama Shoukfeh, said.

Lama only found out because Noura Shoukfeh needed parental consent to go on throughout the rest of the contest.

Noura Shoukfeh went through four rounds of judges to become one of eight winners.

“So I think I was pleased to see how vulnerably students were sharing,”Nicole Daniels, staff writer with The New York Times Learning Network and contest judge, said. ”I think we were really pleased to see that she felt safe sharing that story.”

Part of Noura Shoukfeh’s inspiration for the podcast episode were from dreams she had as a child. In those dreams she would update her late father on her accomplishments.

“In a way it kind of became a reality,” Noura Shoukfeh said.

The podcast episode also worked as a coping mechanism, she said.

And mechanisms may be as beneficial for others who are dealing with similar issues, says Sean Mitchell, an assistant professor of psychology at Texas Tech.

“Often times people who have lost someone to suicide find it very healing to be honest and truthful in the way that they talk about the suicide,” Sean Mitchell, assistant professor of psychology at Texas Tech.

Other ways to cope include joining a support group or just talking about a loved ones' suicide to others.

And for Noura Shoukfeh, she is hoping she will be able to continue to help out others who may be going through the same issues.

“Even though times like this can seem scary or trying, and that it may be difficult to know that they are cared for and that they are loved for,” Noura Shoukfeh said. “And more importantly that they are not alone.”

Links to suicide resources can be found below:

American Foundation of Suicidology

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