To The Suicidal Teenager

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I was thirteen when the thought of suicide started haunting me. So, I want you to know, I’ve been there myself.

We didn’t talk about suicide in my family even though, by the time I made my attempt, it had touched our lives more than once. That’s why I am reaching out. Maybe it’s backward and maybe the last thing I should tell you is that there is hope, but I’d like to start with that.

There is hope, but you have to reach out.

I was raised in a culture of silence. My family was religious. They were town leaders and preachers and when it came to suicide, the silence was loud. We didn’t talk about stuff like that. I didn’t even know I could reach out.

At the age of fourteen, if you would have asked me the number to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, I would have looked at you as aimlessly as I looked at my Geometry teacher every time she asked a question in class. I didn’t even know it existed! Much less, that I could reach out. 1–800–273–8255. Trust me, you’ll want to remember that.

When I was fifteen, that’s when I could have really used my youth pastor, my pastor, or my school counselor. Both my sisters left home and I felt all alone, and no one had really ever taught me how to ask for help.

Sure, the school counselor had looked my way a few times (compliments of living in a home where domestic violence was present), but I knew to be on my best behavior when she was around. When you’re a kid, it’s natural not to want your parents to know.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t reach out.

I could have reached out to the church, except, in my case, they were also family, and it was never something I heard discussed in our church. I figured suicide was similar to how my papa would leave Sunday service at the same time each week to sit in his car and smoke — we just didn’t talk about it. So, I didn’t talk about it. I didn’t want to be the one to bring it up. What if something was wrong with me?

There were teachers I could have reached out to, but every time I got their attention, it reminded how much I wanted someone — anyone — to see me as talented, smart, or above average. At your age, I was craving someone to show me the value of life. More so, the value of my life. Each time a teacher looked my way, every single time I had the chance to reach out, I chickened out.

I was okay. I was fine. I would figure it out myself, at least that’s how I felt. Looking back now, I wish I had reached out.

There is help.

When I was teenager, I didn’t have a cell phone, I didn’t know any lifelines, and I certainly couldn’t text someone for help. Back in my day, the World Wide Web and cell phones were just coming around. No one ever told me that I could reach out, that I should reach out. No one told me there was help. No one showed me there was hope, and my desperation was loud.

Maybe you feel like you can’t talk about it. Maybe you’re scared. Maybe no one has ever told you that you deserve help. Please hear me, I’m telling you now:

You are worthy of help! You are worthy of hope!

There is so very much of it all around. And all of those feelings you are feeling right now, they are normal. They matter. They count. You matter. Your life counts! I know sometimes that feels like the hardest part and it’s scary when you’re not certain where the path will lead you, but don’t risk it like I did. Don’t choose that path. There is help!

Stay one more day, and reach out.

The world might be winning today, but you can be winning tomorrow.

If you are feeling hopeless or suicidal, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1–800–273-TALK (8255).