The email was anonymous so I had no information on her whatsoever. In fact, she made sure to conceal anything that identified her, probably so I wouldn’t just pick up the phone and call 911.
But I wouldn’t have done that anyway. Of course, she didn’t know that.
In fact, her letter to me was, in her words, a “last-ditch effort”.
What do you do when someone tells you this? Would you plea with them? Would you tell them to get help as soon as possible? Would you find the suicide hotline and tell her to call it right away? (It’s 800-273-8255 by the way).
And what if any step you took was the very thing that led her over the edge?
What kind of response would you have to someone who admits they want to kill themselves? Is there a good response that you hope they won’t take the wrong way?
I’ll tell you what I did.
I allowed her to express anything she needed to express without the fear of judgment. And I thanked her for sharing her story with me. I also complimented her for her writing style and authenticity. And I meant every word.
How often do we react, or overreact, to someone’s “shocking” news?
One of our challenges as the receiver of such news is keeping our composure and exploring what the other person is trying to accomplish by telling us.
With Sam, she told me she was reaching out. She reached out to me because her parents weren’t helpful, her teachers weren’t helpful, her friends weren’t, and even counseling didn’t go well for her, so I was her ‘last-ditch effort’.
And I’m glad she did reach out because I think it made a difference.
Just listen, and it will make a difference. Sometimes people need to express things to us that they don’t want to express because we will overreact or tell them what to do.
And sometimes the best way to support someone giving us shocking news is just to open our minds and let go of our judgments. And also let them know that we are there for them if they need us.
If they chose to tell you, they need you. So don’t try hard to be “helpful”, just be yourself and be the ear they need so that they know you are safe.
Today’s episode is about Sam’s letter. If you know anyone that is thinking about committing suicide, tell them to listen to this episode. There’s no preaching in this episode, only my unbiased response to someone who reached out in hopes for some insight.
It’s the last thing you want to hear so most of us don’t talk about it.
A teenager who calls herself “Sam” reached out to me and shared her story of struggle. She has had many challenges and admitted to me, “I want to end my life”.It’s the last thing you want to hear so most of us don’t talk about it.
A teenager who calls herself “Sam” reached out to me and shared her story of struggle. She has had many challenges and admitted to me, “I want to end my life”.
My heart goes out to this dear young woman! I pray that she finds her way out of the darkness that can be so engulfing, especially for someone too young to safely live on her own. It is extremely important that we listen to those struggling with such painful thoughts, so they know that we care. As Paul so aptly said, depression clouds the very mind and heart that we must use to escape it. I have felt it before, and was blessed to find helpful people through charity funded counselling services. Once time I had the very distressing experience of finding someone who, minutes before, had just ended their own life. That really solidified my knowledge that attempting to escape the pain through suicide ultimately perpetuates pain and tragedy.
Wow, thank you for sharing this. It’s so important for people in that dark place to know that there is a path out, no matter how bad it feels in the moment. So glad you found people that could help you out. I’ll make sure she knows you care and that you reached out like this. I appreciate you!
Thank you so much for sharing this. While in the darkness, it’s hard to see the light, so to speak. Many of us have experienced this very darkness and have contemplated a point of no return.
The only problem with contemplating such things is that there IS no return! As much as that may sound appealing at first (because we might not like *what* we’d be returning to), there are many paths to feeling better that haven’t been considered.
Sometimes, you don’t even know those paths exist. I had no clue there was a path out of the darkness – it just seemed impossible.
That’s the problem when you’re in that place, feeling good, or feeling ANYTHING, seems impossible.
There is always a way out. And sometimes it’s a matter of hearing the right thing at the right time, or doing something so bold and different that it shakes your foundation and you have a different perspective of things.
The latest update on this girl is that she contacted me just recently and said that she has found friends that accept and support her, and has also considered for the first time in a long time that she may actually want to be happy.
She was “ready to die” and now she’s ready to live and find out what happiness is like. She was able to reach way inside of her and hold on to hope that something would eventually change. She reached out to me and shared her story, and I shared her story with the world.
I don’t know if my insights or direction changed her thoughts or not, but I do know that her thoughts DID change, at least a little bit, and had she taken her life she would not have discovered that life may actually be worth living again and that meaning and purpose can appear out of nowhere at any time.
It’s not easy to see a way out when you’re so far down, but KNOW there is a way out and keep reaching out to those that will listen and help you.
Thank you so much for commenting once again. Your comment is valuable.
Thank you so much for sharing your story. “Sam” updates me about her life every few months and I’m happy to say she is still very much alive and, I believe, in a better place insider herself. She still has challenges from day to day but she seems to be doing better than before.
You do not have to “move on” if you don’t want to. That part should never be forced, it should only come when it’s time. I think it’s important to have the conversations you never had with those that have passed. Sometimes that can be done in your mind, sometimes it can be done where they are buried or where they lived. The important part is to say the things you want to say to them, then ask them the hard questions you may not want to hear the answers to.
I do hope you are able to come to a more peaceful place inside of you too. Losing a child might be the worst pain imaginable, so many people won’t understand what you’re going through. But at least have those conversations and ask questions to her that maybe you’ve never asked.
She will answer. Maybe not immediately, but she is there and can guide you through this.
I realize this may sound a bit “out there”, but no matter what your beliefs are, our reality is sometimes shattered beyond repair and it really does a number on our mind. Our heart hurts and we sometimes cannot figure out if this is really happening.
These conversations that we start with people that are no longer here help us to move through the pain and into a more peaceful place. Of course, there is pain and sadness at first but it doesn’t have to stay that way.
Thank you again for sharing. I’ve forwarded your message to Sam and will let you know if she replies. I wish you the best.
When I was 14, I felt pretty terrible too. My parents were divorced my whole life – I never got to be with both of them at the same time. I realize that sounds like a sob story and probably isn’t as bad as what’s going on for you, but for me, my whole world was crumbling around me. I cried in front of my dad once because he wasn’t married to my mom. That’s so crazy isn’t it! They were never together in my entire life but I was so sad that I couldn’t be with both of them at the same time.
Nowadays, there are websites that help you talk through the issues you’re having. I know a 13 year old that reached out to me and she said that she was in a similar position as you. She joined https://www.7cups.com/ and found a few people she could talk to there.
I don’t think most adults realize just how tough it is being a young (or old) teenager. You get bullied, you feel insecure, you feel like a loser, and a whole lot more. I remember I failed 7th grade. Who fails 7th grade!! Well, I did. I hated school. I didn’t want to go and every year was a huge challenge. After I failed, I tried harder than ever and passed all my classes until I graduated.
I started skateboarding when I was 16. That changed my life. I finally made real friends and stayed active. I felt like I was accepted and a part of something bigger. It felt great. I don’t know what you like to do, but finding stuff like that – where other people like to do it too – can really be helpful.
There’s a song you should look up on youtube. It’s an old rap song (you’ll laugh because it’s so cheezy). It’s called Parents Just Don’t Understand. It’s by Will Smith (when he was a rapper a long time ago). You might get a kick out of it.
Thank you for sharing this. And of course, if you’re really down and out, be sure to use the free chat system on this website. It’s anonymous and you can talk to them about anything: http://chat.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/GetHelp/LifelineChat.aspx
Just check the box and enter your zip code then start chatting!
Thank you again. I appreciate you!
im in a real shit hole right now and its bin that way sines i was 10 im 14 now i suck at everything and i have no friends my parents punish me when i talk to them about it help me please…
Hey you, try to pause and take a breath. When I was 14 I was convinced I was ugly with no friends, a g’ma dying of cancer, glasses, braces, and nappy hair. 4 years later in college men all around kept telling me I was fine like Sade! What I’m trying to say is we are naturally negative and don’t always see how great we really are. Now you’re, what, 17? Do things seem different? Stand up to your parents calmly and say what you feel, like “I don’t feel like you’re on my side.” It works with my dad. Blessings and love, you deserve it!
To the beautiful 14 year old who expressed your feelings of life! Hopefully you read our comments! I hope you don’t mind I am going to call you buddy so I have a name to talk to you. I hope you can see you have a very unique intelligence. You are also very brave to write to another person about how you feel. Some people will have a hard time understanding why you would even think this way. Just excuse them because they are ignorant to those kind of feelings not because they are stupid or being rude but they probably just cannot go there because they can’t handle it. I think fourteen is a tuff age to begin with but you sound smart and maybe a bit ahead of most your age. I listened to Paul’s podcast just now, he is very intelligent as well and had really thorough great information he shared with you and those of us listening. Paul doesn’t know it but his words mean a lot to me. I discovered him just days ago. I have been there several times myself of not wanting to live and still have the feeling but know I am staying. I don’t know why you feel this way or if you even know why. I hope you stay though. Life is hard but I bet a lot of people love you. I do know that even with people loving you that doesn’t make life feel easier. I’m sorry you feel this way but I get it! I understand the feeling. I’ve made some mistakes in my life buddy. Mistakes I wish I could change, do differently. I am several decades ahead of you. I’ve seen a lot, been through a lot. Maybe you have too at your young age. I wish I could change the past then my life would have it’s meaning back. You see buddy my daughter did take her life five years ago and I live that pain everyday. It wakes me right out of my sleep in the middle of the night. I have many breakdowns and it just gets harder to go on. No one gets it buddy so I hide the pain. I quit talking. But guess what! That just causes more pain! So sometimes we put ourselves in a vicious cycle so as not to bother anyone else. After all you get the feeling people are tired of listening to you. So buddy I wish my daughter would’ve called me that fateful night and told me she doesn’t feel well. If only I had called that day or made plans to come over that day. Just three days before I made plans with her for the week after. If only I knew! We know she made a rash decision that horrible night and she’d come back if she could. In her normal rational thinking she would’ve never thought to leave but alcohol changed her rational thoughts. I can’t change the outcome and that is hard to live with. Everyone has advice of how I should move on. Some are good intensions, others are just a brush off. They have no idea how I really feel and that moving on is not something I want to do because I am moving on without her and I guess I won’t as long as I stay in that feeling but right now I am fine with that. So there are so many reasons why anyone may want to end their life. Paul is right that it is a conversation that makes most people uncomfortable, especially those who’ve never felt that way. So it makes it harder to tell someone especially those close to you as they’d never want you to go. I have to say I agree with Paul you are really an awesome writer. The way you expressed yourself made you easy to listen to. You have a way with words. Because of your way with being able to express yourself in a most understanding honest you, please do tell someone. If you feel you can’t trust anyone or they will brush you off then please call the hotline number Paul gave you. Reply back on here! You got Paul’s attention, you got mine and whoever else found Paul’s podcast. I know I don’t know you buddy but you sound amazing! I bet you will help a lot of people. I don’t know the answer to life and I’m in emotional pain. I know I can’t just say feel better and you will. Just know there are many of us lost, feeling sad, wondering and asking the same question as you. That also doesn’t change life but it is helpful and oddly feels good to know you’re not alone in these thoughts. Stick around buddy, you actually may find life to be exciting! I did until tragedy! I did love life! A part of me knows that excitement and is still in me I am just having a hard time finding it! What if you are just having a hard time finding it? It’s probably in there! So buddy I do know some of your thoughts on life and I know you’re a writer! You realize you could probably put words to music! I wish you the very best buddy! Remember being a teen is tuff but as long as you know that it can help you see life can get better. I was always painfully shy. Wish I knew what I know now back then. By the way Paul I did listen to your final thoughts!!