Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among 15 to 34 year olds in Minnesota. A group of students, parents and behavioral health experts in Marshall are trying to stop those senseless deaths by opening up about teen depression. We have the emotional stories of two high schoolers who came very close to losing their battle with depression.
Melissa and Megan proudly sport T-shirts that say Born to be Alive. The Marshall, Minnesota high school seniors asked me not to use their last names, but they do courageously share their deeply personal stories about depression and suicide. They, along with Avera Marshall Psychiatrist Dr. Timothy Beyer, are part of a group that came together in April (2009) to present a moving program to the community last school year called Born to be Alive. They wanted to bring awareness about suicide after classmate Evan Carrow took his own life on September 9, 2008. He was only 17.
Meagan starts crying and says, "I didn't even. (pause). I wasn't that good of friends with him, but my boyfriend, my ex-boyfriend were. They were all connected with him. He was the funniest guy. You just would never think he'd do that. In a split second it happens."
Both Megan and Melissa had fought depression and both had thoughts of ending it all.
Melissa says, "I have a hard time dealing with death. My dog that I had my whole life died in my arms then my Aunt tragically died in a car accident. It was just all with in a couple of weeks. It was building and building and I couldn't take it anymore. Finally, I was done with everything. I didn't want to go through the pain anymore. I almost did it. And then I didn't. I finally told my mom and she took me to the hospital. After struggled depression for 4 years, someone finally understood what I was going through. Not until I got treatment did I feel that way. That's all I wanted was for someone to understand."
Megan says, "I was noticing the symptoms last year as a junior, but I didn't get help. I told my friends I was considering "it" and they called my parents and told them. I was like mad for two minutes. They were just happy someone told them because they had no idea."
Both Melissa and Megan's parents got them help through treatment and medication. Evan Carrows parents, who are part of the Born to be Alive program, say they wish they would have known the signs before the unimaginable happened.
Psychiatrist Dr. Timothy Beyer says, "We want parents and other kids to see that smart average appearing, achievement oriented kids go through depression and have thoughts of suicide and getting that out there gives permission to talk about it. Parents and friends need to be vigilant to look for the signs and then do something about it. Signs to look for: sadness, loss of sleep, loss of interest in things they used to find joy in, slip in grades, concentration problems, pulling away from friends, isolation. Often times they make talk about their suicidal thoughts, but not in a direct way. That why we, as a society, really have to pay attention and listen."
Melissa says, "I would never want anyone to go through the pain that I did. Get help. Don't let things build up."
The girls are doing great now and by getting the word out to parents and other students that they are born to be alive, they say it's given them purpose and a new lease on life.
350 people showed up for the initial "Born to be Alive Program" in April of 2009. Since then, the group has traveled around the state to share their stories of loss and triumph.
Evan Carrow's parents have also set up a fund in his honor to help pay for crisis intervention. Click HERE for more information.