Today one of my friends and former classmates posted a heartbreaking story on her Twitter about a mother that was collecting letters for her suicidal twelve year old boy. The boy who was a frequent target of bullying announced that he would commit suicide on his thirteenth birthday. He is now being treated for depression and suicidal ideologies in a mental institution. According to the Letters for Noah Facebook page that his mother created, Noah seems to be getting better and is expected to be released from the institution soon. The letters have had an inspiring and encouraging impact on him and his mental health.
I feel really sad for Noah, but I love his mother’s idea of collecting letters. Words are very powerful things and I believe they can really help Noah. Also, it is important to talk about things like this…depression and suicide. These are frequently viewed as taboo topics when they really shouldn’t be. We will never combat these issues if we’re too afraid to talk about them. I firmly believe that the more we talk about them the less likely we are to see an increase in suicide.
I wrote a very long letter to Noah that I plan to send out as soon as possible detailing my experience with my friend’s suicide and encouraging Noah to hold on. I encourage all of you to do the same. The address to send letters to Noah is:
P.O. Box 444
Simpsonville, Maryland 21150
You can also send him a message on his website at www.lettersfornoah.com or e-mail him at email@example.com
Below you can read my letter for Noah:
I heard about your story and your struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts today. One of my friends that I met at college posted a link to your story on Twitter. It just broke my heart to hear of how much pain you are in.
Being twelve is tough. I don’t think people realize just how hard it can be. Maybe you don’t have as much responsibility like a job or a family to care about, but you have middle school, and sometimes I think that can be worst. My middle school years felt like a horror story at the time and looking back on them now, I don’t miss it.
I didn’t always get along with my classmates in middle school. I didn’t like most of them because they could be so mean to me. I felt like they were always looking for ways to tease and torment me or otherwise cause trouble. I am hearing impaired in both ears (by legal definition I am deaf, but I don’t label myself as deaf since I live in a hearing world and don’t know sign language). I frequently had my classmates make fun of me for my hearing by mocking me and saying “what? What? I can’t hear you” whenever I would talk. Sometimes they would make fun of me for my hearing aids too. Even though I was at the top of my class and a published poet they’d often make “deaf and dumb” jokes as well. It could be really hard to deal with sometimes and sometimes I really wanted to just give up on life and be done with it all, similar to how you must feel now.
Suicide was a very new, somewhat mysterious and foreign concept to my twelve year old self. No one really talked about it much back then (that was 10 years ago, back in 2002 in case you were wondering). They briefly mentioned it along with depression in school sometimes, but it was considered taboo. No one was comfortable talking about it. This I believed was a huge mistake.
I learned about suicide the hard way — with first-hand experience. Not through me, obviously, but through a friend. One of the most popular boys in town committed suicide on December 17, 2003. He was a few years older than me and went to the high school. He just turned 17 a month earlier and was one of my older sister’s best friends. No one saw it coming. He got good grades, was friendly, a star soccer player, and seemed to have everything going. He never mentioned suicide or feeling depressed. There were rumors after he did it that it was an accident and that he did it in an attempt to win back his ex-girlfriend. No one will ever really know the truth though. You can never actually know what someone is thinking unless they tell you, which he did not.
It’s been 9 years since his suicide, but I still think of him every single day. My last memory of him was working alongside him at a summer camp. He was a counselor and I was a helper in training to be a counselor. I remember it was about 7 in the morning and he was asleep on a park bench as some young children (I think it was a pre-k or kindergarten group) was playing around him, tugging at his shirt and trying to get him up and playing with them. It’s such a sweet memory, but I wish it wasn’t my last of him.
My friend’s suicide still hurts and haunts me from time to time. I still find myself asking “why?” I know I need to accept that I’ll never know the answer to this question, but sometimes that can be really hard to do. It just doesn’t make sense and his suicide is something that will never go away or get better. It’s forever. It’s permanent. Depression isn’t permanent. Feeling sad isn’t either. You can talk to people and get help and go on to live a better life. You just need to make that first move and let someone know what’s going on and allow them to help you. Unfortunately my friend didn’t do any of this. No one knew of his struggle until it was too late.
There’s nothing wrong with feeling depressed. Many people feel depressed from time to time. It’s okay to not feel okay and it’s okay to talk about it and to get help. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. If more people were open to talking about their depression and suicidal thoughts then I think the number of suicides that occur each year would drastically decrease.
I try to make the best out of my friend’s suicide. Suicide is a horrible thing that shouldn’t even exist though, so this can be hard to do. Ever since he died I have considered myself a suicide prevention advocate. In the past I have created online suicide prevention support groups, been a member of my University’s To Write Love On Her Arms club, and frequently donate money to suicide prevention groups. I am also a writer and suicide is often a point of focus in my writing. I wrote an article for the magazine Spotlight on Recovery chronicling my best friend’s cutting addiction/suicide attempts. You can view it on my website at http://kimberlyerskine.com/spotlight.html . Writing this letter to you is another act of my suicide prevention avocation. I simply just want to try to save lives. I can’t bring my friend back, but I’m determined to try to keep others from following in his footsteps and making the same mistakes.
Noah, you’re twelve years old. Things may be hard for you now, but you have your entire life ahead of you. Get through middle school and I promise you THINGS WILL GET BETTER! The best years of my life happened between the ages of 16-now. If I committed suicide at the age of 12 I never would have seen these days.
Want to know specifically what some of the cool things I’ve done and experienced are? I went to Disney World with my high school senior class. It was during a heat wave and I got sick from the heat, but I had a blast anyway. Then I graduated high school with honors a week later. I won some scholarships too that helped me pay for college.
College was some of the best years of my life. I just graduated actually and am looking for a full time job (currently I work at Walmart as a cashier.). College is a lot different from middle school, that’s for sure! You will LOVE your classmates. You know why? Because they will have a lot in common with you. You pick a major, something you’re wildly passionate about, and your classes will mainly be focused around that. I was a dual major in English and Writing Arts. My classmates were fellow writers all with the same hopes, dreams, and passions as me. We had a lot of fun together and I already miss them and college SOOO much. For fun we’d go to club meetings together. I was the treasurer for the Avant Literary Magazine. Me and my fellow staff members would read poetry/stories from our classmates and choose which ones to include in the magazine. It was so much fun. Sometimes we’d even get together outside of meetings for lunch or dinner. Other times we’d order pizza during our meetings.
Noah, I know life can be hard, but if you get through the hard times like you’re facing now it can be so rewarding. Reflecting back on my friend’s suicide now just makes me so sad because he gave up so many opportunities. He’d be 25 if he was alive today. I can only think what if. Would he have gone on to college? Probably, and he probably would have succeeded. I think it’s likely he would have won a good soccer scholarship. He was a great player. I think the girl that broke his heart would have long been forgotten. Heck, he may have even gotten married. Maybe he would even a child or two by now. I can only think what if. I could spend hours thinking what if and playing scenarios in my head — but then my heart breaks when I realize NONE of these things will ever see the light of the day. He’s gone now. He was gone before his life even had a chance to start.
Noah, I think you’re doing the right thing by getting help. You’re twelve years old and your life is only just beginning. You haven’t even had a chance to really find yourself and your place in the world yet. This thing called life can be so scary and overwhelming and sometimes down-right awful, but I promise you it gets better. Hang in there buddy and you’ll see. Just keep holding on and give life a chance. If you ever want to talk please feel free to contact me. I’m a very approachable person and would love to help in any way I can. I can be reached through e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org Facebook at www.facebook.com/kim.erskine and Twitter at @KimberlyErskine
I hope this letter helps to inspire you to keep holding on and to give life a chance. I hope you’re feeling better today and continue on your road to recovery.