Editor’s note: As the title suggests, this essay is about suicide, which may be difficult for some readers.
Angel — a 17-year-old high school student in Fresno — recently told me about her battles with suicidal thoughts.
Like many others, her story is about tough moments growing up, feeling abandoned, reaching out for help and finding the strength to overcome her lowest moments.
Angel had been a straight-A student, but her grades began slipping. In sixth grade, a teacher would constantly ridicule her, which only made things worse. She became more depressed. She questioned her sexuality and dated a girl who treated her poorly. The next year, Angel began cutting and burning herself.
By eighth grade, she told me, she was missing a lot of school. She started going to a 24-hour crisis stabilization center in Fresno and was on medication after being diagnosed with major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and some psychosis. She says she didn’t want to live anymore.
In ninth grade, she told a friend about her suicidal thoughts. “We’re not going to help someone who doesn’t want help,” Angel says her friend responded.
Believing no one would miss her if she was gone, Angel says she made a suicide attempt at school using pills. She was taken to the emergency room, followed by a two-week stay in a psychiatric hospital.
Her new medication made her feel numb. “I didn’t know what was going on with the world. I didn’t know what was going on with myself,” she said.
She switched schools her junior year, but she hit another bad point: she didn’t want to keep going and didn’t see a bright side to anything. One day, she ditched school and climbed the fence on a highway overpass. Cars honked at her. Her arms shook. Instead of jumping, she dialed 1-800-273-8255, the suicide hotline. A police officer arrived.
She was taken to a hospital and soon to the Central Star Youth Psychiatric Health Facility in Fresno. It would be her sixth visit. Angel’s mom didn’t think Fresno was safe for her, so she spent the next four months in Mexico with her grandmother. Angel says the more religious environment helped her.
Now six months later and back in Fresno as a senior aiming to graduate, Angel says she’s doing much better. The people at her church are helping her by giving her encouragement. She paints, draws, sings, writes and does breathing exercises to calm her mind.
She tells me that her life is going well and knows that when times get rough she will get through it. It’s in part due to help from her family — both blood and through the church — and others who were there to listen.
That includes the person who answered when she called the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. As Angel learned, there is always help available to anyone.
NOTE: If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.