By Jamie Leary
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4)– It took two suicide attempts before a Colorado Springs teen found a reason to live and began to wonder, “What if teens hold the answer to the youth suicide problem in Colorado?”
But it was a long road before that question led to a much bigger purpose for Macy Rae Klein.
“As parents, they want to fix things. They want to kiss the wounds, they want to give Band-Aides … but with depression, you can’t just put a Band-Aid on it,” said Macy Rae, 16.
Macy Rae was only in 6th grade when her depression hit and in 7th grade when she began making plans to end her life.
“I couldn’t walk past things like bridges or sharp things without thinking how I could use it to end my life,” said Macy Rae.
Macy Rae couldn’t explain why. She had a normal home life and while she didn’t get along with her parents, she says it was a loving family environment.
“I don’t really know how it started. Just one day, I woke up and I want to say I was bored with life. There was nothing keeping me here. I would cry at the drop of a hat and I just, I never knew why.”
Compounding those feelings, Macy experienced the loss of several classmates by suicide. She said the efforts of her school to help were well-intended but didn’t work.
“They (schools) have a script they have to read to us,” said Macy Rae. “These kids that are killing themselves, they’re our friends, they’re our classmates, they’re our peers. There’s an empty chair over there and that chair belonged to this person and it’s just traumatic and that script makes everyone so angry that we don’t pay attention.”
Macy’s first attempt was stopped by a friend who called. Her second, stopped by her parents.
“My plan was to say, ‘I want to die’ and then I was hoping, I wanted them (parents) to say I was being dramatic, looking for attention and then I would kill myself and they would blame themselves forever,” said Macy Rae.
Macy’s parents did just the opposite.
“My dad came and sat in front of me and held out his arms and said ‘Come to me’ and after like five minutes of silence, I did and that choice is really what saved my life,” said Macy Rae.
After months of counseling, Macy Rae started to find reasons to live and thought ‘If it can work for me, it can work for others.’ Her biggest reason was helping other teens find their reasons to keep going.
“I had been talking to my mom and I asked her, ‘Why can’t people fix this? Like, why can’t adults figure their life out and find it for us?’ and she looked at me and said, ‘What if the teenagers have the answer?'”
For Macy Rae, that was the conversation that started her effort to reach teens across Colorado. Less than a year ago, she started a non-profit called, Project Reasons. She not only has a board of teen directors, she has also created a safe space for teens to talk as well resources for parents.
“Right now, it’s adults leading it and the issue, at least with teen suicide, is in the teen … it’s our minds, it’s our culture, it’s what we understand. We need the adults to guide us and give us their wisdom … but the teenagers need to be the one driving the program,” said Macy.
Macy Rae knows her solution may not work for everyone, but she is one of many Coloradans working to help the community understand teen suicide and learn how to prevent it.
According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the suicide rate for teens ages 10 to 18 nearly doubled between 2006 and 2016. It rose from 5.4 per 100,000 to 10.5.
It is the second leading cause of death among teenagers in Colorado. While Macy’s voice brings a new and crucial voice to the issue, other organizations continue to fight as well. Since 2002, the Second Wind Fund has helped nearly 4,500 teenagers who are at risk of suicide. Today, every single one of those teens is still alive. Like Macy, Second Wind helps teens find a reason to live. It has created a network of counselors ready to jump in, free of charge.
“That’s what’s so exciting. I personally have referred 80 students to Second Wind. All of them are still alive,” said Sandy Austin, a school counselor at Pomona High School.
Austin came up with the idea behind the Second Wind Fund. Not only did she find that other counselors wanted to help, but the organization eventually got enough funding to provide money to get kids involved in activities they wanted to try.
“It’s important for them to have a connection somewhere and what I love about Second Wind is that for students who aren’t connected, maybe a family can’t afford for their child to play soccer … Second Wind provides those funds, for fees for certain things,” said Sandy. “In my 21 years, that’s the thing that has just given me such peace … just knowing I can refer them to Second Wind, it’s so easy.”
The Second Wind Fund and Project Reasons are two of many organizations in the Colorado Community, working together to make sure every teen has a reason to live.
For Macy Rae, it’s all about advice her given to her by her mentor.
“She told me, ‘Suicide is a puzzle and each of us has a piece to contribute.'”
SUICIDE HOTLINE: 1.844.493.8255 or text TALK to 38255
Jamie Leary joined the CBS4 team in 2015 and currently works as a reporter for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. She couldn’t imagine a better place to live and work and will stop at nothing to find the next great story. Jamie loves learning about and hearing from her fellow community members, so connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @JamieALeary.