WARNING: This post discusses suicide and suicidal ideation, and some people might find it disturbing. If you or someone you know is suicidal, please, contact your physician, go to your local ER, or contact one of the following:
National 988 Crisis Line – call or text 988, or chat 988lifeline.org
Crisis Textline: text TALK to 741741
Trevor Project: text START to 678-678, call 866-488-7368 (support for LGBTQ youth)
Veterans Crisis Line: Call 800-273-8255 or text 838255
Disaster Distress Helpline: Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746
This is not writing-related but it is definitely Internet-related. And, it involved a LOT of writing…by our son.
Our son, Mason, is 17 years old. He is homeschooled, recently got his driver’s license, and also recently started his first job. Mason regularly attends church, plays guitar, and enjoys drawing. Mason wants to be a 2D and 3D animator when he grows up.
As with most teens these days, Mason spends a lot of his free time gaming, and talking to others who belong to online groups. Awhile back, he met another teenager (I’ll call him Adam) through an app. It was a group of Christians talking about a variety of topics.
Mason asked to speak to me a few weeks ago about a concern he had. His friend, Adam, had mentioned suicide a few times. Worse, Mason started following his Twitter account and Adam had mentioned suicide there as well. Adam has over 200 followers on Twitter. I’m not sure how many people are in the Christian messaging app. What I do know, after looking at Adam’s Twitter feed myself, is that a lot of his followers are adults (and also Christian).
Mason showed me conversations he and Adam were having on the app. Mason was talking no nicely to him, telling him he had so much to live for, and how much he (Mason) would miss Adam if he killed himself. The kid would seems to pep up a bit for a few days, but then start talking about suicide again. I told Mason, “Do whatever you can to get his phone number.”
On Tuesday, Mason showed me a new app message from Adam. He was threatening to get an online account with a different service (I’m not going to name it here) and livestream his own suicide. He made Mason promise not to tell anyone. Mason was freaking out. He was so worried about his friend! I was panicking as well!! But, Mason had to handle the communications with Adam because Mason was the only one (he thought) who Adam had told about the threat. He knew Adam wouldn’t talk to anyone else about it.
And, that very morning, Mason finally convinced Adam to exchange phone numbers with him. The first thing Mason did was text him. It only took a couple of texts to confirm that, yes, it really was Adam, and that was his phone number.
We wondered… Should we call the suicide hotline, give them Adam’s phone number, and let the authorities take care of it? Turns out…it doesn’t work that way. I stupidly thought that the cops have more info. than Google, and can find someone with a specific phone number. Nope! More on that later.
Mason got to work Googling Adam’s phone number. That number appeared to belong to someone with a foreign name located in Kansas City, Missouri. Mason found that the guy was 48 years old, and had been indicted for a crime back in 2006. Maybe he was Adam’s father? I looked up the guy’s family members’ names. None of them even remotely sounded like “Adam.” Perhaps Adam had given Mason a fake name? Adam had sent Mason pictures of himself. Mason reverse Googled them. They were not taken from the Internet. They were real pictures. They were of a teenage boy with very moppy hair, and a crooked smile. And, he wasn’t foreign.
We figured out that Google was wrong. The phone number may have at one time belonged to the foreign guy but it didn’t anymore.
Mason was exchanging texts all day with Adam, talking about family, work, school, and everything. Anything to keep him talking, while also trying to get any concrete hints about where Adam might live. And, while they were texting, we knew Adam wasn’t in the process of killing himself. During that time, I was reading tons of things Adam had posted to Twitter, looking for any clues at all.
Mason was getting more and more worried. He shared Adam’s phone number with two people. One, who I will call Henry, was following Adam on Twitter, and was clearly also concerned. The other person was from the Christian group. Henry started texting Adam right away. Mason told me about Henry and I quickly contacted him through Twitter while Mason was still engaging Adam via text.
We found out Henry had also received the “livestream” threat from Adam as well. It was the exact same wording that Adam had sent to Mason. Also, that morning, Adam was kicked off the Christian app for sending that message to one of those users. Mason had contacted the admin. of that group, who shared with Mason what was going on.
I called the Suicide Hotline. The woman I talked to was very helpful. I explained the situation. She said no police department will intervene without an address. She told us to refer Adam to the suicide hotline. She said he would not have to give his real name or anything. He would just have someone to talk to…someone who knows how to talk to suicidal people.
Henry thought (from a previous conversation) that Adam lived somewhere on the south side of Chicago. Henry called the Chicago police, who told him the same thing. Without an address, they could do nothing. Henry and I were exchanging messages back and forth, not knowing what to do next. Henry was at work so I told him I’d start making phone calls.
It was evening time now and Mason was in his room, texting Adam non-stop. He just had to figure out a way to get Adam’s address. Since Mason already had Adam’s phone number, perhaps Adam thought he didn’t have anything to lose. Mason finally just asked him point blank for his address. Adam gave it to him.
I quickly googled the police department in Adam’s town and Mason and I called them. They put us through to dispatch. I had them on speaker so Mason could help. Mason and I told the dispatcher everything we knew. 19 years old. Lives with his parents. The type of job he does. Threatening to livestream his own suicide on a specific app. Brief description of the kid, etc.
The dispatcher got his first name, address, and phone number, as well as my name and phone number, and said police were already on their way.
A minute or so later, Adam texted Mason, asking if anybody else knew what Mason did. Mason confessed that he’d told his mom. Adam said, “The cops better not show up here.”
A couple of minutes later, they did. It appears Adam told the cops (and his parents) the truth. He was taken to the hospital. He later texted Mason a picture of him there. He was not upset with Mason. He said he was going to get the help he needed.
He’s allowed to use his phone a few times a day. He has been in counseling all week, and was put on medication. His family was able to visit him at the hospital yesterday. This weekend, he is being transferred to a psychiatric facility. It was his choice and he chose to be admitted. I don’t know Adam but I am so proud of him!
Oh, Mason also found out that Adam’s brother had been encouraging Adam to kill himself. I told Mason to tell Adam to tell his therapist about that ASAP.
Last night, I reached out to Adam for the first time. (After all, I had his phone number.) I told him what a good friend he’s been to Mason, and that Mason has been so blessed to have him in his life. I also told him we are all praying for him, and to let us know if he needs anything. He texted me back:
Thank you btw. I needed the help. I’m gonna be transferred to another facility pretty soon. I’m gonna be here for two more days (Saturday). There is something you can do for me right now though. Tell Mason I said, “Thank you and that he’s a great friend.” That’s all I want at the moment.
That text from him made me cry.
You know what made me ANGRY, though??? When I started following Adam on Twitter, I saw several references to suicidal thoughts. He has more than 200 friends. Most of them adults. He would get some encouraging words under those posts (though some people were downright rude and demeaning!). But, that’s it.
Only Mason (again, age 17!) bothered to take the time to do something about it, and to get his friend the help he so desperately needed. What is WRONG with people these days?!?!
If my kid was secretly posting those types of threats online, I pray that God would bring somebody, anybody, into his/her life to save my child’s life!
I found out from Henry that Adam’s parents called him (Henry) a “creep” for texting Adam when he was trying to help. That is despicable. I told Henry he did the right thing and to not worry one bit about what Adam’s parents say about him. He and Mason were paying attention when Adam’s parents were clearly not.
I have to tell you that, despite us worrying about Mason’s own mental health during this entire ordeal, and despite Mason’s extreme stress during this time, he refused to give up. He saved his friend’s life. We have NEVER been more proud of our son!!! 🙂
If you have had a similar experience, or would like to comment, please share with everyone in the comments box below.
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