National Runaway Safeline

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When 17-year-old Elaina* messaged us on our Live Chat platform she just had a severe argument with her parents. It started when she expressed that her depression is getting worse and she felt suicidal.  Her father responded mockingly, “I dare you,” while her mother said she would send her to a mental institution. That lack of support pushed Elaina over the edge and made her feel that her only options were to either run away or to end her life.

“I’ve been suicidal a lot and I really just want to get away from it all.”

Stephanie*, the liner on the chat, started by talking about her thoughts of suicide as her first priority was to make sure Elaina was safe. It was clear that she didn’t necessarily want to die, she just didn’t see an end to her situation. Stephanie provided Elaina with the number for the Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), another hotline who is available 24/7 for anyone in suicidal crisis for the future in case she found herself in crisis. Stephanie was also able to find her some counseling options in her area.

“Your life is important and does matter, even if it may not feel that way right now.” – Stephanie, NRS liner

Part of what was contributing to Elaina’s depression and suicidal thoughts was the lack of control in her daily life. Previous arguments and a case with Child Protective Services damaged the trust and relationship between Elaina and her parents. As a result, she was barely allowed out of the house – she couldn’t even get a part-time job. While she had a close friend who she could talk to about anything, her parents did not trust them together since her friend was a boy. Every night her parents would also take her phone away. This lack of freedom in her life made her feel trapped and exacerbated the depression she was already experiencing.

“It’s just hard to see what’s in front of you when there’s so much negativity going on.”

Not being allowed to work and the lengthy legal process made emancipation unfeasible as she’d be 18 in less than a year. School was something Elaina was confident in and helped her feel less hopeless. She was aspiring to be a doctor – an ambition that even her parents were supportive of as long as she did not go out of state.

Even if she abided by her parents’ wishes to stay in-state, going to college would be a chance to leave home and build her own life. If she could find some tools that eased her depression, Elaina felt she could safely wait the 8 months to leave home for college – knowing that if that changed we’d still be here to help her at any time.

“I tried singing, drawing, painting and nothing really works to make me feel better.”

Together, Stephanie and Elaina talked through a few tools she could try to ease some of the isolation she felt from being stuck at home. One of the tools Elaina came up with was to write notes to herself on days where she felt okay that reminded her of her importance in the world and all she can look forward to once she leaves home. The notes would remind her that she wouldn’t always feel trapped and that she had something to live for even on her bad days. Other ideas included:

  • Writing her thoughts and feelings down – this would provide her with an outlet when her parents took her phone away
  • Listening to her favorite podcasts
  • Playing games with her younger siblings
  • Reading books about medicine and surgery

Equipped with a list of some new ways to de-stress, her best friend, her focus on getting into college and some counseling resources, Elaina felt that she had enough tools to safely cope for the next 8 months. We also welcomed her to reach back out to the National Runaway Safeline any time she felt suicidal or just needed someone to listen to her again.

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, you’re not alone. The Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available at 1-800-273-8255. You can also call us at the National Runaway Safeline at 1-800-786-2929 or chat with us online. We’re here to listen to you confidentially and without judgment 24/7.

*Names and identifying details have been changed

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