Some statistics suggest every day in this country, over 5,000 tweens and teens attempt suicide. Luke Maxwell, 17, was one of them.
He attempted to kill himself in what his mother describes as the “worst possible way” by driving head on into another car. It happened nearly a year ago on a rural road in Temecula and Luke walked away with literally a scratch. The other driver wasn’t so lucky. Husband and father, Lenny Ross, suffered numerous injuries, but did survive. Six months after the accident, Luke and Lenny met face to face. That’s when this miraculous story of survival, became even more extraordinary.
The two became friends.
That’s right, Luke and Lenny are friends now. You could even call it an uncle/nephew or mentor relationship. Formed under the most dire of circumstances, their bond is unique, strong and heartfelt. They even formed a support group for other teens struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. Luke doesn’t want anyone else to suffer in silence as he did, attempt to take their life like he did, or carelessly almost take some else with them, like he did. Neither does Lenny.
With treatment and counseling, and loving support from his family, Luke is turning his near tragedy into a mission to reach out to other teens. Luke never told his parents he felt alone, unhappy and hopeless. He exhausted himself hiding it day in and day out. Until December 3, 2012 when he got the keys to the family van and took fate into his own hands. He veered into Lenny with no thought, but relief his pain might be over. Instead, he didn’t die and a new journey began. One of forgiveness, redemption and understanding.
Luke was immediately diagnosed with depression in the ER, never having exhibited any of the classic signs. But as his parents Carol and Scott will attest, how can you tell with a teenager? Often quiet, but not complaining, Luke never acted sad. The only symptom of depression he ever showed, was when he tried to kill himself.
Now Luke wants other teens to do what he wouldn’t – talk about it. His support group is brand new in Temecula and he is working to bring one to San Diego as well. He and his little brother, produced a YouTube video to reach out to teens who might feel the same way he did and urge them to get help. He makes it easy. He has a website where teens can print out an open letter to parents and hand it to them. Not a suicide note like his parents found, but a letter explaining their suffering. That way, they don’t have to find the words. Words extra difficult to find when you’re a teenager talking to a parent.
If that isn’t enough, there was another incredible twist to this story. Luke was facing “assault with a deadly weapon” charges for driving head on into Lenny. The prosecutor assigned to Luke’s case ended up arguing on his behalf instead of against him. She says when she saw what Luke was doing to make things right by reaching out through his support group and befriending the other driver, she was willing to put her reputation on the line. In her 25 years, Jeanne Roy had never done such a thing. She says it’s because she had never witnessed such a thing: a victim and perpetrator becoming friends. She doesn’t believe she ever will again.
Luke is living proof life can get better. He wants every child, teen and adult to know they’re not alone and your life “can’t be erased.”
So, please…don’t try.