"I know that I would probably be dead right now if it weren't for you. I know that my parents would have had to deal with another suicide and it may have broken them. ... I guess what I am trying to say is ... thank you. For saving me, for saving my family, for being someone I could talk to about the truth. I know now that I can stick it out and it can get better because it already has."
This touching email message came from Victoria*, a local teen who had reached out to StarVista's onyourmind.net teen chat room two years earlier when she was struggling to deal with the aftermath of her brother's recent suicide and was being bullied at school.
During that initial chat, she told Elise*, the youth counselor, that she was depressed, and was having ongoing thoughts of killing herself.
Elise listened compassionately and reinforced Victoria's courage in reaching out for help. Elise knew that losing a loved one to suicide can result in a lot of unanswered questions and doubts. Elise encouraged Victoria to seek professional help and asked if she would promise to follow up.
StarVista's Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Center is the only suicide prevention service in San Mateo County that operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, free of charge.
We developed onyourmind.net to allow youth like Victoria to anonymously log on and talk online via "live chat" sessions with volunteer youth counselors who are supervised by mental health professionals and have been trained to help other teens.
Victoria kept her promise and followed up months later. She had begun seeing a therapist she trusted and was being treated for major depression. Instead of returning to a hostile school environment, Victoria's parents permitted her to begin home schooling and take a class at a local college.
And she was beginning to feel safe enough to let someone get close to her. "I met a boy in class and he has been my first friend in ... I feel like ever. Besides my brother."
"I still get sad, and sometimes when it's really bad I think about suicide but feel like that would only make everything I've done so far worth nothing at all. Not everyday is easy but if I keep on working on it, it might just get a little better each day."
At StarVista, we recognize that building strong and healthy communities begins with helping each person to develop their own path of personal growth. We are dedicated to transforming the lives of children, young people, adults and families and provide life-changing support and services.
In addition to the Crisis Center, StarVista offers more than 20 programs that serve more than 34,000 individuals annually throughout San Mateo County with counseling, prevention, early intervention, education and residential programs. No one is turned away for lack of funds. All of our programs are free or offered on a sliding-scale basis.
Last December, Elise received the most hopeful email yet from Victoria: "I was thinking about things that I was grateful for and I thought of you! You always helped me so much when I was really, really down that I just wanted to tell you how I was, wish you a Merry Christmas & a very Happy New Year."
Please help make the season warmer for our less fortunate neighbors. Especially in a challenging financial climate, donations to the Holiday Fund will help StarVista reach more teens like Victoria.
* The story is true. The names of the client and youth counselor were changed to protect their privacy.