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Home | Episode #89
Sitting on the Edge
June 2022 | Student Producer:

Hallie Wiltshire
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Sitting on the Edge
Trigger Warning: This episode contains content about suicide. After struggling with depression and anxiety as a child, Trevor contemplates suicide and battles stigmas around mental health. (13 min)

Hallie: Waves beat against the shore below the cliff. Trevor, sitting on a bench on the edge, can hear them. And he can hear the seagulls, the wind. For everyone else, it's just a normal day in San Diego. But for Trevor, it isn't. 

Trevor: And kind of sat there, just thinking about what's gonna happen, how people are gonna feel, is it worth doing this? Um, and ultimately decided yes. Um, for that time I was gonna be selfish. You know, it was okay for me to prioritize myself and my feelings, even if it was going to put others through hell, because I would not be around to experience it.

Hallie: Trevor was 16 when he decided to end his life. After struggling with depression and anxiety since he was a kid, he was done.

Trevor: You spend so much time worrying with anxiety and really feeling like nothing can go your way, nothing will go your way, how will this go wrong? And that ultimately leaves you to feel, like, feeling defeated. You know, it, it leaves you with a sense of sadness, a sense of, you know, not really belonging, not being able to fit in, um, not having security, not having friends. You know, it leaves you just kind of sad and in the dumps.

Hallie: Trevor isn't alone in feeling defeated. Millions of young adults in the United States battle with their mental health. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in ages 15 to 24. It impacts all of us, yet we don't talk about it.

Trevor: Um, but I know for myself growing up, it wasn't something you talked about. If people were sad, if something was happening in their life, um, you know, oh, they're depressed, but the conversation stops there. You know, there's no talk of severity. There's no talk of anything like that. It was very hard growing up for anybody to ask for help.

Hallie: But when you meet Trevor in person, he's just a guy. Same as the rest of us. I remember being shocked when he told me about his suicide attempt on our first date. He isn't what comes to mind when you hear "suicidal." He's goofy and has tons of weirdly specific hobbies. He loves dogs and Thai food and rock climbing. It was the same in high school when he was at his lowest. If you just saw him in the hallway on the way to band class, you wouldn't know anything was wrong under the surface.

Trevor: Oh, I was a band geek. <laugh> um, I wasn't really into sports necessarily. I was definitely not what one would consider an academic <laugh>. Um, yeah, I fit in with the crowd. I was pretty much, you know, one of everybody else.

Hallie: But there was pain under the goofiness. The official diagnosis of depression and anxiety. The daily struggles to keep moving, not to succumb to the feelings of hopelessness. Bottles of pills to help keep him afloat.

Trevor: We're talking, you know, seven pills in the morning, six pills at night kind of medication. Um, so I think that I relied on them a lot. Kind of used 'em as a crutch. Uh, so I didn't really pay mind to my mental health. Yeah, I would say that really the early diagnosis kind of made me not deal with it because I just figured that medication would take care of it for me, which was false. <laugh> Ultimately very, very false.

Hallie: But despite his efforts to be okay, he reached a turning point and that moment is burned into his memory. The image of his best friend's suicide. For Trevor, this was the event that broke him. The thing he never saw coming, but changed everything.

Trevor: Back in 2016. Um, my best friend growing up, who I, I would say I was very focused on my mental state that I wasn't focusing on others. Um, I came home from school one day, went over to see him at his house and walked into his room, 'cause it was one of my few close friends and found him hung from his ceiling fan. Um, I would say that was kind of the start of me realizing that things were really just not okay. You know, like I'd realized at that point that I couldn't up my medication to get rid of that. Doesn't mean I didn't try <laugh>. Um, but I think that was when things really started to spiral. Um, and from there it was a lot of, you know, mourning and going through the pain and realizing, oh shoot, this hurts because we were close. Let me remove anybody close from me so that I don't feel the same way.

Hallie: Eventually just surviving wasn't enough. And one night Trevor made a choice. The next day after he would go to this spot on the cliffs overlooking the ocean, a spot he knew was secluded, where no one would find him. He packed a pair of nail clippers. When the bell rang and the school day ended, he walked the three miles to the spot he picked out. And once he got there, he decided it was time, time to end his life.

Trevor: So I had the nail clippers with me and decided ultimately I was going to, um, clip the veins at my elbows, the inside of my elbows, the most kind of accessible ones to me with softest skin. Um, just gonna clip 'em and hobble myself off, that way if I even survived the fall, I would bleed out. And ideally no one would find me by then, so, you know, it was a, a fail safe, essentially. Right? I knew this was what I wanted. I knew this was just what was going to stop what I was feeling and I didn't want it to fail. Um, so I did that. I got up onto the kind of edge of the railing. I took the nail clippers and clipped both of those veins. Um, and I think the initial feeling after doing that was shock. Kind of an, oh shoot, I'm doing this, right? Um, and once you get to that point, you know, you've started it. You know, I know like I can't back down just because I'm seeing blood, just because I'm already starting to feel tingly. I can't, like, not do this. How am I gonna look if I clip it and decide, oh, uh huh, I, I can't do this. Um, so I just kind of walked forward. That's really what it was. It was a railing there and I walked forward, kind of just let myself tumble and fall over it. Um, and I fell and fell and fell and fell and fell. And,

Hallie: And then he woke up in the hospital alive and breathing. He survived the fall and was safe in his hospital bed. His family came in and acted like everything was normal. His dad even joked that it was a pair of nudists on Black's Beach that found him and called 911. And it was that moment, sitting in the hospital, that Trevor knew he was happy to be alive.

Trevor: I felt, not relieved, but determined to not let it happen again. You know, if I tried to set up a fail safe, if I really, you know, if I clipped my veins, I tried to bleed out. I did whatever. I found an isolated area and I still didn't succeed, um, then whether or not there's a reason for me to have not succeeded, I shouldn't make one, you know, I should do what I can, um, snd not let that be in vain. You know what I mean?

Hallie: Trevor is just one of the millions of young adults impacted by suicide. His close friend Janelle also lives with depression and anxiety. Like Trevor, she was a band geek. Obsessed with music and photography, any way to be creative. But underneath all of that, Janelle was drowning. Her depression and anxiety were overwhelming. She struggled to deal with stress and constantly fluctuated between feeling okay and not feeling okay. Then, after years of trying to get help and nothing ever working, she decided she was tired.

Janelle: I remember feeling a very different sense of hopelessness. Something that I had never really felt before. I think I had been kind of like boiling toward that point for a while. And then the night that it happened, I was, I think I was on a call with two of my friends. I think one of them was Trevor. Yeah. And I had received some really bad news and that was it. I was just like, it's not, there's nothing else, like this is it. I'm so tired of everything going wrong. And yeah, I kind of just didn't have any more energy in me.

Hallie: A sense of hopelessness of giving up of being exhausted. These are common threads in stories of suicide, and of depression and anxiety more generally. For Trevor, he says depression feels like being tired. For Janelle, it's like being at the wheel of a car, but not being in control.

Janelle: The easiest way I could put it is if you were to picture yourself, driving a car. Instead of having both your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road, your attention fully on where you're going, it's kind of like, someone's put a blindfold on you and is taking the wheel away from your hands. That's kind of what it's like. Like you're trying to keep control of the car as best you can, but you can't because you have these obstacles and these things that are preventing you from keeping yourself safe.

Hallie: Both Janelle and Trevor are still working through their mental health. It's a lifelong journey, one with ups and downs. Each day is different. Battling their own feelings, but also battling stigmas around mental health.

Janelle: The societal stigmas around seeking mental help really held me back from seeking it any sooner. And even within my family, it really just wasn't something that was super supported.

Trevor: I've known of people growing up who have had fingers pointed at them when they ask for help. Saying you are being, uh, needy, you are seeking attention. Attention-seeking behavior is one of the most frequent things I've ever heard regarding thoughts of suicide.

Hallie: Challenging these stigmas is essential. It can save lives. We need to dedicate more money, attention and effort to helping young adults who truly need it. Suicide isn't something that impacts an abstract person somewhere in the U.S. It's right in your high school. And with people you know and love. Anyone could be struggling, and they deserve the support to be able to overcome the hard times in order to have a future of good ones.