A mother is trying to survive after losing her teenage son to suicide.
It is something more and more parents across the country are going through - the grief and sadness after a child commits suicide.
"I said, 'mom, I met the most amazing person today.' She asked me who it was, and I said, 'his name is Adam and he’s going to change the world," Jenna Royle said.
Royle reflects on the day she met her best friend Adam. She said he loved making music.
She described him as exuberant teenager with an old soul.
Royle said from the very beginning she was captivated, not only by his talents but by Adam's passionate dreams for the future.
She said Adam planned to test out of high school and head off to Harvard. His main goal was simply to make the world a better place.
"I just thought it was the coolest thing ever. We continued to talk. I was obsessed with having conversations with him. He was unlike any other person I have met before," Royle said.
Being different came at a cost for Adam. His mother, Kristine Connell, said it led to relentless bullying.
Connell said those hurtful words soon turned into physical assaults and Adam would come home from school with bruises and welts.
But Adam would never tell on his abusers, which is something Connell believes caused a lot of Adam’s sadness.
"You have to get your feelings out before they eat you up inside. Get it out there and talk about it. It’s OK to talk about it," Connell said.
Instead, Adam channeled his energy into getting straight As, learning music and acting in theater.
Unfortunately, Connell said the diversions didn't prevent Adam from spiraling deeper into depression.
In October of 2015, a day that began like any other, Connell went to wake Adam up for school and found him hanging inside his closet.
"He ended his precious perfect life. He was the most amazing, the most amazing boy ever on this earth," Connell said.
She said she knew Adam was hurting and even tried to get him help, but she never thought something like this would happen.
"Adam told me one time if I made him go to a counselor he would kill himself. So I didn’t because I thought I was saving him," she said.
After Adam's death, Connell and Royle formed a special bond. Connell and Royle’s mom Joy even became best friends. The families worked through their immense pain and grief together and are now fighting back against suicide.
The pair told the I-team they regularly attend suicide awareness marches to raise money and share their story.
The Out of the Darkness walk is put on by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Their goal is to reduce suicides by 20 percent by the year 2025.
The foundation is planning on holding walks across Mid-Michigan by next year.
Royle said depression is just one of the things she and Adam shared.
"I think there’s pressure everywhere. Pressure to get into college. There’s pressure to get good grades. There’s pressure to have a job, a license. Make sure you have a lot of friends," Royle said.
Unfortunately, Adam’s story is not uncommon.
Adam and Royle are far from the only teens affected by suicide. The Centers for Disease Control recently reported the suicide rate has hit a 30 year high for teens, going up more than 30 percent for boys and nearly doubling for girls between 2007 and 2015.
Clinical health psychologist Megan Meade-Higgins said depression and suicide often have warning signs.
"You’ll see people isolating themselves or not involving themselves in activities as much. Not doing as well in school and routine tests. Sleeping and eating can change as well," Meade-Higgins said.
She said depression is treatable and should never be ignored. She said if you see something that doesn't feel right, get help right away.
"Especially as a parent, if you see anything, anything off and you're concerned, do something. Make a call. If it gets to a point that it’s a crisis call 911," Meade-Higgins said.
That's something Connell wishes she would have understood better before it was too late.
"Life is precious. We only get one and it’s short. So live it to the fullest. That is what Adam would’ve done," Connell said.
Connell and Royle said they still plan on helping Adam change the world by sharing his story. She said he has already made their small community better.
"The community realized how awful it is, how much people were suffering. It just wasn't known and now because of Adam, that help is being given," Royle said.
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