COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. — The David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health in Collier County said it's seeing a significant increase in the number of kids needing crisis-level care. It's partnering with the Collier County School District to bring in a teen suicide-attempt survivor to share her message of hope.
"When I was 16 years old, I attempted suicide," Emma Benoit said.
The Louisiana teen seemed like she had it all; she was a rising senior in high school, a varsity cheerleader with plenty of friends and a supportive family.
"She had been silently suffering as a teenager with depression and anxiety, and that just built up and built up to the point where she actually attempted suicide with a handgun," Scott Burgess, the CEO of the David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health, said.
“And I miraculously survived the attempt, but was left with some pretty long-term injuries. I was paralyzed from the neck down as a result of my suicide attempt," Benoit said.
She says surviving her attempt sent her on a mission.
“I felt a calling to share this experience, and share my journey of growth with the world in hopes to raise awareness about suicide, and really just break the stigma. The stigma was a real big reason and problem as to why I didn't come forward with my struggles. And I really felt trapped behind the stigma," Benoit said.
To break that stigma, The David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health is bringing Benoit to Southwest Florida to share her story.
"Encourage people not to silently suffer, but really go for help and support because we know treatment works," Burgess said.
He said that message is desperately needed in Southwest Florida right now.
"Our children's crisis stabilization unit grew by 18 percent in the last year," he said. "Drastically increased depression, suicidal thinking, suicidal behavior as far as attempts, anxiety."
The David Lawrence Centers said there are 1.2 million suicide attempts every year in our country, and suicide claims the lives of 20 young people every day.
"Sadly, mental health still remains one of, if not the only, healthcare condition that people still whisper about. We don't openly have this discussion. So we really want to use this opportunity to take mental health challenges out of the closet, have an open dialogue around these things," Burgess said.
Benoit will be at the Moorings Presbyterian Church at 5 PM on Thursday, March 2nd. Her documentary 'My Ascension' will air, followed by a Q & A with Benoit. For more information, click here.
If you or someone you love is struggling, you can call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 at any time for help.