An 18-year-old man in Wisconsin is using his own harrowing story to help others.
Just four years ago, at the age of 14, Carson Molle survived a suicide attempt.
“We didn’t know if I was ever going to talk again,” Carson said. “I’ve gone through dozens of facial surgeries over the past few years. I’m so thankful to be alive.”
His mom, Amber, heard the gunshot and found him in the garage.
“You search your mind, your soul, and everything you have for what you did wrong or could have done differently as a parent,” Amber said. “It led us to this platform to try and help in any way we can, for other parents and families not to be walking in our shoes.”
Carson and his mom have become advocates for ending the stigma surrounding mental health challenges.
Carson speaks at schools and events. Now, his reach has expanded to government leaders who make national policy and funding decisions.
Carson was one of six young people from around the country who spoke with lawmakers on behalf of the Children's Hospital network of medical facilities, as part of the annual "Speak Now for Kids Family Advocacy Week."
U.S. Senators from Wisconsin Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson are among those who listened.
“It was a really unique experience,” Carson said. “They were interested in what I thought we could do better, as a child who went through these mental health issues.”
According to the World Health Organization, half of all mental health conditions begin by the age of 14. But most kids and teens don't know how or where to get help.
The Molle family is making it their mission to change that.
Amber says the mental health conversation needs to start with primary care providers at routine check-ups.
“Where kids feel safe circling a number on a piece of paper on how they are feeling mentally and emotionally, and for that door to be open to talk about it and go into more detail,” Amber said.
It’s something Amber wishes Carson had been exposed to much earlier.
“Carson was dealing with things that he didn’t know how to express, and frankly, no one talks about it” Amber said. “Mental health is treatable. Suicide is preventable. No family should have to go through this.”
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15–19-year-olds, only behind accidents and unintentional injuries, according to the CDC.
“The first thing we say is talk to your kids about mental health and suicide,” Amber said. “Make those check-ins. Make sure these are conversations that are happening often and fluidly and be ready when your kids are ready to talk. It might not be when you are ready, but when they are ready, you put down those phones and turn your attention to them so that they know you're hearing.”
One of Amber’s biggest frustrations is the lack of professional resources to help. She believes that’s where leaders in government and the medical field must work together for solutions.
“The wait times to see a provider is not acceptable,” Amber said. “When we have kiddos like Carson who are out there banging the drum, telling kids it's okay to talk about mental health, that they need to be open about their problems, then we as adults need to back that up with the appropriate resources and services these kids need.”
“That's something I’d love to do in the future, and I'll do it as much as I can,” Carson said.
WTMJ reached out to Senators Baldwin and Johnson to find out what it was like hearing directly from Carson. Senator Baldwin responded with this statement: “The young people I met with during Children Wisconsin’s advocacy week shared really personal stories with me about their struggles with mental health, and the need to increase help for young people who are suffering from anxiety, depression or other mental health concerns. We know there’s more to do in expanding access to mental health care, eliminating the stigma around seeking help, and working to end the mental health crisis in our country. That’s why I’ll continue working to provide more resources that will help young people like Carson obtain the care and services they need, when they need it.”
If you or someone you know is in need of help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or click here to go to their website.
This story was originally published by Katie Crowther at WTMJ.