Humans of Lakota West: January 2020


It’s late; I should be sleeping. I have six classes’ worth of homework to do before school, one-hundred point projects to work on, and study for AP exams. After all, these grades affect how my family perceives me–the one with the most letter As on a piece of paper or displayed across a computer screen, the one with the highest two-digit GPA lounging on its high throne, the one designated by the highest percentages dictating who I am and where I’m meant to go. I’m also the one who can’t cook a proper meal, who can barely understand how the television remote works, and who probably can’t change a tire. 


I should definitely be sleeping. Instead, I’m on my couch, staring at the ceiling, trying not to catch a glimpse of the three numbers dialed on my phone.


In my head, I’d gone through what I would do if someone told me they were planning to commit suicide. There have been a few times Obviously, I’d call the police. The responder would have to know the person’s address, and that’s where I lost a little bit of hope. I struggle with remembering my friends’ favorite colors–how was I supposed to know their addresses?


It’s haunting to know that I had a friend who struggled so much with mental health that I intentionally wrote down his address so I would know it in the event that I had to call an ambulance for him. Every text conversation would end with him declaring that he was stupid or ugly or useless and how no one would miss him if he were gone. His home life wasn’t supportive in the least, so my friends and I were all he had. 


He’d been getting reported to the guidance office since before he and I were even friends. 


My other friends and I had been texting with him in a group chat for hours at this point, and nothing the four of us say is getting him to respond. I tell myself I’ll call the police if he doesn’t text back in five minutes. I look back at my notes app, see his address, and go through what I’d say to the first-responder. I’d say, “I have an emergency. I think my friend is about to kill himself. I need you to send an ambulance to this address, now.”


I check the clock. Two minutes had passed; he hadn’t responded. I can feel the pounding of my heart extend to the crown of my head and the tips of my toes. Three minutes pass. I have to force myself to regulate my breathing, because my lightheadedness is making it hard for me to imagine talking. Four. I brace myself, take a deep breath, and prepare to press the green call button of no return.


My phone buzzes. It’s him. He’s okay for the night. He’s going to go to sleep. After all, it’s late.


I go to report him the next morning. Of course, like all the other times, nothing ever comes of it. He’s better now, but I still keep his address nearby.


Suicide is the third leading cause of death among teenagers. Rates of suicide have gone up by one-third, the highest increase since World War II. I have four other friends who have attempted suicide, all from different backgrounds, races, genders, and sexualities. The matter has become so common, I hear people joke about it in the hallways.


Society likes to define health as purely physical, as something they can see and measure. In fact, health is equal parts physical and mental. No one runs their best race with two broken legs. No one sees the good in life between their suicidal thoughts.


Hopefully I can make something come of my efforts, because after all, I should be sleeping right now.