SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) — Luke Maxwell is a young man who survived the deepest despair and has gone on to become a messenger for hope.
When Luke was 16-years-old, he tried to kill himself by driving a van head-on into an SUV on a Temecula road.
He isn't exactly nostalgic talking about the day he drove off from home in a complete panic, but in that moment he thought: "This is how I'm going to end it. I thought the world would be better off without me, and [I] thought that was the only way to end my pain."
“I can't believe I'm alive right now.” Luke was lucky, in more way than one – the driver of the other car also survived.
"When we met, I didn't really know what to do or say,” said Luke. “I was 16 and still overcoming clinical depression. So, I just gave him a hug and said, ‘I'm so sorry.’"
All he said was, ‘that's all I wanted to hear.’”
While recovering from the crash Luke was diagnosed with depression and treated for it.
He and his parents didn't realize he had a mental illness. "We didn't know that. We thought, ‘oh, he's isolating himself. Maybe that's not healthy. Maybe we should look at that and talk to him," said Luke.
“I didn't know what was happening,” said Luke. “I thought I was just a miserable person. It was terrible - awful.”
Ninety percent of teens who die from suicide in the U.S. have an underlying mental illness and the signs are easy to miss.
"First of all is that consistency and severity is one thing to look for,” said Luke. “It's not just isolating yourself in your room. It's spending all your free time in your room alone.”
Luke turned his experience into an opportunity. "My goal was to save one life. I thought, ‘I'll be good, I'll be done. That's all I need to do, right?’”
He created the website ucantberased.com to help people out.
The website tells Luke's story: "From depression to suicide. From surviving to redemption."
"The thing that keeps me going, the reason I'm able to forgive myself, is seeing the good that's happened out of this,” he said.
Luke now speaks in front of thousands of people in schools every year. He knows it's saving lives because of stories like the one a principal told him the day after one of his presentations.
"One of our seniors came to us and said she was planning to kill herself in the next couple of weeks before graduation,” said the principal. “Because she heard your talk, she went straight to the counselor’s office to talk to them and her parents and now she's getting help," the principal told Luke.
It's just one way to help teens off the path of despair.
"What I always tell parents who lost their children to suicide is that I didn't want to die,” said Luke. “I wanted to live a happy, fulfilling life, but I believed that I couldn't.”
Luke knows that's a lie now and is living his truth. "I'll never be able to undo anything, but what I can do is make something good out of the bad."