Jenna Bustamante came to Loma Linda University Health in California, United States, from Long Island, New York. When her depression and anxiety became overwhelming, she had begun thinking about ways to end her own life. The 17-year-old now looks back at the experience and wants to offer hope to others in similar situations.

According to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, September is National Suicide Prevention Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness of the second highest killer of those between the ages of 10 and 34 in the United States. Bustamante is one of many teens now sharing her story, saying she wants to let people know it’s possible to overcome suicidal thoughts.

Jenna Bustamante (left) says she’s thankful to be out of the darkness of mental health challenges. [Photo: Loma Linda University Health screenshot]

“I was confused about what was going on with me — I wasn’t doing well in school, I was sad a lot, and I didn’t want to be around people,” she says.

Bustamante began testing her limits with substance abuse and explored her suicidal thoughts, but she confided in her mother before things went too far. Her mother took her to the Loma Linda University Behavioral Medicine Center (BMC), where Bustamante began treatment.

“I let myself be open to talking to the people around me and to the doctors, and it made it better knowing I wasn’t alone and bonding with other people there,” she says. “That’s something that I won’t forget.”

Bustamante now says she understands herself better after going through the program. “I know how to help myself, and even when I don’t, my parents can help put me back on the right track,” she says.

At the BMC, parents participate in the healing process and attend parenting classes specifically designed to teach them how to serve as another line of defense in keeping their child healthy and happy. According to Glenn Scott, director of the Youth Partial Hospital Program, this specific element is a key contributor to the program’s high degree of positive patient outcomes.

“Dealing with suicidal ideations needs to be a team effort of full support at both the clinical and home levels,” Scott says. “More teenagers and young people die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, strokes, and lung disease combined.”

Bustamante says she’s thankful to be out of the darkness. “Now, after going through all the programs, I feel brighter,” she says. “I gave myself a chance, and it brought me back to happiness.”

The original version of this story was posted on the Loma Linda University Health news site.

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