Colorado Springs teenager Macy Rae Klein has turned feelings of worthlessness and actions of self-harm into a suicide prevention message that's getting a national stage.
The 16-year-old, an incoming junior at The Classical Academy College Pathways in Academy School District 20, is sharing her fight against suicide in an interview Friday at Trinity Broadcasting Network recording studios in Tustin, Calif.
The interview will air 9:30 p.m. Monday on TBN Salsa via Glorystar on Channel 115 and streaming online. A week later, it will be posted on YouTube.
"Adults do everything they can to stop suicide, and teenagers just tend to sit there," Macy Rae said. "The problem is adults know their generation, while we know our generation. We know how to really spot a kid who's suicidal and bring a solution to it. It's the combined effort that's important - we both have something to contribute to this cause."
Macy Rae started a website, ProjectReasons.org, in March, after struggling for years with suicidal thoughts and going through four students from her school network taking their own lives.
"It became a panic of who was it this time," she said. "It became not shocking, like it should be."
The website includes resources for teens and parents, coping strategies, a blog, a forum, a life pledge, community involvement, a support network and other features.
Her own darkness descended after she had surgery in fifth grade that left her body scarred.
"It messed with my self-esteem," she said. "The second I got out of the wheelchair, everyone left me feeling like something was wrong with me."
Macy Rae started hanging out with the wrong crowd in middle school and in seventh grade began cutting herself as a way of coping with stress, failure, loneliness, loss and other emotions.
"Cutting becomes an addiction. I hated it, but there was a piece of me that still loved it," she said. "It took internal pain and made it external and visible. It made my pain make sense to me."
A year and a half ago, Macy Rae asked her pediatrician about her behavior, and then her parents found out about the cutting.
"I didn't know why I was feeling depressed and suicidal," she said. "I just knew it wasn't normal. I was putting myself in situations where I would be justified to be suicidal."
Macy Rae wanted to overcome her problems, said her mother, Ginger Klein.
That's now part of what she helps her peers with.
"She encourages kids even if they don't have a reason or excuse to be depressed, to reduce the stigma around opening up and expressing the trouble they're having," her mom said.
After another student died by suicide earlier this year, Macy Rae asked her mom why adults couldn't fix the problem.
"I said what do you think your peer group can do to be part of the conversation," Ginger Klein said.
Macy Rae also talked to a teacher, who told her suicide prevention is a puzzle in which everyone has a piece in solving.
"Those two things prompted her to do something," her mom said.
On Macy Rae's digital platform, teens can meet and take a "life pledge," a promise to the community that they will choose life, identify personal reasons for doing so and open up rather than keep their pain to themselves.
She sends blue arm bands - signifying hope, stability, depth and courage, and serving as a reminder - to kids who take the pledge.
She's distributed 500 so far.
Macy Rae kept 52 razor blades in a ring box.
Inside, "I had a list of sticky notes with names of people who didn't want me to hurt myself," she said. "Those I called my reasons. They often stopped me from cutting."
Her younger brother was at the top of the list.
"I usually call him my first reason. The names stopped me from countless suicide attempts. My hope is that 'reasons' can help others, too."
With the help of counselors and her parents, Macy Rae got through that tough period in adolescence. But it's still hard, she said.
"You have to be confident and willing to get involved with suicide prevention without taking a toll on your own mental health," she said. "A lot of people don't want to open that can of worms."
Project Reasons is filing for 501(c)3 nonprofit status. A board of students from The Classical Academy, Lewis-Palmer High, Pine Creek High and The Classical Academy College Pathways will start meeting next week.
Two local businesses, Colorado Ballet Society and U.S. Taekwondo Center, are supporting the project.
"It's amazing to see people engaging in something that's run by a 16-year-old," Macy Rae said. "People are asking me to speak, and I'll have tables at back-to-school nights and mental health forums. It's exciting to see how we can make a difference."