Kyle expressed to our staff that he might be going through a depression. Learn more in this Runaway Reality story.
After less than a year volunteering as an NRS frontline team member, Ken has noticed a pattern talking to runaway youth.
“In a lot of these cases, their best friend has moved away in the last year. It’s not an unusual conversation to have.”
That was the case when 14-year-old Kyle* dialed 1-800-RUNAWAY on a late Sunday night, the number a concerned school counselor had given him a few weeks previous after he expressed he might be going through a depression. That night, after messing up in a basketball game, Kyle’s older brother humiliated him during a nasty argument. For the teenager–a student already stressed about doing unusually poorly in school, missing his friend, and not being able to rely on his usual family confidante–being called “worthless” was the last straw.
“I’ve got Kyle on the other end, and he is literally breathless,” said Ken. “Sobbing, right? And he just says, ‘I’m running away, and I need help.” The teenager was running down a Santa Fe street and trying to hitchhike out of town with no destination in mind.
“It doesn’t sound safe,” said Ken. “You need to get to a safe place so we can talk.” Once Kyle got himself to a nearby park and it was clear he was out of immediate danger, the two went over the basics. “I emphasized how good it was he was reaching out. We’re here to listen and help.” Kyle explained the circumstances leading up to his choice to run.
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Ken asked Kyle if he’s had anything like this happen in the past. “He tells me what’s really set him off now is that his friend has moved away. He had this happen a couple of years ago, too, and he thinks he went through a depression then, and now he’s really upset.” After unburdening himself and getting to a calmer place for about 15 minutes, the conversation moved to a more constructive place: How did Kyle work through his depression before?
“He tells me how he had the support of his mom at the time a couple of years ago,” said Ken. “She really helped him a lot, which is a fantastic thing for a kid to connect with you on, right?” So why not now? “He did [go to her], but she was in a terrible mood. His mom blew him off, so now he’s mad at her.” In hindsight, he couldn’t see how the argument with either blew up the ways they did.
“He tells me what’s really set him off now is that his friend has moved away. He had this happen a couple of years ago, too, and he think he went through a depression then…”
Though a parent-child-mediated call was available, Kyle felt confident returning home and taking the next step of talking to his counselor about depression treatment himself. His problems weren’t over, but he was out of crisis-mode, and just as importantly, out of a stranger’s vehicle.
Looking back, Ken says, “The thought that I had driving home that night was what could have happened if he didn’t call and got into a car?”
Ken has been an NRS’ frontline team member for one year and also serves on the NRS’ board of directors
*The youth’s name and details have been changed to respect anonymity.