John’s Story

Before reading this story, we want to warn you that there will be mention of potentially triggering mental health subjects including suicide. Also, John is speaking from his personal experience and this is not written from a doctor’s perspective. If you or someone you know may be living with mental illness, please get help. Talk to a licensed and qualified mental health professional and search the list of resources on our website.

I grew up homeschooled in Southeast Ohio in a town of 1,900 residents. 

When I reached high school, a lot of different things started to impact my mental health. 

School had become overwhelming. I was in an online school and the work would pile up. I struggled with motivation and self discipline and would get behind. It added a lot of stress and I didn’t like it. 

Then one of the after school associations I had been in since I was a kid was becoming this toxic, perverted environment of teenage boys. Being around them, I felt like I was in an internal battle of trying to live the right way, but also trying to fit in. 

On top of that, when I was 15 I got into this relationship. Growing up in a strong Christian home, there were a lot of things we “don’t do.” We don’t watch this, we don’t get into that — because it’s not right. I knew that this girl was into some things my parents were disapproving of, and they probably would say there weren’t enough Christian values in her home. 

So it became a secret relationship, which somehow I pulled off for a matter of two years. 

Knowing you’re doing something that other people wouldn’t approve of, mainly your parents, comes with a lot of guilt and depression. It weighs on you. 

I started feeling down a lot, and anxious. I was like, if my parents find out it’s gonna be the end of the world because they won’t like her. But I think I’m in love with her. There was a wedge between us where I couldn’t be open and honest.

They knew I was anxious and depressed because it’s kind of hard to hide it. But mental health wasn’t part of our normal conversation growing up, and there was definitely some stigma, so I tried to hide it anyway.

I couldn’t open up to my sister because she would turn around and tell my parents. I couldn’t open up to any of the boys in the association because it would start the rumor mill. I couldn’t open up to my church youth group because they were always telling us, “The Bible says, don’t do this, don’t do that.” 

I had no one to talk to about things like hormones or what my thoughts were, because everywhere I turned it was a taboo topic. 

It got to the point where I was having suicidal thoughts.  

Eventually it all had become too much, so I ended the relationship. It was hard. The only person I could open up to was my best friend, so I confided in him.

After the relationship was over and I graduated from high school, I knew something had to change. I thought maybe it was time to dive deeper into my faith and be more committed to that. So I switched friend groups. I tried a new church. I started to get my thinking and my life back on track. As I grew, my best friend and I drifted apart.


Around that time I made a connection with a youth leader who became like a mentor to me. He put me in the role of assistant youth leader and guided me in the right direction. He chose to see my potential. 

Being able to have that connection with an adult was a big part of my recovery journey.

Sadly, a couple of years later, I learned through Facebook that my best friend committed suicide. I’d never experienced that kind of tragedy that close to home. I know suicide happens, but I never expected it would happen to somebody that I cared about. I had a lot of questions. Like, “Why??”

It was definitely an eye opener to the real mental health crisis that we’re in. 

I felt like I should have reached out. When we drifted off apart, I should have stayed in connection with him better. I should have been there for him or at least put more effort into it. 

His funeral was a firefighter’s funeral. Seeing the family of firefighters and everybody come together in a time of grief I started thinking, “What if I were to become a volunteer firefighter and volunteer my time to help my community?” 

It felt like the right thing to do in his honor. 

Today, I try to remind myself to look back and see the hurdles I’ve overcome, and all the accomplishments that I’ve made over the years. In addition to becoming a volunteer firefighter, I have been running my own website business for over 12 years. I’m also certified as a Youth Peer Supporter, Mental Health First Aid, and CIT (Crisis Intervention Team). And I’m part of the Resilience Squad for Hey I’m Here campaign in Ohio, working to normalize the conversation on mental health with other youth.  

Even though I hate the question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” because the future is still unknown and there’s a lot that can happen, I do have a vision for where I see myself. 

I have found I have a heart for helping youth. 

Even if I don’t have the roadmap completely planned out, I’m figuring out the steps to get closer to my goal to help the youth in whatever aspect I can. Day by day, week by week, I know I can get there.



Here are some resources that helped me along the way: 

  • Learn more about becoming a volunteer firefighter in your community
  • Consider joining a faith community in your area 
  • Check out YouthMove Ohio 
  • Sign up for counseling sessions with Better Help
  • Follow Hey, I’m Here on social media 
  • Join the Resilience Squad through Hey, I’m Here by contacting


If you or anyone you know needs help (24/7):


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