KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Highway Patrol trooper saved a teen from committing suicide when troubling statistics show an increase in teenage suicide rates.
“Just in males in general, a lot of them have trouble sharing their feelings,” said Corporal Jeffrey Huff, with Troop A in Kansas City of the Missouri State Highway Patrol. “Maybe there’s a stigma you need to be tough.”
Corporal Huff saved a 16-year-old’s life back in August, earning him the title of “state employee of the month.”
But for Huff, it was about sharing a message he learned the hard way.
The 16-year-old was driving 113 in a 65 miles per hour zone when corporal Huff pulled him over and instructed him to call his parents.
“During their conversation was when I picked up on maybe this teenager’s going through some problems,” Huff said, “he was struggling and started having suicidal thoughts. And right when he said that, that hit me because, in 2015, my brother committed suicide.”
Huff said there is a population that’s often overlooked when it comes to mental health: Men.
“We don’t like to go to the doctor, and we don’t like to talk about our feelings,” said Huff. “You gotta do both.”
The teen’s parents picked him up and went straight to get help.
“On the way to the hospital, he had explained how he was planning on committing suicide,” Huff said, “and what she said quote, ‘that trooper saved my life.'”
Approaching the situation instead of walking away is exactly what clinical psychologist Dr. Curtis Mattson said is the right thing to do.
“There’s a big misunderstanding that if somebody’s thinking of suicide or they mentioned or made a comment that they have thoughts that we shouldn’t talk about it,” said Dr. Mattson, “those are exactly the times we should talk to them and partner up, shoulder-to-shoulder with them.”
Huff said his brother’s suicide educated him.
“I was ignorant. I was so ignorant before it happened to my brother,” said Huff. “I just assumed people who commit suicide are weak, they were selfish; that’s the way I looked at it. And afterward, it opened my eyes,” said Huff.
There are many signs a teen could show when they are going through depression.
“I would hate to be a kid right now. I really would, with social media, the bullies,” Huff said.
“A decreased interest in spending time with other people, when they lose interest in activities that normally give them lots of enjoyment,” said Dr. Mattson.
The CoxHealth psychologist says suicide rates have significantly increased in Springfield.
“In Greene county, we have more deaths by suicide per 100,000 people that is typical amongst the rest of the state of Missouri, and the state of Missouri is higher than the national average typically is,” Dr. Mattson said.
In the end, corporal Huff said it’s nice to be recognized, but he hopes this doesn’t happen again.
“It’s nice to get an award,” Huff said, “I was just being a human, being nice to another human being which I think the world might need a little bit more right now.”
See Corporal Huff and Dr. Mattson’s full interviews here: