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Tony Rossi

Radio Host/Producer

Offering Hope to Teens Suffering Depression

Luke Maxwell’s feelings of depression started moderately enough when he was 12 years old. But by age 16, they had become all-consuming. He endured constant sadness, an inability to sleep, lack of energy, and the loss of his faith in God. Despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, the former altar server from a good Catholic family believed that nobody cared about him and things would never get better. Embarrassed by what he was feeling, Luke kept his thoughts to himself and spent a lot of time alone in his room.

In December 2012, Luke drove his family’s van into an oncoming SUV at 60 mph, welcoming the death that would free him from his pain. When he realized he had survived the collision, his first thought was, “My worst nightmare has come true because...I can’t keep my secret anymore.” He told responding police officers that he had crashed on purpose, so he was arrested, but also taken to the hospital for a brain scan, which revealed no actual damage. Despite a 60 mph crash without a seatbelt, “I had survived completely unharmed,” Luke told me during a “Christopher Closeup” interview.

The revelation of his secret led to the opposite of what he originally expected. His parents didn’t condemn him; they told him they loved him and were fully committed to his healing. Luke was then transferred to a mental health facility, diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder caused by an inherited genetic trait, and put on medication. Once released, he started seeing a therapist and taking other steps toward healing and rekindling his spiritual life. He now spends more time in prayer and taking part in the sacraments: “It was a snowball [effect], because you heal one factor, you get a little better, and then it’s easier to heal the other symptoms that are going on.”

Luke, of course, wasn’t the only one involved in his suicide attempt. There was also the other driver, Lenny Ross. Luke was slated to be prosecuted for attempted murder, but after the DA heard his genuine commitment to educating teens and their parents about depression, she chose to fight for Luke’s freedom. And when he asked her to arrange a meeting with Lenny so he could apologize, she brought the two together. They met at a coffee shop, where Luke greeted Lenny with a hug and simply said, “I’m so sorry.”

Lenny responded, “That’s all I wanted to hear.” Luke was stunned and humbled by Lenny’s act of mercy. He said, “We sat and talked for a few hours after that, about him and his life. Now he’s fighting for me. That’s why I’m such a strong advocate for forgiveness, for real true forgiveness. If he hadn’t forgiven me, who knows where I would be right now?”

With an ability to focus on the future, Luke created the ministry UCantBeErased.com, through which he sets up speaking engagements and updates the social media component of his youth outreach. That’s especially important because 60 percent of the kids who contact him about depression are 12 and 13 years old. 

Luke also encourages parents to talk to their kids about depression: “My parents tell all of us now: if you’re ever feeling depressed, talk to us. We’re not going to yell at you. We’re going to maybe take you to a doctor or a therapist. Maybe you’ll have to take medication, but we’re going to help you overcome this so you can be happy again.”

 

For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, MENTAL ILLNESS: HEALING THE UNSEEN WOUNDS, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: mail@christophers.org