How letters from strangers saved a teen's life

(CBS News) COLUMBIA, Md. - Words have power. They can tear a person down, or build someone back up -- as we found on the road in Columbia, Maryland

Don't let the light fool you. Inside this home -- and too many others like it in America - it can get pretty dark.

"There are a lot of kids out there that suffer depression and anxiety," said seventh-grader Noah Brocklebank.

And not many are willing to talk about it on national television.

"Not many are willing to talk about it, period," said Noah.

Noah is okay with people calling him depressed -- mainly because, over the past couple years, he's been called worse.

"Like 'fat,' 'ugly,' 'annoying,' 'loser,'" he recalled. "The saying 'Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me' -- I really don't think that applies."

Noah's mother Karen says the bullying, combined with his underlying depression, ultimately led to the night of January 26.

"It's so scary," said Karen Brocklebank. "You just want to save him."

That night, her son posted a clear warning on the Internet -- a picture of his arm all cut up and a note that read: "Day of scheduled suicide, February 8th, 2013, my birthday." It was to be his 13th birthday.

"I just felt like everything was worthless," said Noah. "My life was terrible. I had no one."

After that, Noah ended up in the hospital for eight days. And while he was in there, as his doctors assessed his mental health, his mother came up with a plan to improve his vision --- a plan for Noah to see more clearly how much he matters, how much he's loved, and that there really is life beyond seventh grade.

So she asked some friends on Facebook to put all that in a letter. She was hoping for at least a couple responses.

"But we got more than a couple," said Noah.

What happened next is a remarkable testament to both the power of social media and the kindness of strangers.

"I know it is hard to believe right now, but life gets better. I promise," Noah read from one letter.

Noah has received thousands of letters from every continent on the planet, including Antarctica. The sheer volume alone has brightened up his home a million watts.

"I has restored my faith in humanity. It really has," said Karen Brocklebank.

As for how this changed him, Noah said: "I was focused on the bad side of the people, like the bullies. Then I realized there are caring people out there that can be my friends."

Noah still has his good days and his bad. But now, whenever he does have one of those down days, he's got a pile of friends to turn to.

"Yeah, I'm not going to be done reading my letters 'til I'm like your age," he told me.

Looks like he's in for a long, long life.

To write to Noah, visit lettersfornoah.com

To contact On the Road, or to send us a story idea, e-mail us.
  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.

Comments

Follow Us

On Twitter