Online gaming can seen like the bane of a parent’s existence if you’ve got a teenager that’s obsessed with playing. Sometimes gaming can be a source of concern: is my kid playing too much? Is he or she socially withdrawing? Is there enough of a healthy balance?
For some kids, their online gaming world just might be more helpful than we think.
Sometimes it’s easier for teens to share the scary, raw truth of their inner mental health struggles with an online friend rather than people in the “real world”.
I know- it’s a pretty heavy thought, right? Gaming can be intense, as any parent of a Fortnite player already knows, but you generally don’t expect to hear that players are having heart-to-heart conversations.
But thankfully, some of them are, apparently. And one boy’s life was saved by his connection to a fellow gamer.
A teen gamer is being honored for saving a fellow teen’s life after using a gaming chat option to encourage him to seek help rather than end his life.
Reilly Howard of East Hampton, CT loves his online gaming, and enjoys being able to connect with other players via messages and calls as they compete.
And while there’s a good amount of fun and joking through the online chats, one recent call between him and a 13-year-old acquaintance resulted in the 13-year-old’s life being saved… literally.
The unnamed 13-year-old reached out to Reilly on a call. That’s not uncommon; Reilly and his gaming friends often chat.
When the boy told Reilly “we need to talk”, Reilly didn’t have to respond. He could have stay focused on other chats, or the game.
He could have decided that whatever the boy wanted to talk about, it wasn’t urgent. Reilly could have chosen to blow him off, or to call him at his own convenience.
But as Reilly explained to NBC CT, he made the time.
And his decision to reach out & give the boy “time” made all the difference:
He finally messages me like yo, we need to talk. I need to tell you something…I’ll make time it’s fine.
And starts to open up and cry about what’s going on
It was quickly apparent that this was not a lighthearted discussion. Reilly shared that the boy then revealed his secret intentions:
He starts to break down…he’s like ‘I’m going to kill myself. I’m going to take my own life. I have nothing to live for.
Can you imagine?? That’s a pretty hefty thing for a young teen to hear from any friend. It’s a potentially scary, overwhelming topic for a teenager to ponder how to handle.
But Reilly made the time to listen: to really hear the boy. To talk with him, to encourage.
He stayed on the line with the boy for TWO HOURS.
I knew he didn’t want to be alone and I didn’t want him to go..
Remember, this was not someone that Reilly had met in person- but that didn’t matter.
HE’S MY FRIEND. I DIDN’T WANT HIM, IF IT WAS SERIOUS, I DIDN’T WANT HIM TO DIE.
How scary is that?? It can be terrifying to try & convince someone who is preparing to end his or her life not to do it.
Reilly surely felt some fear. But he didn’t let that deter him from his goal- making sure that his friend chose to live, and was safe.
After two hours of staying connected on the phone, Reilly finally managed to convince his fellow gamer to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
The boy said he’d call, & put Reilly on hold for 17 minutes- which I’m sure were some of the most alarming minutes of young Reilly’s life.
At that point, Reilly’s parents came home & assisted him in calling the police near the boy’s residence in Florida to ensure that he was indeed safe- which, thankfully, he was.
The boys still talk several times a week, & still enjoying gaming together.
Once the East Hampton School District got wind of Reilly’s heroic actions, they publicly celebrated his noble action, and plan to honor him at an upcoming school board event featuring school officials.
Reilly should be publicly acknowledged for his compassion, but not just because of his actions in this single incident.
Spreading the news publicly about this near-crisis alerts the public that we, too, can make a difference in someone else’s life… by making the time.
Teenagers don’t think you know, I’m just a teenager, who is going to listen to me? But people will and you can have impact.
Teenagers need to know that they can make a difference: in the world, and in the single life of a person in just the right moment.
You just have to show up, and talk to people and listen and I think that message needs to get out there.
Showing up is half the battle. BE ALL THERE, even if “all there” is your local Starbucks, the grocery store checkout line, or your online gaming chat.
And once you’re “there”- talk to people. And listen. Everyone wants to be heard.
Reilly didn’t just save someone else’s life, but illustrated an important life lesson:
Some people desperately need to be heard. Your listening ear could save someone’s life.