HealthVoices of Hope


This Prince George teen is grateful to be alive. His message for other struggling teens.

How this father and son repaired their relationship after a suicide attempt: 'Reach out for help'
Posted at 4:52 PM, Sep 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-08 19:07:39-04

PRINCE GEORGE COUNTY, Va. -- For father and son, Carlos and Christian Brown have always been an inseparable team, sharing a deep bond from the time Christian was born.

That special connection was nearly shattered on March 13 when Christian attempted to end his life.

“I don’t know what would have happened to me if I lost him. I just don’t know,” says Carlos.

Christian was struggling with depression in his teen years, but the signs were subtle. While Christian was displaying some signs of isolation, Carlos says it was difficult to separate from normal teenage behavior.

Christian also had a strong support system, with a close-knit family, friends and a girlfriend he was crazy about.

Despite knowing that his family loved him and was open to communication, Christian says he couldn’t shake the negative feelings.

“I just felt alone,” Christian says. “Not scared, just alone and disconnected from myself and everybody else.”

While Christian says he didn’t plan his suicide, he says at times, it felt like it was his only escape.

“I was 17 years old and I just couldn’t imagine how much longer I would have to live and on top of that, what if I felt the same way or possibly worse throughout that time and I didn’t want it,” Christian says.

One late Sunday night, with his father in bed and his stepmother at work as a dispatcher in Dinwiddie County, Christian attempted suicide.

“I was bleeding. I was so cold,” Christian remembers. “I knew what I did but I didn’t know how I looked.”

Disoriented from shock and trauma to his head, Christian walked outside his Prince George home to look for help.

Carlos says he didn’t hear the gunshot but was awakened by calls from his wife, who had been warned by Christian’s friends that he was planning to harm himself.

“It was probably about 15 degrees the night,” Carlos recalls. “It had snowed, and I started to look around the yard, just looking for footprints of anything to let me know where he was.”

A few minutes later, while driving around the neighborhood, Carlos says he saw the flashing lights of police cars at a home about five blocks away.

“The supervisor came, and my first question was, ‘Is my son alive?’ He wouldn’t tell me, and he said to me, ‘He shot himself and afterward, he knocked on the door and asked for help,’” Carlos remembers.

Inside the hospital, Carlos and his wife struggled for answers. How could this have happened? What signs had they missed? They were just some of the questions Carlos said he began frantically asking himself.

Christian spent nearly two months in the hospital, enduring two painful surgeries, weeks of rehabilitation and around-the-clock mental health care.

But from the start, Carlos says Christian was determined to heal both physically and mentally. He says just a few days after the incident, Christian was up and walking the halls of the hospital.

“To see him suffer and I couldn’t do anything but be beside him,” Carlos says. “I told him every day; it won’t be as bad as it was yesterday.”

Carlos says things became a little brighter for Christian with each passing day. Posters, cards and messages of love and support began pouring in from the community.

Christian also started writing positive quotes on a whiteboard to remind himself that his future was full of promise and that he would regain his strength.

“I told (him) when you walked, that first step you took, I said you have the strength of many lions,” Carlos says.

While Christian has lost eyesight in one eye and needs eleven dental implants that are not covered by insurance, Carlos says his son is confident and strong. Christian says he’s grateful to be alive and hopes to share that message with other teens who are struggling.

“Don’t be afraid to reach out for help, no matter what you think about how you’re being perceived,” Christian says. “The worst thing you can do is neglect your mental health.”

Today, Christian is learning to drive his new truck, is back at school with his friends for his senior year and is planning something he almost lost - a future.

“He doesn’t hide. He’s going out, he’s being him. He’s doing what he wants, and he is comfortable,” Carlos says. “I’m so proud of that because the outside doesn’t matter as much as the inside and he knows that. He has a beautiful heart and a beautiful mind.”

Carlos says he loves seeing his son laugh again, but hopes the dental implants will help him eat, drink, and smile a little easier than before. The procedure is expected to cost more than $50,000.

“I don’t know what his future holds, but I know it holds something special,” Carlos says.

He says his son’s health is the greatest blessing and he warns other parents to look for signs of change in their children; such as isolation, a lack of interest in things they once loved, or a change in eating, sleeping and hygiene habits.

He says depression doesn’t discriminate and can impact anyone.

The Brown family has set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for Christian’s dental implants.  

This segment is sponsored by WHOA Behavioral Health.