Colorado Teens Tell Peers – “We’re Here to Help”

Posted Feb 9 2012, 1:41 pm in , , , , , , ,

We’re six months away from the release of my novel, SEND, a story about a former bully learning to cope with the suicide he caused when he was thirteen. When I began writing SEND, the plot was made up — born partly from my own fears as a mother of teens and partly from an overactive imagination. Today, however, my plot is a statistic, as headline after headline announces yet another tragic end to a life spent tortured by teens who hijacked technology to maximize their victims’ suffering.

You can imagine my joy upon reading this uplifting article about two young men in Colorado who used technology to stop a suicide. A friend sent me the link last weekend, during a time when I swore bad news was circling me like vultures over a freshly-dead carcass. Instead of using social networks and cell phones to torment kids, these young men recognized the signs of an imminent tragedy and did whatever they could to prevent it.

Yes, they did prevent it.

Teens Turned Community Activists

I had the enormous privilege of speaking directly to Danny Manes, 17, and Gary Ramirez, 20, the subjects profiled in the article. Together, Danny and Gary recently launched a website called Hopeline4Teens, where they (along with their partner, Cheyenne) offer advice to teens on any issues troubling them. Suicide, sexuality, rape – no topic is off-limits. Even parents can request advice if they feel powerless to deal with a teen struggling through a problem.

Danny and Gary are two guys on a mission to help others. When I asked them why they do this work, I expected to hear trite things like “It’s the right thing to do.” Instead, Danny surprised me with two stories. First, he told me about the many suicides – plural – that left his Colorado community reeling with loss and pain. I’m in my mid-forties and I don’t know anyone who’s committed suicide; by 17, Danny has already faced such loss more than once. He’s now committed to ensuring other teens do not. If that’s not enough of a reason, how’s this: Danny admitted that in seventh grade, he was a bully; teasing a classmate because everyone else was. When it escalated to a fist fight and Danny understood how deeply he hurt this boy, he decided, “That’s not who I want to be.”

Gary contemplated suicide himself after suffering through some heavy issues. Though he is not gay, he was bullied because classmates said he was. Around this same time, he also lost his grandmother and suffered a series of anxiety attacks that required anti-depressants to correct. “I know exactly what it’s like to feel that low. I’m living proof that it gets better. That you can be happy again. I have a job. I train (Gary enjoys mixed martial arts) and compete in grappling tournaments.”

Sincerity rings in every word. But I wondered if the boys worry about saying the wrong thing, or doing something that makes a situation worse. Turns out they’re already addressing those worries. “We know we can’t save everyone,” Danny admitted. “We’re working with our local suicide prevention hotline. They’re giving us professional training.” In fact, Danny and Gary may soon answer calls on the hotline’s Teen Line as well as operate their website. “Teens live online.” Danny said. “They, especially the guys, prefer to text and blog and message instead of talk directly, so they can hide their pain.”

I can’t help wondering if SOPA and PIPA would block Danny and Gary from connecting with teens who need help — or hope.

I mentioned a recent Rolling Stone article in which a suicide outbreak took nine lives in a community where religious extremism created a vehemently anti-gay environment. Gary told me, “That makes my blood boil. I was bullied because people said I was gay even though I’m not. There’s no reason for this discrimination – it’s 2012. I have gay friends and there’s no problem with that. People need to know it’s okay to be friends with gay people even if you’re not gay. People need to stop being afraid.”

How Does Hopeline4Teens Work?

If you’re a teen, go to the tumblr site and post your problem. It’s completely anonymous. All Danny and Gary ask for is your age and gender. You can ask for Danny or Gary by name, but most problems are routed depending on the issue. Danny was once a bully; Gary was horribly bullied. Danny knows the pain that suicide causes; Gary nearly took his own life. The guys instinctively know who’s better suited to handle certain problems. “Danny is pretty religious, so he handles any problems relating to that. I want to reach out to the gay community.” Gary said. “Even parents can ask for our help dealing with a teen they don’t know how to handle.” You can chat on Facebook or call a private line, depending on your needs. “Girls might feel more comfortable dealing with Cheyenne.” Gary added.

If any advisor feels he or she can’t give you the help you need, they’ll refer you to experts who can. “We won’t just tell you what you want to hear.” Gary said. “We’ll give you the reality check.”

How Can I Help?

My son, also 17, asked me to ask how he could get started helping out. “Just do it.” Danny answered. “Nobody knows what they’re capable of until they begin.” Gary added, “If your heart is in it, the rest is easy.”

For an author whose novel focuses on the negative side of the internet, I am hugely impressed by these young people who showed us its positive side and hope readers will see them as examples worthy of emulation.

Do you know any teens doing extraordinary things? Tell me about them. 

If you’re a teen or a parent of a teen who needs advice, here’s how you can contact Danny or Gary:



Twitter: @hopeline4teens





20 responses to “Colorado Teens Tell Peers – “We’re Here to Help””

  1. PJ Sharon says:

    This is fantastic , Patti! I’m doing a blog on Teens and Depression tomorrow at YA Beyond. I will be sure to refer back to this post. It gives me great hope that there are teens out there trying to make a difference and help each other like this.

  2. Awesome, uplifting story! Also, CONGRATULATIONS on the upcoming release of SEND!

  3. Amazing story Patty! What an inspiration these two young men are.

    • Patty Blount says:

      Aren’t they? And to speak to them over the phone, hear the sincerity and intelligence in their voices is even more impressive.

  4. abby mumford says:

    what amazing boys they are! i feel uplifted just reading about them. thank you for sharing, patty. and thank you to those boys for doing the tough work they do.

  5. Norica Ecker says:

    This is a great story! Thanks Patty for sharing this with us. This gives a positive outlook to those who are in need of help and to those who would like to offer help. Let’s hope there are more people out there like these 2 teens.
    Again, CONGRATULATIONS on your soon-to-be released novel coming out this year. Can’t wait to get a copy!

  6. What an uplifting story and what a fantastic way to try to help hurting teens. I love that they are thinking outside the box and trying to figure the best way to provide support. <3

  7. Donna Coe-Velleman says:

    Very nice post, Patty. It’s interesting to see where Danny and Gary came from and how they are now working together with Cheyenne to help others. Kuddos to them. I hope Hopeline4teens has a very long life.

  8. Teresa says:


    What a great article about something so positive. Our world tends to focus on all the bad and I think these young men should be recognized for the difference they are making. I live in the same town as them and it is horrible that so many young people have taken their life over the past two years. Especially those who are not even teenagers yet. I pray that more people jump on the band wagon and become positive influences. Thank you Danny and Gary for what you are doing. As a parent of a teenager, I know it usually isn’t the parents they want to talk to and you have given them other options!

    Best of luck on your novel.

  9. What a great post! Instead of thinking of the “net” in bad terms, it is nice to think of it as a safety net too. Many teens suffer from depression. They are facing so many changes and trying to find their place in the world. Life is hard enough without being picked on. Great job, guys! The world is better because of you.

  10. What a fantastic article. What I love about teens is that when they get a good idea they just go ahead. Instead of sitting down and telling themselves all the reasons why they shouldn’t do it, or waiting for someone else, they just make it happen.