“You can’t pick them … you never know who it’s going to be.”
The harrowing words of who is most likely to commit suicide come straight from Emma Benoit.
On June 7, 2017, at just 16 years old, Benoit shot herself in the chest. It was the summer before her senior year of high school. She was a varsity cheerleader with seemingly everything to live for.
“I was home alone,” Benoit, now 20, said of that summer day three years ago. “I was on the phone with my mom … she was at work and I had called her to just like get her to calm me down. I was having a full-fledged panic attack. I was to my breaking point and I needed help to process everything.”
Severe anxiety and depression that Benoit had been hiding for years was boiling over, and when her mom had to switch over to the other line to take a work call, Benoit shot herself.
“She switched the line back over and obviously there was no response,” Benoit said. “Prior to this I had never mentioned anything about how I was feeling. She was completely in the dark … my family was completely in the dark.”
Benoit said her mom immediately left work and went to check on her. The drive from her mom’s work to home was 15-20 minutes.
“My mom came home and that’s when she found me,” Benoit said. “She called 911 when she got there.”
Benoit remembers the shot being fired and many of the moments and feelings afterwards. She said the mostly notable thing was the regret she felt after firing.
“I knew what had happened … I felt the pain, I tasted the gunpowder and felt the blood pooling behind me. Instant doesn’t even suffice … it doesn’t describe how quickly my feelings shifted from one thing to the next,” she said. “It was very, very immediate that I just had that intense shift of perspective.”
She said many of the moments lying there before her mom arrived felt like an out of body experience.
“It was like a movie,” she said. “I really did have that moment of just playing back moments of my life – it was kind of almost like God was showing me why this was the biggest mistake ever. The last thing I remember was my mom coming into the room.”
After spending a month in the hospital, including three weeks in the ICU, Benoit was transferred to a local rehab hospital where she spent four months. She said the support of her family, including her grandparents and extended family from Des Allemands, are the driving force behind her recovery.
“My family’s support … I just get full body chills thinking about it,” Benoit said. “They have been phenomenal about supporting me through all of this. My whole family was 100,000% supporting me.”
Benoit was able to graduate on time from Dutchtown High School in 2018, and defied the 1% chance she was given of ever being able to walk again.
She said it was first her mom’s idea that she share her story in an effort to be a voice and advocate for suicide prevention.
“There was extreme hesitation on my part,” Benoit said. “I was ashamed and I was embarrassed and I had all those feelings. I was not eager to share my story and pushed it off for a while.”
After praying over it for months, Benoit said she felt like God told her she needed to do it. She and her mother started the creation of her website and blog – www.liferejuvenated.org.
The site caught the attention of a local filmmaker, Greg Dicharry.
“He came to my house one day and just started asking questions,” Benoit said. “That’s kind of how the film was born.”
The film is My Ascension – a feature length documentary that chronicles Benoit’s suicide survival story and her work to bring Hope Squad, a school-based suicide prevention program, to Louisiana. The documentary also features stories of two Louisiana young people who committed suicide.
“The power of storytelling does show statistically to save lives,” Benoit said. “I don’t ever want anyone to think I’m sharing my story to benefit me. I do this in the name of Jesus for people to get the help they need and heal … it has nothing to do with benefitting me at all.”
Outside of the film work, Benoit has done extensive work as an inspirational speaker and advocate. Some of her speaking engagements have included the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health Conference, LSU School of Social Work Conference, Hope Rising Suicide Prevention Summit and Hope Squad National Conference. On Dec. 22 her story found a much larger public stage on Red Table Talk, a national talk show.
Benoit said 2021 will be busy with her film’s release and work at the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office as a 911 dispatcher. It is the same 911 office that took the call after her attempt.
For more information on Benoit’s film, visit www.myascension.us.