LeAnn Hull is an author, motivational speaker, presenter, encourager, the Co-Affiliate Leader of the remarkable non-profit Helping Parents Heal group named Healing After Suicide and an inspiring role model for grief to healing to rebirth. Her book, titled How to Live When You Want to Die, tells the heartbreaking experience of losing her 16-year-old son to suicide in 2012. Andy was a great student, a star pitcher scouted by major league baseball teams, on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout, and he was dearly loved by his friends.
His suicide sent a piercing thunderbolt through the hearts of many thousands of people, and it also became the driving force behind LeAnn’s purpose-driven conviction to spread love, inspiration, and encouragement in the midst of her grief.
After Andy transitioned, LeAnn founded a non-profit organization called Andy Hull’s Sunshine Foundation, whose mission is to raise awareness of the high rate of suicide while providing teens with coping skills to deal with life’s challenges. With a “You Matter!” approach, the foundation both honors Andy’s legacy and saves lives by offering much-needed education, support, and encouragement.
IN THIS EPISODE, YOU’LL HEAR ABOUT THINGS LIKE:
- The heartbreaking way Andy took his life and the vow LeAnn made in her bathroom that night.
- The wonderful day when baseball scouts came from all over the country to watch Andy pitch.
- The warning signs everyone missed that could have saved Andy.
- How LeAnn has been able to be a victor, not a victim during her history of continuing, devastating losses.
SOME QUESTIONS IRENE ASKS LEANN:
- What is the difference between grieving and being sad?
- How is your book, How to Live When You Want to Die, a roadmap for those suffering from the passing of a loved one?
- What do you say to teens who are thinking about suicide, who are at risk for suicide, and how do you advise kids to cope when things go wrong?
Watch the episode here
Listen to the podcast here
LeAnn Hull: The Heartbreak Of Losing Her 16-Year-Old Son To Suicide And Then Becoming The Victor – Not The Victim – By Being In The Driver’s Seat On Her Journey Of Healing From Grief
I hope this finds each of you so very well. I’m speaking to you from my studio in West Orange, New Jersey, and I’m absolutely delighted to be welcoming LeAnn Hull, who is an author, a motivational speaker, a presenter, an encourager, the co-affiliate leader of the remarkable nonprofit Helping Parents Heal group named Healing After Suicide, and an inspiring role model for grief to healing and rebirth.
LeAnn will be speaking to us from Phoenix, Arizona. LeAnn’s book entitled How to Live When You Want to Die tells the heartbreaking experience of losing her sixteen-year-old son to suicide in 2012. Andy was a great student, a star pitcher scouted by Major League baseball teams on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout, and he was dearly loved by his friends. His suicide sent a piercing thunderbolt through the hearts of many thousands of people, his family, his friends, and his community. It also became the driving force behind LeAnn’s purpose-driven conviction to spread love, inspiration, and encouragement in the midst of her profound grief.
While raising their four kids, LeAnn and her husband Clay owned and operated a construction company named Arizona Windows Center. Being self-employed allowed her the time to invest in their children’s lives and in the community in which they lived, which eventually led her to run for a seat in the United States Congress in 2010. After Andy transitioned, LeAnn founded a nonprofit organization called Andy Hull’s Sunshine Foundation, whose mission is to raise awareness of the high rate of suicide while providing teens with coping skills to deal with life’s challenges.
With a “You Matter!” approach, the foundation both honors Andy’s legacy and saves lives by offering much-needed education, support, and encouragement. I’m looking forward to talking with LeAnn about her book, How to Live When You Want to Die. Also, being in the driver’s seat on the journey of healing from grief, her nonprofit, Andy Hull’s Sunshine Foundation, and why we each have the responsibility to heal and much more for what is surely going to be a very wise and very unforgettable interview.
LeAnn, a warm heartfelt welcome.
I’m so excited to be here. Thank you.
Thank you. We’re going to have such a great conversation. It’s heartbreaking why you’re here, but the way you have turned what happened, the lemon into lemonade with Andy Hull’s Sunshine Foundation is amazing. I want to share that with our readers. In addition to how you became the victor and not the victim in your loss and all, which is awesome just by itself. Let’s start with the first question so everybody can get to fall in love with Andy, to know about him and the way he took his life. Tell us about Andy, how he took his life, and the value made, which scripted you as to how you were going to process all of this. The value made in the bathroom that night that he died.
Andy was our fourth child. We were seasoned parents when he came along. We had three older children. Andy was eleven years younger than our youngest child at that point in time. He was a surprise and a blessing. He was such a gift. He was easy, fun, and goofy. He added this spice and an extra bit of sunshine to our lives, and that was his nickname. He was Sunshine. People called him that. He loved life and we loved sharing it with him. Following him is what we were doing and watching him in all of his activities. He kept us busy.
He’s such a bright spot in our lives. That day, he was very involved. Andy had other friends who you might say, “If there was a kid out there, I might pinpoint this kid might be susceptible to suicide. Maybe one of Andy’s other friends.” If you interviewed 100 people, they would say there’s no chance Andy would’ve ended his life.
It was not even a possibility. It wasn’t on the radar screen. He wasn’t depressed. He didn’t struggle with mental illness. It was a moment and it was culminated by several different factors. In the end, it was reported to the FDA that a prescription drug that he was taking for his acne was the cause of his suicide. It affected his frontal lobe, which is where your clear thinking is and it affected his ability to process other normal struggles that teenagers go through and what we considered normal teenage angst. At that moment, there were several different factors like a breakup or being bullied by a teacher that came together for that one perfect storm and he wasn’t able to process them. For him, it was, “How can I stop the pain?” In his limited ability to think beyond that moment, that was his solution.
He was only sixteen years old. Teenagers are like that anyway, let alone something like that happening to affect their thinking processes and all.
A male brain is not fully developed until they’re 30. He was a happy and wonderful loving kid. When that day happened, fortunately, I had some great foundations and some great coping tools that we had built into our lives throughout our existence. I was able to utilize those in that moment of crisis because you can’t have a come to Jesus moment in a moment of crisis. You have to have some skillset before that happens.
When I did finally manage to get off the concrete, Andy ended his life in his bedroom at our house. To come home to find the first responders at our house was very traumatic. The images are in my head. We were at the neighbor’s house waiting for all of the people to get done reporting and doing all the things that they do at an incident. I made my way into the bathroom for the very first time. When you look in the mirror sometimes to reconcile, “Are these things happening to me?”
That’s what I was doing. I was looking at myself and reconciling that this was happening to me and not something I was reading in a newspaper. What popped out of my mouth are two things. It wasn’t something that anybody would expect and it wasn’t something that I prepared, but I said, “I will praise you in the storm, and I’m not the first mom to lose a kid.” Those two things paved my way forward because the one, “I will praise you in the storm,” I’m a woman of faith so I recognized that faith at that moment was going to require a decision and not an emotion.
I was making a decision to be faithful. Oftentimes, when we experience something traumatic in our lives, we feel so isolated and we feel like we’re the only ones going through it. For me, to recognize that I wasn’t the first mom, interestingly enough, the images that came through my head were of Holocaust survivors. I grew up in a school surrounded by many Jewish people so that information was very prevalent in my life. I recognized their loss, which was even so much more tremendous than mine. The gravity was so big. “If they could survive that, I could survive this.” I didn’t feel alone in my suffering. It was a collectiveness and that was super important to me to understand that I was not alone.
That’s very bold to take such an overview of what you were going through. Even though the pain was going to consume you to take such a higher perspective right from the get-go about it, it’s admirable that you did that and in some ways, it probably saved your life a lot of times.
To be clear, when we’re talking about it being admirable, I would tell you that was a divine download. It was not something that was coming from me. It was my being open to receiving a divine download and being able to say the things that I knew were going to help heal my soul.
The very fact that you were open, though. That was so admirable because many other people would be completely closed down and unapproachable. Instead at that moment, you expanded, which is amazing. I love this story because it’s such a wonderful piece of who Andy was. Could you tell us about that day when the baseball scouts came from all over the country to watch him pitch?
He was sixteen years old when this happened. How did this help you to reroute those painful images? In every way that you hear your story, you were able to reroute the images or think about ways to handle them or turn them into something good, even though it’s very plain about what pain you are in. It’s so amazing that you kept striving to help yourself, to heal in some way, and to move through it. Tell us about that beautiful, wonderful, glorious day.
I do want everybody to understand that it’s the reason for the title of my book, How to Live When You Want to Die. I did want to die many times. There’s that, but also that will to live in us, and at least in me, was much stronger and much greater than my desire at that moment to die. It just occurred within a month before Andy passed. It was very fresh and it was a momentous experience.
It was at a great huge baseball complex where the Mariners play. We have our spring training. Multiple stadiums are all surrounded. It was a fabulous outing and we look forward to it every year. It was called the Junior Classic. As the scouts are watching, they’re going to pick the kids that they want to come and watch. Andy was on their radar. He was there pitching. I was not in the stands because I couldn’t sit there. I was so nervous.
I was pacing behind the stands so that Andy couldn’t see me pacing. I didn’t want my nervousness to make him nervous but you could see all of the scouts behind the back stand and backstop. They had their radar guns on him. They were watching him and he was in his element. He loved it. He thrived on that. He pitched lights out that time. He delivered the best pitching. When he got done, I’ll never forget that he literally looked like a gazelle leaping off the pitching mound. He didn’t look like this studly man.
He was so filled with joy at what he had just accomplished in the midst of all of this pressure that didn’t seem to faze him. He knew that he had delivered. His future was set and I knew his future was set. It was so exciting as we walked out and he was looking at all these bats. In his element, he wanted this new maple bat. Who am I to deny this kid this $400 maple bat that he’s probably going to break in the second game he plays with? It was truly wonderful. That was an image that I used.
To take you back, remember when I said those images of when I got home and seeing the first responders at my house and the images in Andy’s room, and then wrapping my arms around the body bag of my kid and laying on the body bag. It’s unbelievable. We chose to stay in that house. I went home that night because my daughter and my grandkids were all living with me and that was our home. I knew that this was a defining moment. Are we going to run from this? Are we going to figure out how to go through it?
We went through it, but I knew I still had to manage a lot of the images and a lot of the trauma. Every day when I came home, I would start to feel my stomach tighten and I’d get scared. All those images would start to run through my head as I’d pull down my driveway. I thought, “I can’t live like this.” I would literally tell myself to stop because when you’re telling your brain to do something, it has to stop.
Stop commands it to stop and it did, but that wasn’t going to be enough. I had to fill it with something to replace those images because then there’s this void and either the old images are going to come back or you’re going to replace it with something new. I picked that pitching scene because even telling the story now gives me goosebumps. It transforms me. It gives me a chemical reaction in my body.
I figured I can count on this story 100% of the time having an effect on me. Once I said stop, I’d start to replay it maybe out loud, and I’d start to replay that vignette, maybe sitting in my truck or whatever. By the time I finished talking about it, I had transformed my thought process from the body bag to the pitching mound. That took me two years of practicing before it became a perfection. I persisted in the process.
It wasn’t an immediate fix, but in two years, and it might not take two years for someone. You might be able to do something like that in a week. For me, it took two years but when I finally reached that moment when I recognized, “I can tell you the story. I could tell you details now, but I won’t because they’ll impact you. They no longer impact me.” I can picture myself around holding the body bag and it doesn’t impact me because I’m on the pitching mound. I rerouted all those negative images so that they don’t hold me captive anymore. They don’t impact me. They’re no longer traumatic. They’re still that event, but I’m not triggered by it.
It’s amazing how persistent you are, LeAnn. You are one persistent lady. For two years, you drove to get this image so that when you would get that emotion and you would start going there, you trained yourself to be able to reroute yourself to the other place. That’s amazing. That’s tremendous.
It’s like going to the gym. That’s what I tell people. We would love to be able to go to the gym and walk out that day and be instantly transformed but that’s not how it happens. If it takes a process for our body, no doubt our mind has to take that same process. It’s the same workout and we have to persist at it if we want to change it.
That’s so wise. You’ve told us what happened to Andy. It was a reaction to a prescription, but were there warning signs that everyone missed that maybe could have given anyone a heads-up that something was going on with Andy? It’s because maybe there are people reading this who are missing some warning signs from their children.
Yes, and it is a super popular prescription acne drug. I’m not going to say its name so I don’t get in trouble but I signed a waiver that said suicide, psychosis, and depression are possible side effects. In my mind, when I signed that waiver, my kid is sunshine. That’s who he is. He’s happy and I’m a good mom. I would know if there was something going on with Andy. It was very quick. It was four months from start to finish.
For four months, he was on that medication.
When he was testing that day, he was on that medication.
Yes. There were things that he would say to me because he was driving, “Mom, I can’t remember how to go to the baseball field, how to get there.” I’d be like, “We’d been driving there forever.” I attributed that to normal teenage to get their head somewhere else. He was struggling with a relationship issue. His inability to process things and I would tell any parent out there to err on the side of caution.
People oftentimes think that if I ask my child or my kid, my teenager, “Are you thinking about harming yourself? Are you thinking about suicide,” you’re going to put those thoughts into their head and that’s not the case. It’s like when we talk about drugs and sex prevention and all of those things. We understand clearly that if we want to prevent it, we have to talk about it. It’s the same thing with suicide.
Don’t think that if your kid isn’t depressed, Andy wasn’t sitting in his room moody, wearing dark clothes and rooting around. It was a moment. There was a video he was watching and it was a very popular rap artist. It’s the detective that told me because he looked at his computer history. He had watched it moments before he ended his life. That video depicted exactly what he did that day. What that did in Andy’s mind was it gave him permission to reenact that video.
I tell parents, if your kids tell you that you can’t check their computer or check their phone, you pay the bill. It is your responsibility. You are not their friend. Invade their privacy. They get privacy when they’re old enough to have it. I remember sitting in the high school auditorium for Andy’s freshman year, and the message was, “Don’t be a helicopter parent.” I tell everybody, you’re the only one who will be. Be a helicopter parent. They’ve got no one else but you.
Be your child’s advocate in every way. In social media, you better be tweeting. Let’s say you don’t know how to tweet, but your kids are tweeting and Snapchatting. It is your responsibility to learn how to do it because that’s the way you’re going to know what they’re thinking and what they’re doing. You have to know that. Had I known that, I thought Andy was watching cat videos. He loved watching cat videos weirdly enough. If I had seen that video that he was watching, it would’ve scared the crap out of me.
That would’ve been a heads-up for you. When the doctor had you sign a waiver, you might have made that connection. You also have a personal history of continuing losses, which is amazing, LeAnn, and you’ve been able to become the victor and not the victim while going through them. I used the word admirable again. Would you tell us about how you coped with all of this that’s been pitched to your plate?
The most important statement that I reiterate to myself anytime I experience something is instead why not me? That has helped me a lot. Who am I to think that everybody else in the world should go through? The people in Ukraine and in India, the suffering in the world is so great. Who am I to think that I was going to be immune to that and why not me? I’m prepared to be an example for others of how to shine in the midst of darkness.
In the Bible, it talked about David and that he was a man after God’s heart. I used to always say, “I want to be remembered as a woman after God’s heart.” That means that I have to display that not only in times of ease or fortune but in the midst of trauma and tragedy. Maybe I feel like I’m being chosen for that and that helps me to feel like God chose me to be able to manage these things to show, help, teach, and heal.
It certainly feels like a sole purpose, especially with the foundation and all. This show, there’s no doubt that this is the sole purpose for me. For both of us, they come from profound loss and sadness, but this is how we heal and we make something good out of it to help others.
It was Andy and then my mom. I’m an only child with an only parent. My mom passed 3 years after Andy, my husband of 40 years died in 2021, and then my son-in-law died from COVID. In the midst of all that, my two other boys, and their wives of ten years left because suicide took a toll on my family. I lost two daughters-in-law, not by death, but by divorce. It has wreaked havoc in our lives. It still has. Its impact on us.
What would you say is the difference between grieving and being sad?
I would say that grief is a state of being. Grief is like this huge umbrella and at some point in time, you’ve got to shift the umbrella off. Many people are afraid to let go of the grief because they associate it with, “If I let go of the grief, I’m going to let go of my loved one.” To be able to shed that grief umbrella and then recognize you’re going to have moments of sadness. I tell people I’m no longer grieving. Do I get sad? You bet. Are there moments that trigger me? Absolutely.
Are there times like Andy’s angelversary, his birthday, my husband’s, or the holidays? Yes. Those are more difficult to navigate but if I continue to stay under this umbrella of grief, it’s too heavy. I wanted it gone so that the sun could come back into my life and then the clouds can come and go but with an umbrella of grief over you, there’s nothing else but that darkness.
It’s weighing you down. It’s wonderful to separate that because I find the same thing for me. Those reading this know my story. This is the month my husband died in a car accident, and I get triggered every year. I’ll suddenly start feeling sad and I’m like, “Why am I feeling like this? I’m fine,” and then I remember, “This is the month leading up to the accident,” and it happens to me every single year. Like what you’re saying, you can be grieving and all of a sudden your body or your cells remember.
Many of our current therapists and people like that want to tell you that you are going to grieve forever. I hear from so many parents who say, “It’s never going to get better.” If you say it, you’re right. Henry Ford said, “If you think you can or you think you can’t, you are correct.” The more you keep saying, “It’ll never get better,” you’re right. It’ll never get better.
You script yourself.
I made that decision early on that I was going to heal.
I’m going to add one more piece of mind. When they pulled me out of the car, aside from that message I got from the other side. You had your mirror, in my head, I thought, “I’m going to get through this one way or another because I have to show my son that you can get hit by a grenade in life and come out the other end of it.” My husband was buried on my son’s 21st birthday.
My son has said to me, “Mom, there’s been nothing worse than seeing you in despair and nothing better than seeing you be able to have joy again,” just like you. We’re resilient and even the worst thing in the world, right away, you were setting your foot forward even though you were going to take fourteen steps backward at times and I did the same way.
We did the work. It didn’t just happen. I read 80 books that first year after Andy died. I did everything and anything I could do. I was working to be my best advocate. While we are resilient, we still did the work.
I went to counseling. I saw healers and all that. LeAnn, I love when you talk about how a person can be in the driver’s seat on the journey of healing from grief, which is exactly what you and I are talking about. Do you want to talk a little more about that for those who are reading?
When I work with other people or mentor other parents, this is my natural personality. It is my natural tendency. I have always wanted to be in the driver’s seat. I like control. This would be my natural process of handling a traumatic event. How can I be in the driver’s seat here? I did not want to be a passenger through my own journey. It was super important to me to show up for your other son.
For me, I didn’t want Andy’s life to be defined by how he passed. That meant it was up to me to continue his legacy by showing his sunshine, not his suicide. That was my goal going forward. How can I best honor him? My kids and my grandkids absolutely did not deserve a broken grandma or a broken mom. That again was up to me to give them the best version of myself that I could be.
That’s exactly what I did. We have so much in common that way. I loved your book. It’s a wonderful book and I encourage everyone to read it. Tell us what inspires you to write it and how is it a roadmap, which I know because I read it. Let’s explain to everyone reading how it is a roadmap for those suffering from the passing of a loved one because that’s basically what you provide as a roadmap to help people get through a profound loss.
It wasn’t like I decided one day I was going to write a book. I started writing and it went from there. It took me three years to write the book and I had to make myself available. It wasn’t like I was thinking up these things and then I’d go sit and write. I would set the time and I’d sit down to write. Again, I felt like I was getting a divine download and this was what was coming out. I wanted to capture the process. I wanted to give people hope and be real about it.
I wanted them to understand that when people say, “You don’t know how I feel,” let me tell you, I do. I never had thought about suicide until Andy passed. To walk up to that moment myself, to plan it, to think about it, to be at that intersection, and then to realize I could make a different choice. I understood that feeling was there and then I had to use some cognitive abilities to decide what I was going to do about those emotions. I wanted people to understand that they could do that too. I wanted to give them a roadmap.
One of the things you tell that you help people to know is they can have a choice. Don’t believe everything you think.
Let’s do an exception to the rule that there are people with mental illnesses or whatever that it would not be a choice for so many of us. When I speak to the kids when I deliver presentations, I start out by telling them, “Everybody in your life is focused on your success, your teachers, your parents. I’m here to tell you how essential your failures are because they will give you the building blocks to continue to know that you can survive.” When you survive a breakup, when you survive a failed grade, or whatever that feels like the end of the world for you, be prepared and understand you’re going to have failures in life. They are a part of life. They’re normal. They’re expected. Embrace them, fix them, and go forward.
I would like to get that on a plaque somewhere or a billboard. You’ve received a lot of spiritual signs from Andy.
Tell us some of them, because I love hearing about the signs. They’re very creative over there.
I drove Andy’s truck until my husband passed and now I drive his truck. For his sixteenth birthday, I bought these custom rims for his truck. He picked them out. He loved them. His tires were jacked up. The truck is great. It’s beautiful. The rims are beautiful. When I was taking one of my kids to the airport, a mishap happened and I had to drop them off at the airport. When I went back to hurry to get something. They left their wallet back at the house, it was dark. It was early in the morning and I missed the curb and I hit the curb hard. It blew the tire and it cracked Andy’s rim.
Long story short, I’m waiting there for the tow truck to come and I’m devastated. The tow truck is towing it away. I’m in another truck and I stop at a convenience store. I go into the restroom. I’m sitting in there and I’m crying. I’m devastated because I knew that Andy’s rim had been cracked. I pull out the toilet paper and it has those covers over the toilet paper. As I pull out the toilet paper, a penny drops. Pennies are my sign from Andy. In this bathroom stall, a covered toilet paper, a penny drops. I was like, “It’s going to be okay, Mom.” It was such a wonderful confirmation that he was there and I could hear, “Mom, it’s okay.”
You’ve received others too and they’re very transformative, aren’t they, when you get them because they reassure you.
They do. I needed to know without a doubt that my faith prohibited me from seeking a medium. From everything that I grew up with, I knew I was going to go to hell if I saw a medium. After Andy passed though, I knew he was in heaven, but I wanted to know what that was like. “What’s my kid doing? I wanted to know more.” I had some friends recommend a medium, and I snuck away to see her. I didn’t tell anybody.
When I went in there to see her, the last thing that she said, without a doubt, I knew I was talking to my kid. At the end of that first session, it was 40 days after he’d passed, Andy said, “My mom is tough as nails. She’s going to be fine.” I walked out of there and I knew I was going to live every day to prove that kid right and make sure that the world would see that I was going to be okay.
Not only that. You’re so okay that you’re helping so many other people to be okay.
A medium made a difference for me.
In fact, going back to that session with the medium, wasn’t that session what inspires you to create the foundation, or did that come along a little way later? At that, “You Matter!” approach also.
The session with the medium connected me with Helping Parents Heal. She said, “I know a group that’s started and it’s here locally. You need to contact her.” I did and working with Helping Parents Heal was such a pivotal point. It’s a continuing affirmation of my growth, healing, moving forward, and connection to the spiritual realm. Also, shedding so many layers of indoctrination.
That didn’t impact the starting of the foundation. Andy’s birthday was four months after he passed and I wanted some way to commemorate and honor that day. We had this big event and we raised $10,000 at this event. I was like, “Now what are we going to do?” We decided to do scholarships at his school. That is what led to the developing. We had to deliver a message and I wanted all of the kids to know how much they mattered. They needed to hear that.
There was a young woman in the audience. I spoke at Andy’s school four months after he passed to 3,000 kids. That principal was a brave man to put me in front of all those kids. He knew that I could deliver a life-affirming message. I delivered that message to the kids and I got an email from a young woman a couple of months afterwards. She said, “You don’t know me, but I was sitting in that audience. I heard you tell me that I mattered. I’d been harming myself and I had the courage that day to go home and tell my mom that I needed help. You saved my life.” In 3,000 kids, she heard that personal message that she mattered.
With your sadness, your grief, and all that, it’s like a sap for your soul.
Yes, totally. It gives you a purpose. It helped to solidify, “Would I give anything to have my kid back?” You bet, but I can’t so what can I do with it? How can I transform myself? As you said, healing the world because it begins with us. We have to be okay in order to spread that and make a difference in the world. We can’t sit behind the keyboard and say naughty things.
You’re a role model for people and they’re paying attention to what you have to say. It’s amazing. Speaking of that, you talked about how you tell kids that they matter, what they’re doing is important, and they don’t have to work in a vacuum. What else do you advise kids? How else do you advise them? If a kid has something going wrong in their lives, I heard you say that you’ll say to them, “It’s good that you have things going wrong because that’s how you learn to prepare yourself. That’s how you learn to go through life.” Are there other things that you say when you’re counseling kids to help them to cope when things are not going well in their lives?
Something that I think is super important that is I have a support system around myself. There are people that are watching me and always looking out for me. I’ve set that up so that when I do fall, I know I have people that are going to lift me up. I tell the kids, “Put the friend before the friendship.” If you have a friend that is articulating self-harm, you have to not worry about them getting mad at you if you tell an adult. You may lose their friendship, but better to lose their friendship than the friend.
If you know someone who’s talking about self-harming, you have to tell an adult. You have to tell someone else who’s qualified. I do this work. I have people that call me and tell me their kid or this person is thinking about self-harm. I am not a therapist. I’m not qualified to help you. Now, can I help you and guide you and direct you to get help and make sure that you go get help? You bet. I’ve called 911 on people who I’m talking to on the phone or who I’m communicating with on social media and what they’re saying, either verbally or digitally is harmful. I don’t hesitate. I call 911.
There is the #988 number now, which is nationwide. I try not to minimize anybody’s feelings. While it might not seem significant to me, nobody would’ve thought that of Andy either. You have to err on the side of caution and take that extra step as a parent or as a friend. If you’re sitting in front of me and you’re telling me you’re thinking about self-harming, then we’re going to continue our conversation until we have a plan. What’s the next step for you?
How many kids have you helped? Do you have any idea? I know you’ve done many presentations now.
I have folders full of letters from people from all over the world.
How long have you been doing this?
Ten years now in 2023.
Look at what you’ve accomplished.
We ship the You Matter! wristbands all over the world free of charge. I love the ones where we shipped 18,000 to a school district in New York. That’s powerful but then I got one where a mom emailed me and she said, “My son was given a You Matter! wristband on Daytona Beach during spring break three years ago and he hasn’t taken it off one day and it broke. Could I please have one more? It would mean so much to him.” How amazing is that? Who knows who gave him that wristband on Daytona Beach during spring break? It’s because you hand them out without a thought.
However, it impacted his life. You don’t know who you’re impacting that way.
We want to know we matter. All of us do.
Part of what’s wrong with so many people is they never realized how much they do matter. We have a purpose. LeAnn, why is healing not only important for each of us individually, but essential for all of humanity? I love that you speak to that. If one person gets healing, they’re in pain and they do what they need to do to heal, how does that impact not only themselves, but you’re saying it impacts everyone, the collective?
If I’m sitting here having a conversation with you, then maybe I can have an impact but I see it bigger now. My healing allows this energy or this God force to come into me. That’s a power that’s way beyond my own little power and if I’m allowing this power to come in through me, I can also allow it to go out. I have this huge capacity. Whenever I’m bringing in this God light, I’m sending it out to my family first, my kids, and my grandkids. I’m sending it out for healing for them and then I’m expanding it to our neighborhood, to friends and family. We can send it out to the world. We have an amazing ability to direct if we’re allowing this flow of power and energy through us to send it out. We can heal the world if we’ll work on ourselves.
That’s beautiful and so wise. Everyone wants to connect with Andy Hull’s Sunshine Foundation. Tell us all about that. Do you have a special offer for our audience?
It’s super easy. It’s AndysSunshine.com. If you get close to that, it’ll pop up on your Google. We’ve Googled enough that it just pops up. You can find us there. You can find me, LeAnn Hull on Facebook. You can find Andy Hull’s Sunshine Foundation on Facebook. You can find us on Twitter and Instagram. On Twitter, it’s @LeAnnYouMatter. I’m pretty easy to find. I’m visible.
Those are great ways. Go to our website because you can watch so many of the videos of the things that we’ve done. You can listen to my presentations. You can request wristbands. Our wristbands are free. The shipping is free. We don’t charge shipping. We’ll ship you as many wristbands as you want, 1 or 10,000. You fill out the form. I would love to ship them to you and then we have a Camp You Matter.
I would love to give away a Camp You Matter. It has been reviewed by Johns Hopkins. It’s a fifteen-week curriculum. It’s been used as an afterschool program. It’s designed for 3rd to 6th graders. It’s an outdoor wilderness program in an indoor classroom setting. It’s designed to take you on a wilderness journey where you can explore your potential, your self-worth, and your You Matter.
It’s a wonderful program. It’s designed for twenty students. The kit comes with lots and lots of supplies like a compass, flashlights, and all kinds of stuff. Things to put on your wall to create that environment for a camp setting. I would love to give one of those away. I’ll ship it to you anywhere in the US that would like one for their school or their class. That’s a $1,500 value and we will train you. It’s self-guided. Anybody can do it as long as they’re motivated. Think of yourself as a wilderness instructor or a camp counselor.
LeAnn Hull, what is your important tip for finding joy in life?
I want it, Irene. I used to always say I wanted the eTicket ride at Disneyland and that full experience. I still say I want more. When you say you want more, you have to be prepared to have it all. You can’t have joy without sorrow. Also, I want all of the experiences. Being open to the full experience and being willing to say, “Get up tomorrow morning, put yourself out there and say, ‘I want more. I’m worth more.’”
LeAnn, through your book, How to Live When You Want to Die, you inspire others to embark on their own journeys of healing and hope. Thank you for showing through your own personal life experience that it is possible to lead a purposeful and joyful life once again after the passing of a beloved child and for inspiring teens to deal with their life challenges by imparting your important You Matter message. I thank you from my heart for this very wise and unforgettable interview. Make sure to follow us and like us on social @IreneSWeinberg on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. If you’re watching on YouTube, be sure to click subscribe so you’ll never miss an episode. As I like to say, to be continued. Many blessings. Bye for now and thank you, LeAnn.
- LeAnn book: How to Live When You Want to Die
- Andy Hull’s Sunshine Foundation
- Connect with Andy Hull’s Sunshine Foundation on Facebook and Instagram
- Follow LeAnn Hull on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
- Camp You Matter
- Helping Parents Heal
- Irene Weinberg on Instagram
- Irene Weinberg on Facebook
- Irene Weinberg on Twitter
- Irene Weinberg on YouTube