Dying for Help: A stark look at teen mental health, Part II

Dying for Help: A stark look at teen mental health, Part II »Play Video
Landon Scranton, now 25, is working to leave the demons of mental illness in his past. He has battled drugs and self-mutilation, among other issues.
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -- For several months, Eyewitness News has been documenting the struggles of teenagers battling something that many people are afraid to talk about, yet it affects families in devastating ways: mental illness.

The intent of this five-part special series is to break the stigma associated with mental illness and to give a voice to those "dying for help."

Within the last two months, three Kern County teenagers have committed suicide. Yet, suicide remains a taboo subject in our society.

According to one study, roughly 1-in-10 people, ages 15 to 25 took their own lives in 2006.

This Eyewitness News series continues with a candid young man who says it's a miracle he's around today.

"You are such a failure in your own mind, and your logic is out the window," said 25-year-old Landon Scranton.


 Landon Scranton, 25, talks about his struggles with mental illness. "It got so bad that my parents didn't know what to do," Scranton said from a park bench in central Bakersfield.

Scranton's road in life has been riddled with hopelessness and despair, ravaged by the demons of mental illness and a dark desire to end it all.

"I was smokin' two bowls in the morning of marijuana and doing two big lines of cocaine," he recalled.

But it wasn't always that way.

"He was the light of my life, just the sweetest thing in the world," says the man's mother, Judi Scranton. "When he was really little, he was one of those people whoever he was around everybody was in a good mood."

But his mood began to change. By first grade, Judi Scranton said a dark side would pop up, accented by bursts of anger. School became difficult. He was diagnosed at the time with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.

"I was pushed through," Landon Scranton said. "I wasn't pushed back, because they didn't want to deal with the problem child anymore."

By junior high, things began to unravel even more.

"It got so bad that my parents didn't know what to do," Scranton said. "I was locked away in a mental hospital as early as sixth or seventh grade and I don't remember how long I spent there. It was so bad that young that they couldn't control me, I couldn't control myself."

Scranton's downhill slide suddenly led him to an uphill climb on a path to suicide from trying to hang himself to overdosing on prescription drugs, chased with cough syrup and a six pack of beer.

"I took 45 10-milligram tablets of Ambien, which after doing research, I found that 10 is good enough to take your life," Scranton said.

Was he relieved or angry that he lived?

"There's a little bit of both, but the majority of it was angry, because at that point I felt like such a failure anyways," he said. "And here I am, I've done everything I thought I could do to make sure I was going to end this and even ending it, I couldn't even do that right."

His first suicide attempt came at age 10. But, the idea was no mystery. His father took his life when Scranton was 4. His uncle did the same a few years later.

"He remembers his dad giving him a long hug, and his dad having a gun in his hand," Judi Scranton said. "At one point, Landon even said to me, 'Mom, I will die by my own hands some day.'"

Add to that, Scranton was a "cutter," taking a knife to his arms over and over again.

"It's not like we want someone to come up and be like, 'Oh my God, what did you do? I can't believe that guy.' We don't want that attention. We want someone to say, 'Oh my God, what's wrong?' I would see the blood. I would know everyone else was just like me, because everybody else bleeds."

Landon got help at a private hospital and was finally diagnosed with a bipolar disorder. Several counselors, psychologists and pills later, he said his medication is to the point now where he feels alive again. He now writes and records his own songs, hoping in his words "to touch the lost with a good vibration and a positive message."

"From an outsider, someone might look at me like, 'Man, your life is in chaos,' but I love it," he said.

Landon's advice to parents: Hang in there. It won't change over night. He credits his stepfather and mother for staying with him every step of the way.

His mother's advice: A person has to dig and find out what works for their child. Above all, don't give up.

Scranton's life is so much better now that he plans to release a CD of his music early next year.