Lexi Webb, a well-rounded Smiths Station High School senior, was involved in sports and her local church youth group before taking her own life Feb. 6, 2019.
Andrea Mills, Lexi’s mom and a registered nurse, wanted to understand why loving and seemingly happy Lexi felt suicide was her best, and perhaps only, option. She developed the Love Like Lexi Project to help other young men and women learn to love, live and lead.
“Our family believed the stigma that’s around suicide, that this happens to families or people that are … struggling with mental health or whose families are falling apart,” Mills recalled. “So we never really talked about these things within our home. I didn’t think that I needed to. When this actually happened to our family, we were blindsided.
“[After Lexi died] I wanted to know why it happened, and I wanted to know what she needed in that moment that she did not have. What could have saved her or helped her make a different decision?”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among persons ages 10 to 14 and 25 to 34.
Mills talked with her daughter’s friends, teachers, counselors and other youth. She soon realized communities were continuing to lose youth to suicide. She learned that many of those teens were believers who embraced a lie, thinking death by suicide was the answer to their struggles, freeing them from worldly concerns to unite them with God.
“That’s where it basically started from,” Mills said. “The project came about after my daughter lost the battle of choosing life on Feb. 6, 2019. It was the answer I received, the missing pieces that [Lexi] needed. My daughter was an athlete, and I did not know that her identity was anchored to being an athlete and anchored in not failing. I realized that other parents and students needed to know that their identity, their worth, their significance and the meaning of their life is not what they do. It’s who they are.”
The project begins at schools or churches with an assembly for students and another for parents. Choose Life assemblies and workbooks for faith-based or secular groups aim to empower students to be part of the solution by giving them tools for navigating life’s challenges.
During assemblies, Mills shares Lexi’s story of hope by showing a video Lexi created just eight days before taking her life and helping students relate by learning about another youth who battled the same situations they face.
Mills presents the program wherever she can, including in churches and schools across Alabama and Georgia.
Caring for youth
The Crenshaw County school system launched LLL on Jan. 12, beginning a series of assemblies and a study of the LLL workbook. Students at all three Crenshaw County high schools, Highland Home School, Luverne School and Brantley School, hosted assemblies.
“We are trying to support students and show them we care for them,” said Bailey Kilpatrick, Crenshaw County Mental Health Service Coordinator. “We are putting programs in place so they know we love them.”
Crenshaw County Schools special education director Sherry Sport said the open conversations inspired by the project are yielding fruit already among students who are committing to choose life.
“We have seen that conversations are touching children on a deep emotional level and that children are clearly displaying evidence of their commitment to choose life,” Sport declared. “I think we’re seeing also, through the emotional responses among all of us, a commitment to be there for each other, to support each other and hold on to each other and build each other up.”
After assemblies, Mills extends an invitation for teens to sign a commitment to choose life.
At Faith Academy in Mobile, Mills shared Lexi’s story with around 1,200 students on Jan. 3. More than 100 of those made decisions to surrender their life to Christ.
After assemblies, students can work through a curriculum written from Lexi’s perspective. The workbooks include what Mills said Lexi needed to know about having authentic community, creating community, protecting the heart, identifying values, choosing an inner circle, the influence of music on a person’s emotions and the significance of life.
“The workbook helps youth truly understand and see that their life actually does matter,” Mills said. The faith-based workbook includes sections focused on the power of worship and the secular version relays the importance of community.
“We have some schools that want both,” Mills explained. “They want the faith-based version, but they also want the public school version because they want students to be able to stand when they get into a secular school and everything is shaken for them.”
For more information, visit lovelikelexi.com.
EDITOR’S NOTE — If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please contact the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or (800) 273-TALK (8255).