VICTOR — As New York's suicide rate skyrockets, a Victor family, in their darkest days, has found the strength to share their story in hopes that it will help other teens and families.
"For parents out there, even if you think 'no, never my kid,' because that's exactly what we thought, right up to that moment I pulled into the driveway and realized he was gone ... don't assume," said Jeremy Marshall.
Marshall's son Chase, a 14-year-old freshman at Victor High School, took his own life on Wednesday.
Chase was an honors student, a hockey player and known to bring happiness to those around him. His family, friends, teachers and neighbors have been struggling to understand and cope with his sudden loss but they're hoping, at a time when suicide has become the second leading cause of death in teenagers, to help others.
"If you needed help, he would be there. His mission on earth was to make people smile. That's the kind of kid he was," said Jeremy Marshall.
From the outside, Chase had it all. He had loving parents, friends, he was at the top of his class and he was stand-out hockey player with a keen sense of style.
"He was just an affectionate kid. He would never hesitate to be the one to come over and give me a huge or a kiss, or lay down on my lap of have some funny story," recalled his mother Emily.
So, when Chase came to her a few months ago to tell her he was feeling depressed, at first she thought it must be normal teenage angst.
"I said, 'It's fine, honey, to be feeling these things. It's fine to feel blue. Just understand it's normal.' And then it wasn't until he said, 'I cry at nighttime' — things that used to make him happy weren't making him happy anymore," she said.
That's when Emily and Jeremy got Chase help. They notified the school and got him counseling, and he was also prescribed medication. They thought things were getting better until Wednesday.
"I came home and there were fire trucks and it was out of nowhere, he decided that it was his time," said Jeremy through tears.
Chase was gay. His sister Kaytlin says he wasn't bullied for it but it made it difficult for him to find his place at school. Through her grief, she has this message for other teens:
"Be nice to people, sit with the person who sits alone at lunch, don't care what other people think, stand up for yourself, wear what you want no matter what someone else says about it, and just really stand up for yourself and what you believe in."
It's advice Kaytlin says she will take herself.
"I will live my life like he would have wanted me to," she said. "He definitely made a huge impact in my life and I'll be forever grateful for him."
"For parents out there, even if you think ... 'no, never my kid', 'cause that's exactly what we thought ... Chase was in AP classes, honors, he was a phenomenal athlete, the most caring child you could ever think about, so you would think he had everything ... he was busy making everyone else happy, don't assume," Jeremy warned.
Chase will be laid to rest on Tuesday. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for contributions to be made to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in Chase's memory.
The family said Victor schools have been offering grief counseling to those who need it and planned to have a presence at the calling hours on Tuesday.
If you or someone you know needs help, the phone number of the sucide prevention line is 1-800-273-8255.