BIDDEFORD, Maine — Tucked away in the backyard of his Biddeford home, Aiden Campbell finds peace playing with his dogs Winnie and Olive.
On a brisk September morning, it is almost as if time stands still. Aiden tosses a frisbee for one dog to fetch while scratching the other's head.
This peace is something he never thought he would have.
"Just because of all of the bullying and not feeling like I fit in and just feeling really different from everybody," Aiden said.
That is what high school was like for him. Despite being a three-sport athlete and a good student, he said he struggled to find acceptance.
"I was just really depressed," he said. "I was really depressed."
Eventually, Aiden said those feeling built up and led him to try to take his own life.
"Luckily I wasn't hurt at all, which was kind of a miracle," he said. "I hadn't told anybody at first, and at school a couple days later I told one of the teachers I trusted, and she had to call my mom."
"Never in my wildest dreams did I would ever received that phone call," Aiden's mom, Sue Campbell, said. "I felt like we were a really supportive family."
A couple of days after the suicide attempt, she asked Aiden why he did it.
"I just told her that I was just really sad and felt like I didn't fit in and felt like I always should have been a boy," Aiden said.
Aiden is transgender.
"I had no idea what that meant, and the first thought that went through my head was if they've been bullying her at school for being a lesbian, what are they going to do to her now?"
Sue Campbell said she wanted to do anything and everything to help her son, but it was not easy. To make things harder, there were not resources in the state.
They traveled as far as Rhode Island for the health care Aiden needed.
"There just weren't a lot of people who knew a lot about trans mental health or trans health care," Aiden said.
"We hear people say, 'Well, this isn't real. It's a choice. It's a mental health illness.' It isn't any of those things. No person would choose to live through the things that our transgender folks live through."
That struggle brought the two of them closer together, and now they are helping others in the LGBTQ+ community.
Sue is the Executive Director of the nonprofit Out Maine in Rockland. The organization provides critical education, resources and support to kids and families across the state, especially in rural communities.
"I get up every morning know that the work I have to do need to be done, because we can't lose another child," Sue said.
Nationwide LGBTQ+ suicide is reaching record levels. Forty-five percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, according to a report by The Trevor Project.
According the latest Maine Youth Integrated Health Survey in 2019, 41 percent of LGBTQ+ teens seriously considered suicide that year. That is at least 2,800 kids—enough to fill 58 school buses.
"Maine is a mixed bag in terms of what we do for mental health services and identity issues in particular," Emily Costrow, a school-based clinician with Sweetser, told NEWS CENTER Maine.
Costrow works at Noble High School as one of just a handful of clinicians that work directly in schools across the state. The goal is to be accessible to students who otherwise would not have access to mental health support.
She said LGBTQ+ and minority students are particularly at risk, and the current political climate is having an impact.
"Our community is polarized like a lot of the country is in terms of value systems between different families, and that creates a lot of conflict," Costrow said. "I think that's one big factor that's caused mental health issues."
As for Aiden Campbell, he and his partner are set to get married this year.
And he is now working as a licensed clinical social work to help kids like him.
"Because those were the people who were most supportive of me in high school and I knew I want to be able to give that to other queer kids," Aiden Campbell said.
If you or someone you love is struggling with their identity, there are several organizations in Maine that provide support and resources.
You can text or call the Maine Crisis Hotline 24/7 at 1-888-568-1112.
Let's Talk About It
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, there are resources right here in Maine that can help navigate through those thoughts and find a path to hope.
Maine Crisis Hotline: 1-888-568-1112
Maine teen text support
This peer support text line is for Maine youth 13 to 24 years old and is staffed by individuals 18 to 24. Talk about your feelings and get support from another young person. Daily from noon to 10 p.m. EST at 207-515-8398