At his lowest point, the 2001 Carroll County High School graduate attempted suicide in April 2008 but failed. And while that failure meant an extensive hospital stay and nearly $1 million in medical expenses, it changed Tobler’s perspective on life and turned him into an advocate of suicide prevention.
“I would consider myself living proof that there is divine intervention,” Tobler said.
Tobler said he battled depression for a long time before attempting to take his life. Following his suicide attempt, Tobler said he had lots of time on his hands while spending 33 days at Twin County Regional Hospital. He spent that time rethinking his stance on life and educating others who were depressed and experiencing suicidal thoughts.
“There was a kid who was suicidal and talking about suicide,” Tobler said. “I explained to him my viewpoints on it and shared with him my story and talked with him for a bit and was able to change his approach and change his viewpoint on life in general. I was able to help several people and I decided that maybe I should take what new life I have now and share with everybody else.”
Tobler said his hospital stay also gave him time to come up with a way to reach out to more individuals who are depressed or entertaining suicide. By using his love of acting and film as an outlet, Tobler said he came up with the idea of a 10-minute suicide awareness video that would be available online on YouTube.
Tobler, who has several acting credits on his resume, said he’s looking for locations, as well as people whose lives have been affected by suicide.
“As far as the suicide awareness video, we’re looking to get as much involvement from the community as we can from families of the victims and interview them,” he said. “We would be incorporating a lot of interviews in this video.”
Based on figures from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, more than 60 percent of suicide cases suffered from some sort of depression and according to the most recent data collected in 2005, there were 32,635 reported suicide deaths. Locally, Tobler said he heard, but couldn’t confirm, that in the past 10 years, there have been 25 suicides among high school students and recent graduates in Carroll and the surrounding counties.
Tobler said he thinks such a video would create an outlet and answers for individuals in the area and beyond who are battling depression or suicidal thoughts.
“I’m trying to help the community,” he said. “There are so many kids and adults who do suffer from depression. It’s not just an inherited thing. It can be environmental, whether it be sexual abuse, physical abuse, psychological or verbal, hazing from school. A lot of kids suffer a lot. If you can point them into an area where they can get help early, there wouldn’t be any type of reason to snap. You wouldn’t have students in Carroll County that would resemble Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold or another Virginia Tech massacre.”
Tobler said he has reached an agreement with Purple Hayes Productions, out of Clemmons, N.C., to produce the video, which he said would be the same quality of work one would find on MTV. The only catch is he has to expense it, on top of trying to take down his mountain of medical debt.
“It would cost quite a bit to produce a 10-minute video with the crew, audio, visuals, lighting, cameras and equipment,” Tobler said. “It would cost a few thousand dollars. We’re trying to get any donations we can for it and to help pay some overdue bills.”
To that end, Tobler said he has arranged for several benefit meals, including a pancake breakfast at The Hardware Company on Feb. 21.
Tobler said monetary donations and items that can be raffled or auctioned off are welcome. If anybody would like to help, Tobler can be reached by calling Rachel Clontz at (276) 728-2375 or donations can be mailed to Edward Tobler 2950 Buckhorn Road, Hillsville, VA 24343. Be sure to mark the envelopes or checks “Suicide Awareness Donation.”
Tobler said now that he’s seen life from both sides, he knows that it’s how you deal with the positive and negative that makes life what it is.
“I know what it’s like to be on the other side now,” Tobler said. “The purpose of life is exactly that, to live, to experience both the good and the bad. You won’t be able to appreciate one without the other. At least if you go out there and take a chance and try to have an experience, you can at least say you did that.”