A 14-Year-Old Boy Helped Save Another Boy’s Life After Meeting Him Through a Video Game

The friendships that teens build online can be stronger than you think.

Gamer Reilly Howard and his mother, Sheila ReillyCourtesy Sheila Reilly
Gamer Reilly Howard and his mother, Sheila Reilly, prevented a friend’s suicide.

We think of kids playing video games as being in a sort of solitary confinement, sequestered in their darkened bedrooms. In truth, they are usually communicating with other gamers, via audio or text, about the action on the screen. And sometimes the chatter veers from the world of fantasy to real life.

That’s what happened to 14-year-old Reilly Howard from East Hampton, Connecticut, last October. While playing Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, he noticed that an online friend, a 13-year-old from Florida, was not his normal effusive self. Reilly’s hunch was confirmed when the friend messaged him, “Yo, we need to talk.” Reilly immediately called him.

“He starts to open up about what’s going on in his life: ‘I have nothing to live for; I’m going to kill myself,’ ” Reilly told nbcconnecticut.com. “He couldn’t even talk, he was crying so much.” Unable to verbally convey his anguish, his friend typed out, “Tonight is going to be the night.”

Suicide is a lot to throw at a high school kid, but Reilly, a sophomore at the time, resolved to stay on the line for as long as he was needed.

“I knew he didn’t want to be alone, and I didn’t want him to go,” he told WFSB. “He’s my friend. I didn’t want him to die.”

For two hours, Reilly said everything he could think of to persuade his friend to embrace life. “I just kept reassuring him, ‘You’ve got a lot to live for,’ ” says Reilly. “I said, ‘I’ll see you tomorrow. I’m going to be playing with you tomorrow. You promise, nothing is going to happen tonight.’ ”

About that time, Reilly’s parents came home from dinner. He filled them in, and they contacted Florida police, who tracked down the boy.

The troubled teen is doing well now, thanks to a good friend—one he’d never met in person—who was willing to put down the keyboard and lend an ear. Says Reilly’s mother, Sheila Reilly, “You just have to show up and talk to people. And listen.”

Close up of stopwatchMartin Barraud/Getty Images

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Andy Simmons
Andy Simmons is a features editor at Reader's Digest.