Mayo Clinic's first facial transplant recipient speaks about mental health

(KARE) – At the Mayo Clinic's Transformation Conference, Andy Sandness spoke about the surgery that transformed him. 

"When I first saw it, I'll never forget, just looking in that mirror -- just, wow. That's all I could say, was 'wow,'" Sandness said. 

He is the Mayo Clinic's first face transplant patient. 

 The surgery, in 2017, took 56 hours, roughly 40 surgeons and nurses, and completely changed Sandness' physical appearance. But at the conference, he didn't speak about the physical. 

 "You know, you feel you hit rock bottom at that time," Sandness said. 

He said he needed that face transplant because in 2006, at 21 years old and battling depression, he shot himself in the face. 

"I built up a wall and I wouldn't let nobody in. And finally, it just got to the point where it just exploded and there was no controlling it," Sandness said. 

He took the stage with his psychiatrist and surgeon to talk about the surgery, which gave him a new future and the mental health problems he said led up to the attempted suicide. 

"If you are feeling these thoughts and feelings, you just need to get it out there and you need to talk to someone," Sandness said. 

He is using his new future to help save someone else's life. 

"If I could just help one person to just reach out to somebody ... and that's it. That's all I ask," Sandness said. 

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, there is help and it is effective. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers 24/7 free and confidential support. The number is 1-800-273-TALK.