This is horrific news out of Detroit today: 13-year-old Tyler Nichols brought a gun to school this morning and shot himself in a school bathroom. He died later in the day at a nearby hospital.Obviously, it’s still much too early to know any of the details, or the “whys”, of why he ended his young life. At this moment, bullying does not appear to be the factor. What is known at this time is that Tyler secured a legally registered gun from an unidentified relative and brought it into the school today. Somewhere around 8:00 this morning, he reportedly went to a bathroom on another floor and shot himself. One of his schoolmates found him lying on the floor and notified school officials. Soon after, the school was placed on lockdown as police investigated.At the hospital, a suicide note was reportedly found somewhere on Tyler’s person. Few details have been given, at this point, as to the contents of the note. However, one thing that is being reported is that he did say that he was “…sick of all the drama…” in his life. Again, only those closest to him will understand what that means, and we won’t speculate. What’s important is that, for whatever reason, a 13-year-old felt so overwhelmed with whatever “drama” he had going on his life that he saw no way out but to simply end his life. The enormity of this tragedy hasn’t even set in, yet. As he was reportedly a very popular and intelligent students, his classmates…and teachers will be forever affected by what happened Thursday morning at Davidson Middle School. But, it’s his family who will live the rest of their lives with the relentless grief of knowing that Tyler is gone for good. It’s a pain no parent should ever, ever!, have to go through.
As the gun control debate continues to gather momentum across the country, one question that I’m sure will be raised is why was it so easy for him to get ahold of a loaded gun? That’s not to point fingers at the relative who owns the gun. I’m sure they’re beside themselves with grief right now. Rather, it’s to ask the question: “when do we start paying attention to gun safety and gun control in this country?” Just how many lives must be lost to gun violence before we, as a people, finally say “Enough!!! Something must be done!!!”?Rallying swiftly to pay their respects to Tyler, the community gathered Thursday evening for a candlelight vigil in his memory. Hundreds attended. Undoubtedly, many of them are still trying to come to terms with what happened in their school, in their community, and in their lives today. It will be a long time before they’re able to sort it all out. However, unfortunately, right now, as I type this, the speculation machine is already in full-gear on one social media site with the standard cries about bullying. Bullying is a horrible epidemic that we face today, but not every teen suicide is a result of bullying. And, from the looks of things, at least here in the early stages, bullying was not a factor in Tyler Nichol’s suicide.
What we cannot lose track of is that Tyler left behind a family that, at this very moment, is stunned by today’s actions, absolutely overwhelmed by indescribable grief and sorrow. Our focus needs to be on them, as we offer them all of the support, and condolences, we can possibly muster. They’re going to need it.
What is also very apparent is that we, as a society, need to do a much, much better job at reaching out to these young people. We’re failing miserably. Every time I see another name attached to the word “suicide”, I’m reminded that we’re not doing enough to reach them. We’re failing at making them understand that whatever pain they’re experiencing right now is temporary! We’re failing at making them realize that their lives are worth living, that things will (honestly!) get better! We’re failing at keeping them alive long enough to understand that they’re strong enough to make it through whatever it is they’re facing. And, sadly, as we continue to fail, the number of teen suicides continues to rise. Enough!
To the family of Tyler Nichols, I send my deepest sympathy. I can’t even fathom what you’re going through right now. Rest in peace, Tyler.
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With “bully”, “bullying”, and “bullycide” now a part of our everyday vernacular, it’s easy to lose track of the real fact that bullying isn’t the only driving force behind teen suicide. Depression, as well as other mental illnesses, also play a large roll in it. Depression, perhaps, just as much as bullying. In fact, some say that depression is the leading cause of suicides.
I received word late last week that 17-year-old Hannah Gabriel Myer ended her life on Wednesday, March 13th after a long battle with depression. The person with whom I spoke will remain anonymous, but she was a longtime friend of Hannah’s. The picture she painted of the struggles her friend endured was heartbreaking:
We lived in Colorado Springs Colorado. She loved to ski and was 6 in our league. She was a beautiful girl who didn’t like herself. Her family was very rich, and none of her parents ever paid attention to her. Her nanny always took care of her. She also had bulimia, but I was the only one who knew. She used to cut. She loved her dog so much, and she told me Spencer, the dog, would be the only reason she stayed. I have Spencer now.
Her parents weren’t around much before she died, so they have asked me a lot. Like, what would she want at her funeral. If she wanted a funeral. Her favorite song, etc. She had a 4.0 and was in 3 APs. She was basically the perfect child but was cracking under pressure and couldn’t tell anyone. I was the only one who knew, and I’ve told counselors etc. But, no one did anything. And, now she’s gone. She was just so beautiful and should never have died.
This beautiful girl had parents who didn’t know who their daughter was. I’m sure that, now that she’s gone, they regret having missed out on sharing in on more of her life. That they can no longer make amends and get to know their lovely daughter is equally as tragic as the suicide, itself. This beautiful girl had a friend, who was her de facto family, in the true sense of the word, who tried to save her friend but knew in the end that “…whatever I do was never going to be enough.” I don’t know which is more frustrating: the fact that, at least in Hannah’s mind, her parents were too busy with their own lives, or the fact that her friend tried getting her counseling but no one did anything. Either of the two is bad enough. Either of the two could be enough, on their own, to lead an already-fragile person over the edge. Together, they form a lethal combination that proved too much for Hannah Myers to overcome. Now she’s gone. Now, her parents are struggling to learn who their daughter was through her friend while coping with the devastation of losing a child. This is never easy for anyone.
For as beautiful as Hannah was, I find it haunting to see the level of obvious pain in her eyes. I wondered if that was just my imagination working after the fact. I was assured by her friend, however, that the pain I thought I saw was, in fact, very real and very visible to anyone who took the time to notice. Her response to my question of whether it was my imagination, or was I able to see the pain in her eyes was: “You can. I saw, but no one else did”.
It’s never easy to write about these teen suicides. In fact, it gets harder every time. Like most teen suicides, if not all, this could’ve so easily been avoided. Hannah Myer didn’t have to die! Once again, we see an instance where sheer negligence led to the untimely death of a young person. The attempt was made to get her some much-needed therapy and counseling by a trained professional. Nothing was done. Again. And, once again, we’re left wondering what is it going to take to get people - adults!! - to realize that we’ve got a major epidemic on our hands!? Why are so many young people dying by their own hands with nothing being done about it!? That is what’s most infuriating!! It’s almost as if the message that is being sent is that these young lives are expendable. That’s a tough pill to swallow; however, the redundancy of the situations surrounding far-too-many of these teen suicides makes it easy for one to walk away with that impression. Certainly, more can be done to prevent them from happening. Obviously, more needs to be done to prevent them from happening. As one parent of a recent suicide victim put it: “…Look at the kids. They’re reaching out to us, and we owe them more than what we’re giving them.” That, from a parent who lost a teenager to suicide. We can do more. We must do much more.
Through this blog, you, Hannah, will never be forgotten. Though most of the people who will read this never knew you, they will never forget you. Or, your smile. Or, the pain in your eyes. I hope you are now at peace.
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