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Archive for the ‘Mental Health’ Category

Nigel Hardy, 13, Bully-related Suicide

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Even though you haven’t been reading about them here over the past month, the teen suicides – LGBT and straight, alike – have been steadily mounting.  And, even now, with the news of the Boston Marathon bombing dominating the news (and, rightfully so), the teen suicides continue.  What really gets under my skin is how little attention these tragic events get even as the death toll continues to climb. I’ve said it before, and it’s worth saying again and again:  it’s as if these young people’s lives are expendable.  They.  Are.  Not.nigel hardyYesterday, April 15th, 13-year-old Nigel Hardy was reported missing after being suspended from school for defending himself in school against bullies.  Seeing that news circulate on facebook made me nervous, at best.  Fear of the worst set in quickly.  Word spread very quickly in Palmdale, where he lived and went to school.  His father found a suicide note in his bedroom Monday morning and then noticed his handgun was missing.  The school Nigel attended, Hillview Middle School, was placed on “heightened awareness”, basically lockdown.  Monday night, Nigel was found.  Shortly after, he was pronounced dead at an Antelope Valley hospital.

Nigel, who turned 13 only last Thursday, April 11th, was a cheerleader at his middle school.  Apparently, that led to his being bullied. Various news reports say that he had gotten in a fight with his bully, or bullies, and that led to him being suspended.  He became despondent over that.  Now, he’s gone.Nigel Hardy2Where does this end?  When do we seriously and honestly reach the point where we’ve seen enough carnage and devastation that comes with these teen suicides and their aftermath?  When do we stop making excuses for the ones responsible for pushing these young people to the edge and start holding them accountable?  When is enough truly enough?  I don’t think anyone can answer that, and that’s what has become overwhelmingly frustrating for me.  No one has any answers!!  No one has any solutions!!  And, to add insult to injury, our government officials are paying attention to any- and everything but the fact that bullying and the related teen suicides have reached epidemic proportions.  Instead, we’re continuously dished the same, tired rhetorical responses.  We’re still getting the “boys will be boys”, “kids will be kids” spiel that we’ve been hearing for far too long, now.  Nigel’s suicide is not the first one where the person(s) involved in the bullying are known.  What is being done about the fact that their actions cost another teenager his life!!??

Here in Maryland last year, there was a horrific traffic accident involving four young people who were best of friends.  They’d been partying, and the driver certainly should not have been driving.  Three of them died in the accident.  The driver survived.  He’s now serving a lengthy prison sentence for his actions.  Why?  Because his actions led to the deaths of his three friends. He was held accountable.  These young people who terrorize their schoolmates, or sometimes even strangers online!, to the point where the victim ends their lives get nothing!  There is zero accountability!!  And, that, as much as anything, is a major part of the problem.  As long as they know they can continue to do this without any risk of repercussion, they will continue.  Not only that, but their actions will continue to escalate.  It’s really just that simple.

Sure, there are those who believe that the best way to deal with this is to also “treat” the bully(s).  As one person on the facebook blog page commented last week:

Bullies have a Reason for the way the act so I felt sorry for them

We agreed, ahem, to disagree.  I do understand that these menaces have issues going on in their own lives that causes them to do the things they do.  In many, if not most!, cases, it’s a very bad living condition at home.  That’s a whole different issue for another time.  And, I’m all for getting them the help they need to become better, more productive, and less menacing people.  That is, when there isn’t a death attached to their name and their actions.  Understand this:  it is 2013.  The “Information Age” is maturing.  There is 100% absolutely NO WAY that Nigel Hardy’s bullies didn’t know that there are teens committing suicide NEARLY EVERYDAY!!, and bullying is often the root of it!!  NO.  WAY.  They KNOW this is happening!  It’s impossible for them to NOT know.  Period.  Accept that.  It’s impossible for these kids to NOT know that their actions could very well lead to yet another suicide.  We’ve MUST understand and accept this reality!  And, the reason why it’s so vital that we, as adults, come to this understanding of what really going on is because, once we accept the reality that they KNOW what they’re doing could very well lead to yet another suicide, we can accept the reality that they absolutely must be held accountable for their actions.  Anything less than that, and we’re only fooling ourselves.  These young people are telling us, as loudly as they can, that they don’t care if their victim kills themselves!!  In some cases, they even TELL the victim to “go kill yourself”, “nobody would care if you died”, and worse.  How can we NOT hold them accountable for their actions!  How can we even dream of coddling the perpetrators when there is a devastated, grieving family who will never, ever have their young, loved one to coddle anymore?  How is that even justifiable?  It’s not.

This has gone much, much too far.  The time has long since passed for us to take some serious action that will prevent this from continuing to happen.  As loudly as people are shouting for marriage equality, so, too, should the voices be raised for our school officials, our law enforcement agencies, and our lawmakers to get off their collective asses and start making some real changes in policies that will prevent these teen suicides to continue to mount.  Anything less, and we’re only spinning our wheels as yet another family mourns.Nigel collageWe’ll never know how brightly Nigel’s star would’ve shone.  Rest in peace, young man.

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Tyler Nichols, 13, Suicide at Southgate Middle School

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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.Tyler NicholsObviously, 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.Davidson-Middle-School-scene-aerials1-jpgAt 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!!!”?Southgate-vigil-1-jpgRallying 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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Hannah Gabriel Myer, 17: Her “Bully” was Depression

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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.

Hannah MyerI 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.” Hannah Myer2I 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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Joshua James Maddox, 15: Bullying Leads to Suicide in the U.K.

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Bullying, and bully-related suicide, isn’t restricted to the U.S. borders.  It’s happening worldwide.  The stories and the circumstances really don’t vary that much:  one or more misguided kid dealing with his or her own self-esteem issues, or just trying to fit in, verbally, emotionally, or sometimes physically abuses one of their peers to the point where that peer can’t take anymore and ends his/her life.  Add to that, the “official” response to it is also quite universal…to the point of frustration.joshua maddox2Joshua James Maddox was a month away from celebrating his 16th birthday.  He apparently dealt with Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder for which he “suffered months of cruel taunts from classmates“.  He also had a girlfriend who was two years younger than himself, for which he was labeled and “paedo” and, again, taunted brutally.

The list continues to grow.

We’re no closer to a solution today than we were last year at this time.

I woke up earlier this week to a voicemail from a distraught, tearful mother who had just lost her young son to yet another bully-related suicide.  It was heartbreaking to hear the depth of her pain.  Through my own tears, I was reminded how real this is and how devastated families are following these tragedies.  I was reminded that we need to be doing much, much more to prevent this from continuing to happen.joshua maddox3

Here’s the deal:  this is not going to get any better until we truly reach the point where we say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!! and truly mean it.  It’s that simple.  Parents of the bullies must be held accountable for their kids actions, especially when their child’s actions lead to the death of another child.  The bullies, themselves, must be held accountable, especially when their actions lead to the death of another person.  The school “officials” absolutely must be held accountable when they fail to take action to prevent bullying to continue to fester in their classrooms and schools.  The only way out of this is total accountability!  As long as no one has to answer for these life-changing tragedies, they are going to continue to happen.

I want young people to see what effect bullying can have and educate them better about how to deal with children who have mental health issues.

I think bullies need a stronger punishment, I feel deep down that nothing will be done about this and I worry it could happen to another family.

Those are the words of Joshua’s heartbroken mother, but they could be the words of many, many other mothers, and fathers, of past suicide victims whose child had endured insufferable bullying.  They are also the words that are now being echoed around this country and around the world.  There HAS to be accountability!!!

It’s becoming increasingly hard for me to believe anything other than the fact that these bullies simply do not care about human life.  They have no regards for the lives of others.  Bullying and bully-related suicides are in the news with such regularity, the only way to not know what’s going on is to live with your head tucked safely in a place where the sun doesn’t typically reach. joshua maddox

There are still those who say that these young bullies should face no punishment, that they should not be held accountable when their actions lead directly to one of their schoolmates ends his/her life.  There are still those who say that we need to coddle the bullies because they are dealing with issues, themselves.  To those people, I will simply say tell that to some of these parents who are now left with unfathomable grief, with a gaping hole right in the middle of their hearts and lives, for the rest of their lives!!   Explain to the grieving mother who just told me, through tears, that she just wants to hear her son sing again that his bullies shouldn’t be held accountable.  Tell Joshua’s parents that the bullies who tormented her son because he had ADHD and a girlfriend 2 years younger than himself that no one should be held accountable for her having to live the rest of her life without her talented son.  You can’t.  And, you know why you can’t?  Easy answer.  You can’t because you’re speaking theoretically.  You would have a much different point of view if this were your own child or someone close to your life.  Then, you, too, would want to see heads roll.  There has to be accountability.  Anything less than that, and we’re sending the message that these young lives are expendable.  They’re certainly not.

The “Sweet 16th” birthday is a milestone that Joshua Maddox won’t get to experience.  How much longer are we going to allow this to continue before we finally mean it when we say enough is enough!!!???

Rest in peace, Joshua.

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Hailey Petee, 11: Bullying leads to suicide

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It’s really not getting any better.  This one is as painful as they come.  Hailey Petee was 11-years-old.  Eleven years old!  The preteen girl from London, Ohio ended her life over the weekend.  Her lifeless body was found by her mother very early Sunday morning.haley peteeI don’t even know where to start.

It is reported that the London, Ohio school district is very proactive when it comes to bullying.  In fact, officials as well as Hailey’s mother have said that the bullying she endured didn’t occur in school or on the school grounds.  Rather, she was apparently severely bullied by middle-schoolers while riding her school bus.  Her mother explains that Hailey was tormented by these middle-schoolers on the school bus as well as around town.  It became so bad, they had to change Hailey’s bus route to avoid them.  Further, she was also restricted on where she could go around town, and with whom.  “She couldn’t even go to the park anymore”, says her grieving mother.  Apparently, even that wasn’t enough.

One of the bullies was an adult, a “neighborhood woman who had a daughter Hailey’s age”:

A neighborhood woman who has a daughter Hailey’s age was charged in October with disorderly conduct and telephone harassment. According to the police report, she had been yelling and cursing at Hailey when she saw the girl outside, and she had been taunting the family on Facebook. (The Columbus Dispatch)Hailey_Petee_CLH

Hailey Petee reportedly hated to wear the thick-framed glasses she was forced to wear in order to see.  They were a source of her harassment.  She was a very pretty young lady, glasses or no.

So, now what?  Here’s a case where the parents were proactive and did what any good parent would do to protect the welfare of their child.  It wasn’t enough.  The school system at least appears to be one of the few proactive systems that actually takes bullying very seriously and takes action when they hear of incidences of bullying.  It wasn’t enough!

Increasingly, people seem to be coming to the realization that one step that has to be implemented is there absolutely has to be some sort accountability placed on these people who are determined to wreak havoc on other people’s lives.  hailey's motherThey know what they’re doing is wrong!  They know what they’re doing is malicious!  They know that bullying is leading some to suicide!  Yet, the continue to do it anyway!  Why?  Well, there’s no one right answer; however, there are a few that comes immediately to mind:

  • they know that there will be no consequences;
  • they just don’t care;
  • no one is taking the time to teach them any better;
  • their older role models (parents, older siblings, older friends) are showing them, by example, that it’s okay to be a bullying.  It doesn’t matter what you do or say to another human being, even if it mean they end up committing suicide.

Dispute any one of those, and I’ll tell you you’re not paying attention to what’s going on.  It’s really that simple.  We are a society in great turmoil.  It’s hard to convince young people that bullying is wrong when they continuously see adults in their lives do it.  Role models.  Parents.  Teachers, in some cases.  Politicians.  Religious leaders.  Look around you!!  There are great examples of “it’s okay to bully others” in our faces every single day…by adults!  I’ll continue to say this until I’m blue in the face that in order to address this epidemic, what must start with the adults.  Period.  There is just no other way out of this.

Even on the facebook blog page, a page that is dedicated to a.) this blog; and, b.) raising anti-bullying awareness, it’s split 60/40, with the 40% being of the “suck-it-up-and-grow-a-backbone” mentality.  That gives you a snapshot of how deep-rooted this problem is.  How can we begin to work on teaching these young people that bullying is just plain wrong, how can we think about saving these young people from ending their lives, if we can’t come together, ourselvesas adults, on finding a solution?  Meanwhile, the young people are watching…and, listening.  And, we’re continuing to see the sad results of our indecisiveness.  WE need to figure this out!

I often get the argument “I was bullied when I was in school, but I didn’t kill myself!  There’s always been bullying.  These kids today are just soft.”  Someone posted a similar comment last night.  My response is worth repeating here:

Yes, make no mistake: bullying has ALWAYS been around…in one form or another. Here’s the difference with today’s kids, and bullying. You and I couldn’t send texts; you and I couldn’t tweet; you and I didn’t have facebook; there was no Ask.fm. WE DIDN’T HAVE THE INTERNET! The Internet has changed EVERYTHING!!! For starters, yes, today’s youth’s coping skills aren’t what ours were back then. You know why? Because they don’t get enough opportunity to interact, read: cope, in REAL LIFE!!!! Everything is OMG!!!, LOL!!!!, etc. These kids live their lives in the cyber-world. So, naturally, their coping skills are lagging from when you and I were in school. (thank GOD there was no Internet back then!!!!) Secondly, and this is important to understand, bullying in our day had a whole different face than bullying does today. I dealt with the schoolyard bullies, push you around, call you names, take your lunch money…the typical stuff back then. Big deal. Once the last bell rang for the day, WE WERE FREE!!!! We went home, we did our homework (maybe), then we were outside playing with our friends. That was then. Once again, today’s youth are cyber-kids. Therefore, bullying has the potential of being a 24/7 ordeal. Texts don’t end at the last bell of the day; tweets don’t stop just because they’re no longer in school; facebook status updates and comments proliferate after school for these kids. The bullying has the potential of NEVER ending!! We absolutely must stop comparing their world to ours if we’re ever going to figure this out. Two completely different worlds! These kids are in serious trouble unless, and until, we adults figure something out.Story haley

We, the adults, are failing these young people miserably.  They looking to us to lead them out of this disaster, and we’re dropping the ball.  Again, and again, and again.  In young Hailey’s case, it seems that everyone actually did do everything they could to prevent it from coming to this.  It just didn’t work out that way.  Now, they must go that next step and identify these youngsters who mercilessly bullied Hailey and make certain that they are held accountable for their actions.  There’s no other way.  As long as they realize that nothing is going to happen to them, they will continue doing what they’re doing.  And, we’ll continue losing one young life after another.  We can do better.  We owe it to this generation to do better.

Rest in peace, Hailey

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Jerad Meriweather, 13: Parents Blame Bullying for Suicide

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” Vibrant”, “prolific writer”, “brilliant mind”.  These are just some of the accolades bestowed upon 13-year-old Jerad Meriweather, who committed suicide Friday, January 18th.jerad meriweatherThe dual dilemma of bullying and bully-related suicides amongst teens is not going away.  Far from it.  We’re actually seeing an acceleration of incidences where bullying has been named as the root cause, or at the very least a contributor, to another teen ending his or her young life.  It’s a runaway train of a broken record.  Worse, the “officials” responses and handling of these cases are both irresponsible and mind-numbingly repetitive.

“There is no record of ______ ever being bullied”.

“Our records show that bullying was not involved in this case.”

Clearly, I could go on and on with the typical responses we hear time and time again.  Meanwhile, we’re seeing case after case of another teen’s life cut short, by their own hand, in which families and friends name bullying as the culprit.  What concerns me is that we are continuing to allow them to get away with being irresponsible in the handling of these cases.jerad meriweather2

Jerad had a circle of close friends whom he cared about deeply and was known to take on their pain and troubles as if they were his own.

Here’s what we know about bullying cases:  there’s rarely a “record on file” of it because these young people are afraid and/or reluctant to come forward with it.  They’re told over and over to “talk to someone”, to “tell a trusted adult”, “talk to your counselor”, all good things, to be sure.  However, what experience teaches them is that even if they do report it, typically one of these three things will happen:

  1. Reporting it will only lead to more bullying, of at a heightened level of intensity;
  2. THEY get labeled the problem, the troublemaker, as if it’s their fault that someone else  lacks so badly in self-control and self-esteem that they have to find others to pick on…typically someone they perceive to be weaker than themselves;
  3. Nothing.  Nothing at all.  I hear over and over and over ad nauseam about cases where the bullied reported it to “the responsible adult” only to have nothing done about it at all.  I guess the solace we could find here is that at least in the event the worst were to happen, there actually would be something “on record”.  

vigil for jeradFar too often, families and friends are having to say goodbye to their young loved one because…well…we, as a society, have yet to figure out how to get a firm grip on the bullying and bully-related suicides.  We’re failing miserably at coming up with a solid plan-of-action that will reduce the roar of bullying and bully-related suicides to a dull murmur.  The cost of that failure is a seemingly endless stream of teen suicides.  Teens, like Jerad Meriweather, who, by all accounts, was a shining star in the making.  At the same time, we must also work harder to understand another common component in teen, or any, suicide:  depression.  Did Jerad deal with depression and bullying.  Well, that question will remain unanswered for a lifetime.  However, according to Gerald, Jerad’s father, his son…

…devoured books and wrote essays that were better than work by adult authors. One essay about depression won Jerad an award at school in October.

 Of course, writing an awarding winning essay about it doesn’t mean that he was dealing with it, himself.  He could’ve very well been looking at it through the eyes of one of his close friends:

Jerad had a circle of close friends whom he cared about deeply and was known to take on their pain and troubles as if they were his own.

“Passionate” is how Gerald Meriweather described his son.  From everything I’ve read about him, “incredible” would have to be added to the many accolades.  It’s maddening that we, as adults, cannot figure a way to prevent this from continuing to happen.  It’s shattering, to me, to continue to see these young faces appear with the word “suicide” attached.  But, it’s heart-wrenching to see that we, as a society and as adults!, we’re still failing so miserably at preventing this to happen.  They deserve so much more.  They deserve a lifetime.

Rest in peace, Jerad.

Brenden Robert Lumley, 16: Depression, “…the worst bully…” Claims his Life

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Every time I learn about another teen suicide, it wrenches my heart.  Sometimes, I even get overwhelmed writing about them.  And, sometimes, I just cry.  That was the case as I read about Brenden Lumley’s suicide, which occurred on December 9th, read over some of the information, and looked at some of the pictures that his loyal and devoted friends and family are posting on the facebook memorial page that has been set up, by them, in his honor.  Nothing, though, moved me more than a letter Brenden’s mother, Sherry, wrote to the assembled group of friends and family.  She spoke openly and honestly about the wonderful 16 years she was able to spend with her son and how incredible of a young person he was; she spoke of the “bully” that claimed his life; and, she passionately reached out to other young people who may be dealing with depression, as well.  And, she made me cry. Brendan

Thank you everyone for joining this group, in support of the most amazing person that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing….my son….my life….Brenden (Boo) Lumley.  What strikes everyone the most when they think about Brenden is his amazing smile, his laugh and what a great loyal, honest and trustworthy friend he was.  I know he will be missed by so many, and I really feel that he would want me to share a few things with all of you…his family…his friends…and anyone who has been affected by this tragedy.  Most important, Brenden never meant to hurt anyone; he just could not deal with the pain and the rage that tormented him inside.  He did have so many loyal friends, and he had his big brother who always tried to protect him and guide him.  And, of course he always knew that he had me, his mommy, and he knew that I loved him more than life!!  But, where he got stuck was not wanting to bother any of us with his pain, he didn’t want to put that weight on us, even though we tried so many times to encourage him to let us in,  But, he did not want us to hurt the way that he hurt, so he trapped it inside.

Depression robs us all of any peaceful thoughts…it allows u to believe horrible things about yourself and eventually if you allow it to….it will close of any light in your life until we feel so alone that you feel like there is no other choice!!!  That is simply not true at all!!!  It is worse than any other disease because it can only be diagnosed by your heart, and the only cure is for you to be humble enough to accept the help from the ones that love you…which is very hard for some people to do.  Brenden thought it was impossible.  Depression is the worst bully and one that we cannot just lock up in jail and throw away the key!!!

Please know from me personally some of the pain and effects of suicide.  Brenden left behind a brother who feels like he couldn’t protect him, a step brother who feels lost without him.  Two sisters that are scared to walk freely in our home because of the terror that we all still feel from what we witnessed that night!!  A mommy and dad that feels so much guilt, so much loss, broken hearts and the most unimaginable pain every moment of every day!!  We are frozen in time, and our world will NEVER be the same!!  It will take years for us to rebuild this home again and to fill it with peace, happiness and love again!  Please honour Brenden’s name and stand up against depression, please talk to the people who love you…believe me…you are not alone even…but depression will tell you otherwise!  I promise right now that if anyone ever feels alone, I WILL be your friend.  I CAN help you.  I WANT to help you.  I WILL find someone to help you!  Brenden would not want any other family to go through this pain and what we have been through.  Don’t be scared…don’t be too proud…seek out the ones that love you, they want to help you….and if you really don’t think you can find anyone…I AM HERE.  I was here for my Boo, but he could not take my hand.  Please don’t make that same mistake.

Thank you all again for your love and support.

Sherry Ayres….mommy of Brenden (Boo) Lumley and siblings…..suicide survivor…friendBrendan-Lumley-213x300

With bullying and the terrible effects it’s having in school and online today, there’s a tendency to overlook the fact that not all teen suicides are a result of bullying.  Although there are no “official” statistics, due in part to the fact that bully-related suicides are enormously downplayed, depression plays a major role in many, if not the majority, of teen suicides.  It was depression that claimed Jamie Hubley’s life.  It was depression that claimed EricJames Borges’ life.  It was depression that claimed Brenden Lumley’s life.  There are more…many, many more.

Brenden was surrounded by an overwhelming amount of love and support.  The depression lied to him an convinced him otherwise.  That’s a common trait with that disease.  I was told by one of Jamie Hubley’s family members that he, too, was completely surrounded by lots of love and support.  I know that to be true.  Like Brenden, he couldn’t see it.  The depression wouldn’t allow him to.

It’s time that we, as a people, remove the stigmatism of mental illnesses, depression in particular.  As we’re seeing over and over, depression can be deadly.  If we’re truly concerned about changing this climate of young people feeling so alone and hopeless that they fell ending their lives is the only way out, it’s imperative that we begin to put into place mechanisms for them to better deal with their depression.  Whatever it takes.  Whatever will spare another family from having to go through what Brenden’s is going through right now.

Rest in peace, Brenden.  You were loved, and are missed, by many.faces of Brendan

***IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW ARE STRUGGLING WITH DEPRESSION, TALK TO SOMEONE!!!***

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Duncan Ballard, 14: Family Says Suicide Was Due to Bullying

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On New Year’s Day, 14-year-old Duncan Ballard ended his life.  The family of the eighth-grader says that his suicide was the result of bullying.

Duncan Alexander BallardIt’s hard to imagine that, in the year 2013, with all of the glory of the Internet and the “Information Age”, non-stop 24/7 news outlets, and social networks that, at times, supersedes the news outlets, that we are still trying to figure out how to put an end to the bullying that is causing teens to end their lives.  It been said here to the point of repetitiveness that anyone, anyone!!, who doesn’t know by now that bullying is at the root of far-too-many teen suicides either has their head buried (fill in your own expression completion), or they just flat-out don’t care.  Either case is problematic.

Stories continue to pour in, on a daily basis, to the facebook blog page telling about being bullied, sometimes severely so.  And, almost always, the stories are pretty much the same:  They’re getting bullied at school; the teachers/school administrators pretty much turn a blind eye and do nothing; depression is followed by self-harm (in one way or another).  And, sadly, sometimes it comes to this.  Yet, even when it does come to this, STILL nothing is done.  It’s as if today’s youth are expendable.  They’re not.  Not by a long shot.

Duncan’s family described him as different, loving, smart.  Creative.  He was a songwriter and liked to write and sing his songs.  He was also, they say, being “picked on” both at school and at home by his peers.  New Year’s Day, he reached his breaking point.  He went to the upstairs of his family’s house and ended his life.

As for the responses from both the school administration and the Marion police department, you can recite their answers from memory.  It doesn’t change much.

So, then, what IS the answer?  How do we even begin to get across to these young schoolyard bullies that their behavior is a.) unacceptable; and, b.) causing severe harm and even death?  How do we get them to care!!??  How do we get the officials to change their mindset and approach when it comes to bullying?  How do we get them to care!?  And, how do we get the bullying victims, themselves, to understand that they’re stronger than they realize, that this incredibly cruel and sometimes even criminal behavior they’re enduring now will definitely pass?  It’s unfortunate that in 2013 there are still so many unanswered questions.  It’s even more unfortunate that there are still young people who are ending their lives because of the actions of a few, actions that there are no repercussions for!!!!  

Duncan Ballard should still be here, writing and singing his songs.  Putting smiles on people’s faces, and in their hearts.  Instead, some mean-spirited, perhaps even hateful kids chose him to pick on, to exercise their own low self-esteem on.  They pushed him to the end of his young rope.  Worse, there will be no consequences for their actions.  Count on it.  And, before you naysayers chime in with the “nobody-made-him-end-his-life; he-chose-to-do-that” rhetoric, save it for some of the parents of some of these young suicide victims where bullying was involved.  I’m certain they’d have a thing or two to say to you about it.

Rest in peace, Duncan.  I sure wish I could’ve heard some of your music.

********************SUICIDE IS NEVER THE ANSWER!!!  TALK TO SOMEONE!!!********************

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Jessica Laney, 16: Ask.fm Named in Yet Another Teen Suicide

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Sunday night, December 9th, 16-year-old Jessica Laney ended her young life.  Friends say cyberbullying endured on the infamous website Ask.fm was at the root of the suicide.  That’s strike three!Jessica LaneyI don’t know which is more maddening:  the fact that now three teenagers that we know about have ended their lives after enduring relentless cyberbullying on the same website, or that the officials in this case are reciting the same road-weary lines that we hear time after time.

“Our thoughts and prayers go to the Jessica Marie Laney’s family as they deal with their loss.  (Pasco County Sheriff’s Office) is not aware of any formal complaint to the Pasco School District or PSO about her being bullied,” said Doug Tobin, Public Information Officer for the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.

Ask.fm is under fire, and rightfully so.  In just the past three months, three teenaged girls have ended their lives because of reportedly being severely cyberbullied on the website…a website where one can post and comment anonymously, leaving them free to menace, harass, and abuse without fear of retribution.  Obviously, there’s a problem afoot that needs to be addressed.  The question is, however, “how do we go about addressing it in a way that will be effective?  Do we call for the website to simply be shut down?  There’s a petition circulating right now that calls for exactly that.  If you believe that’s the answer, here’s the link for you to go and sign the petition.  Will shutting down the beleaguered website solve the problem?  Or, will the guilty parties simply find other websites to go to with their menacing activities?  In all likelihood, the latter would come into play.  And, that presents a bigger, even more realistic problem that we’re seemingly overlooking:  these young people who are continuing to do this have absolutely no regard for human life and need to be held accountable.  But, then, there’s the issue of the parents of those who do the bullying.

Listen, here’s breaking news for all who don’t already know it:  there is a two-headed epidemic in our society today that’s decimating today’s young generation:  bullying and bully-related suicides.  Apparently, that news has yet to reach a portion of our population because, with as much as bullying and bully-related teen suicide is in the news, these occurrences are not only continuing to happen, they are increasing in both numbers and intensity.  For these kids to be posting comments like “why don’t you go kill yourself?” or “nobody even likes you, anyway” or “everybody would be better off if you were dead” even though bullying, cyberbullying, and bully-related teen suicide are all in the news regularly, one can only draw one conclusion:  they don’t give a damn about human life.  And, that level of indifference can only point back to the homes.

Will holding these troubled young people legally responsible for cases of bullying and bully-related suicide make a difference?  We can look at New Jersey for answers.  With one of the nation’s toughest anti-bullying laws on the books, the teens responsible in the Lennon Baldwin bully-related suicide were charged and jailed for the bullying that led up to the suicide.  In fact, an attack on Lennon by one of the three young men was caught on video.  The two juveniles involved were sentenced to two years probation, which sounds like a wrist slap, to be sure, but it keeps them on a short leash for the next two years.  The third person, an adult at the time of the assault and consequent bullying that pushed Lennon over the edge, is still awaiting his fate.  Is this what is needed to, once-and-for-all, bring this chapter to an end?  Or, is this just putting a bandage on a gaping wound?

Then, there’s the parents.  The reality is that when the shit hits the fan and someone is actually forced to answer for their actions, there’s always a parent, or parents, who quickly utters the “my-child-would-never-do-anything-to-harm-anyone” clause.  Human nature, perhaps, yet reckless and irresponsible in these cases.

What’s needed are wholesale changes in how we are going about this.  We can continue to talk about it until we’re blue in the face.  It’s not changing anything!  We can continue to shake our heads and say all of the appropriate catch-phrases that comes along with these tragedies.  Pick one.  It’s not changing anything!!  First and foremost, in every school and in every home across the country (and, around the world!), we have to have sit-down, face-to-face, honest dialogue about what’s going on and what definitive steps we can take, starting today!, to prevent it from continuing.  WHATEVER IT TAKES!!!  Secondly, as it continues to happen from this day forward, there needs to be real accountability and real consequences.  Period.  I mean, come on, is it really acceptable, at this stage of the game, to hear a young person utter the meaningless words “I (we) were just playing around.  I (we) didn’t mean for him/her to do this.”? Emphatically, the answer is no!  It is not acceptable, if only for the simple reason that we’ve seen this in the news and on social media sites long enough now to have a full understanding that this is a serious problem…an epidemic.  And, real lives are being lost.  And, finally, it’s time to hold these law enforcement agencies and school officials’ feet to the fire.  They’re getting off completely scot-free!  “Our records indicates no reports of bullying”.  Not acceptable.  Dig deeper.  Work harder.  Erase that culture you’ve helped create that allows these youngsters to feel comfortable in continuing to bully and cyberbully even as it continues to lead to teenagers ending their lives.  As long as they understand that there will be no real consequences, they have no compelling reason to change their behaviors.Jessica_Laney3_517219795For the sake of Jessica Laney, and the far-too-many who have gone before her, it’s time to quit talking about how sad, how outrageous this is and start doing some things that will bring this scourge to a screeching halt.

Rest in peace, Jessica.

**SUICIDE IS NEVER, EVER THE ANSWER!!!!  TALK TO SOMEONE!  SEEK HELP!  DON’T. GIVE. UP.**

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David Q. Phan, 14, Death by Suicide

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Thursday, November 29th, 14-year-old David Phan had a meeting, along with his mother, with the school principal.  They left school together around 1:30 p.m.  Around 3:00, David returned to a skybridge near Bennion Junior High School, where he was a 9th grader, and committed suicide in front of schoolmates and a few parents.david phanAs police and school officials are, once again, downplaying to allegations that David had been bullied, students who went to school with him and knew him offer a completely different story:

“He was nice to everyone, even if sometimes people weren’t nice to him,” says a fellow ninth-grader.

“I just don’t understand why people can bully him and be OK with it,” said another student. “He was a really sweet kid and didn’t hurt anybody. He didn’t do anything wrong”

“They were just mean to him for no reason,” said yet another.

So, it’s apparent that those around him on a daily basis understood that David was, indeed, being bullied.  For what reason remains a mystery at the point.  What’s also apparent is that, once again, the police and school officials are, at least at this early stage, letting another teen suicide with bullying implications slip through the cracks.

“He was one of the sweetest guys I’ve ever known,” said yet another fellow ninth-grader.

He remembered when the teen had bought him a drink and never expected to be paid back for it.  But other students picked on him, this student went on to say. His classmates and friends said he was bullied and called names at school.phan2These are real-life people, schoolmates and parents, sharing real-life unimaginable grief because some people still find it okay to be abusive, be insulting, be exclusionary, to…bully.  They have no regard for the pain and destruction that they know they’re causing.  They don’t give a good damn that some of these young people are ending their own lives behind the senselessness of bullying.  They flat-out do.  not.  care.  One reason for the nonchalance is they aren’t seeing any sort of consequences for this behavior anywhere!!!phanAnd, because there are no consequences anywhere, ever, for these cases of bullying that lead to suicide, scenes like this are being played out every single day somewhere around the world.

“Our investigation hasn’t found any indication of bullying….”  Sound familiar?

Because no one is ever held accountable, not ever, in these cases, the young people who do the bullying have become emboldened in their actions.  Emboldened, their troubling behavior continues even as it continues to contribute to the growing number of teen suicides.  You don’t think the number is growing (over last year)?  So far this school year, I’ve personally reported on now-40 teen suicides.  That’s just since the end of August.  But, wait.  That number doesn’t account for the additional 5-6 that I know occurred but was never able to gather any information.  That includes two right here in my own backyard.  Worst still, that 40 only represents the ones that I’ve reported on.  Make no mistake:  there have been at least that many more that we haven’t heard about.  And still, with all of the statistical data right there for us all to review, with the hundreds, perhaps thousands!, of family members and friends who are left to grieve and struggle and wonder every single day for the rest of their own lives because our society still condones the actions that lead these teens to commit suicide.  Condones?  Yes, condones.  By remaining silent, or sweeping it under the proverbial rug, or simply turning a blind eye, you are condoning the behavior.  

Something, obviously, was going terribly wrong with David Phan.  His mother and he met with the principal, in a closed-door meeting, the day of his suicide.  Upon leaving the meeting to go home with his mother, David was checked for weapons.  Something, obviously, was going terribly wrong with David Phan.

Of course, the police and school administrators report “no sign of bullying”.

Are you getting angry, yet?  You should be.

So, once again I say, to you David Phan, I’m sorry that we, as a society, let you down.  You should be enjoying those friends who loved you so much and getting ready for Christmas.  Rest in peace.

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