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Let's work together against bullying and help bring the teen suicide rate down to zero

Posts Tagged ‘Depression

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.

******************************SUICIDE PREVENTION RESOURCES!!!!!!******************************

BEFRIENDERS

SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE

THE TREVOR PROJECT

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: the blog page

Nathaniel Hamrick, 19, Death by Suicide

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While researching information about another unfortunate teen suicide, I stumbled across this sad posting on tumblr:

Rest Peacefully, dear.

Nathan Hamrick, 19 years old.  He committed suicide this morning.  His grandparents lived up main road,  & he rode the bus home with me all the time.  He used to drive me home when it was snowing outside.  He took his life after a supposed fight between him & his Ex-Fiance.  Mai heart goes out to those he was closest to.  His family, and friends, and even those like me, who felt he was a genuine person.  I hope you’re in a better place, Nathan.  I only wish I could have stopped it from happening.  You will never be forgotten. ♥~Tomorrow, there will be no school for those at mai High School. Councilors will be there to speak with anyone who needs to come.  & There’s now a Facebook page devoted to him. It hasn’t been a day, & he’s missed so terribly. ♥

Granted, the last time I followed information of a teen suicide from that particular website, it turned out to be a terribly cruel hoax.  Upon further investigation, sadly, I learned that this story is real.  The word on one of the facebook memorial pages set up in Nathan’s honor is that he had gotten in a fight with his ex-fiance.  However, that’s unsubstantiated.  What is evident on this facebook page as well as the other one set up to memorialize him is that he was very well-loved by both family and friends.  His mother posted this heart-wrenching farewell on one of the pages:

From his family, I want to say, Thank you to everyone that has said a kind word, called, visited or prayed.  Nathan was/is the best of the best.  His heart was as big as the world, but it could shatter with just one word.  He would take his shirt off and give it anyone that needed it.  He watched out for everyone but Nathan.  He loved his friends, and he would have fought side by side any one of them.  I was blessed to carry this precious young man inside my body for 9 months and then bring him into the world.  I gave him life and yesterday morning at 7 am I once again tried to force my life inside of him, but this time Mommy couldn’t kiss his boo boo and make it better.  I will always love you Nathan and baby I hope you have found peace.

Whatever it takes, and whatever the cost, we must figure out a way to drastically reduce the teen suicide rate.  It’s staggering to me that this is the third one that I’ve written about this week alone, and it doesn’t stop there!  What’s sobering is that these are only the ones I know about.  Make no mistake: there are more.

The question that has to be asked, repeatedly, “what can we do better to prevent these young people from ending their lives?”  I think removing the veil of secrecy would help a lot.  The argument is made that publicizing these tragedies glamorize teen suicides and influences other teens to accept it as an option.  NEWSFLASH:  they’re doing it in record numbers in spite of this veil of secrecy.  Suicide, and in particular, teen suicide is seen as a taboo subject.  And, to this author, that is counterproductive.  Blinding floodlights need to be shined on the subject so that awareness is raised and everyone can become better educated on how to prevent it.  Clearly, the status quo is not working.

What would’ve saved Nathan Hamrick’s life?  No one knows that answer; no one will ever know that answer.  What, if anything, could’ve been done differently that would’ve saved his life?  From everything I’ve read about this tragedy, there wasn’t a thing his family and friends could’ve done differently.

…Look at the kids. They’re reaching out to us, and we owe them more than what we’re giving them.”

We simply must find a way.  Too many lives are being lost.

Rest in peace, Nathan

********************************SUICIDE PREVENTION RESOURCES********************************

Enough is Enough: the blog page

Suicide Prevention

Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Befrienders

The Trevor Project

Dustin VanLaningham, 17, Gone Too Soon

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It’s happening at a pace that’s both heartbreaking and hard to keep up with.  It’s painful to realize that there are so many young people in our world today who find the finality of death easier to deal with than the ebbs and flows of life.  Saturday, September 22nd, 17-year-old Dustin VanLaningham ended his life.

In the aftermath of his death, and with what has become the standardized cries of bullying, Dustin’s father swiftly sent out a letter stating that Dustin had not been bullied, that bullying wasn’t the cause of his suicide.  Conversely, Dustin’s sister posted a letter stating just the opposite.  So, we will be left forever to wonder which is fact and which isn’t.  And, again, the “why” isn’t nearly as important as the fact that this young man is forever gone.  In his letter to the student body where Dustin went to school, the father wrote:

“Pointing fingers at any one individual does not bring him back nor will it solve the underlying issues. Dustin did have teachers who cared enough about him and would do what they could to help him.”

However, this is what his sister wrote on facebook:

“His situation was not just your typical teenager having a bad day and deciding to end his life because of it.  There were many events leading up to this happening.  He had been picked on almost everyday of his life, yet he tried to stay strong and still stuck up for what he believed in.  He still stood up and protected those who were in need.  He was a kind, funny, very talented, high spirited individual who loved to make others laugh.  Even if it was towards himself.  But, those who would use that gift against him tore him apart. Piece by piece, comment after comment. Until he could not take it anymore. So, on September 22, 2012, a beautiful, high spirited young man took his life.”

What’s most important is that young people are struggling today like never before.  Of course, there has always been suicides.  I’ve stated before in this blog that my first experience with teen suicide dates back to my first year out of high school.  And, we won’t talk about how long ago that was.

Were there less cases of teen suicides “back in the day”?  Or, were the simply underreported?  There was no Internet back then.  There was no 24/7 instant news from around the globe.  So, having gone to school in Maryland, there would be no way for me to know if another of my peers had ended his life in, say, Des Moines.  That said, I still choose to believe that teen suicide was much less of an issue “back then”.

Are there more teen suicides today because of the Internet?  There’s been no studies done to buttress that; however, it would make perfect sense to me.  See, before the days of instant, and constant, contact with the entire world, those who were being bullied at school only had to deal with it while at school.  Once the last bell of the day sounded, we were free.  The bullies went their own way; we went our own way.  Unless the schoolyard bully was also a neighborhood bully, we didn’t have to worry about them again until the next day.  And, even with that, unless they were in the same classes, we could typically figure out how to manipulate the school building, schoolyard, and our schedules to best avoid any contact with them.  That’s not the case today.  Today, with texting, Twitter, facebook, tumblr, and more, there’s 24/7 access to the world.  That, unfortunately, includes bullies and tormentors.  There’s no escape for today’s youth.  They’re trapped, even at home.

What if the suicide has nothing to do with bullying whatsoever, as is stated by Dustin’s father?  One thing for certain:  something had to push Dustin over the edge.  According to his sister, Dustin felt his life was meaningless.  At age 17.  That’s heartbreaking!  That also speaks to another culprit that is just as responsible for teen suicides as bullying:  depression.  And, if you combine the two, the outcome is usually nothing good.

The bottom line is that we, as a society, have a generation of young people who are screaming at the top of their lungs for help.  We absolutely have to figure out a way to answer their call.  That sounds simple enough; however, as we’re seeing all-too-often, it’s proving to be much easier said than done.

Was bullying involved in Dustin VanLaningham’s suicide?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Dad says no; sister say yes.  We’ll never know for sure. Was it mental health issues, namely depression?  Possibly.  What matters is that something caused him to feel that death was easier than continuing to deal with life on life’s terms.  As a result, he’s gone.  His family and friends are left to forever mourn, grieve…and, wonder.

Rest in peace, Dustin.

*****************IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW ARE IN CRISIS, TALK TO SOMEONE!!!*****************

Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Befrienders

The Trevor Project

Enough is Enough: the blog page

Andrew Mulville, 17, Death by Suicide

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On Thursday, March 22nd, 17-year-old Andrew Mulville ended his life.  According to the news releases following the event, he wrapped himself in a blanket and stood in oncoming traffic.  A horrific way to go, but a very graphic illustration of how serious the issue of depression can be.  I long ago got away from describing the actual suicide event for fear of influencing others:  copycats.  However, in this case, the graphic description was already provided in the local news.  Besides that, there’s also more to that, which I’ll get to momentarily.

Whereas Andrew’s suicide was from the previous school year, needless to say it’s still very raw to Andrew’s family.  Losing your teenaged son to suicide is traumatic enough.  The healing period can be years…if ever.   In far too many cases, and this one in particular, some of the details of the event, what led up to it, and the handling of its aftermath only makes matters tremendously worse for the grieving family.

  • The issue of bullying.  For reasons that are beyond my comprehension, bullying is looked upon and dealt with in such an ineffective manner, it’s as if people who bully are given carte blanche to simply continue business-as-usual.  In this case, the bullying came from ADULTS!  Parents from his high school were lobbying to have him expelled from his school.  His infraction?  Cheering for another school’s sports team.  These parents were calling the school, demanding that he be expelled.  He only learned of it by word-of-mouth from other students.
  • The issue of depression and mental health.  In many cases where bullying is the suspected culprit that pushed a person over the line to suicide, typically there are other, underlying mental health issues involved.  In many cases, it’s depression.  I’ve talked to several different families of these young victims who told me that, whereas bullying was a factor (to whatever degree), the depression had become so severe that the victim had reached their point of no return.  That was the case with Jamie Hubley.  That was the case with Andrew Mulville.  The problem is mental health issues are not properly addressed in schools, and in our society in general.

It’s proving to be an endless task of trying to temper the bullying that we’re seeing amongst school-aged children today.  However, when it’s the adults, PARENTS!, who are leading the charge, that task becomes next-to-impossible to meet.  The idea that adults, with children in the same school, would launch such an attack on one of their children’s peers is beyond reprehensible.  Their actions led to Andrew’s being egged, his car being vandalized, and even his younger brother being bullied.  I’ve said many times in this blog that in order to efficiently address the bullying problem we’re seeing in today’s schools, we have to first address the adults/parents.  It starts at home.  And, here is as clear-cut of a case as there ever will be.

When asked what she would like to see happen in response to her son’s suicide, Andrew’s mother had this to say:

Mental health education focused on with curriculum that is in-depth and age appropriate to age level…I want polices at schools as to how they address these situations. Some are left to handle it the way they see fit. I want mental health parity, don’t honor some and not others. Give kids more of a voice in the process.

That would be a great place to start.  Removing the stigma of mental health issues and addressing them honestly and effective will save lives.  Period.  As for the bullying, it cannot be stressed enough that we will continue to spin our wheel and, in the process, lose young people to bully-related suicides, until it is addressed honestly, seriously, and realistically with the adults.  The parents.  The major influences in these young people’s lives.  Says Andrew’s grieving father:

…Look at the kids. They’re reaching out to us, and we owe them more than what we’re giving them.”

Exactly how many more self-induced deaths will it take for people to realize this simple truth.

Sorry we, as a society, failed you, Andrew.  To the family of Andrew Mulville, I extend my most sincere condolences.

Suicide Prevention

Suicide Lifeline

Enough is Enough: the blog page

Depression Warning Signs

 

Unimaginable: 7-Year-Old Commits Suicide

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I am at an utter loss for words.  A year ago this time, no one could’ve ever convinced me that I would be writing about a 7-year-old boy who committed suicide.  Yet, that’s the report coming from Detroit, MI.

I don’t even know how to begin writing about a 7-year-old who’s committed suicide.  I’m still having a hard time wrapping my brain around the idea of a 7-year-old committing suicide.

According to early reports, the unnamed boy was distraught over the recent separation of his parents, with his father being gone from the home.  He was also reportedly being “continuously” bullied by students at school.  If my math is right, 7-years-old is second grade.  Second grade for me was Brighton Elementary, stickball in the field beside my aunt’s house, riding my bicycle up and down Potomac Ave, and just enjoying being ayoung kid.  I cannot honest even remember knowing what the word suicide meant; therefore, I certainly wouldn’t have understood how to successfully complete one.  We, as a society, are in a very bad place when 7-year-olds are even thinking about ending their lives.

Where do we begin?  This event screams for attention.  If the suicide of a 7-year-old, a 7-year-old whose mother has already stated that he had been “continuously bullied”, doesn’t make everyone, and I do mean everyone, sit up and take notice, then the problem is far more entrenched than any of us ever imagined.  Obviously, at age 7, we will not even begin to speculate over the “why” the bullying was occurring in the first place.  What matters is that it was occurring.  What matters is that, at age 7, he felt it was too much to handle.  That should be all we need to know.

I’ve seen far too many cases where a victim of bullying has stated clearly that “nothing was done” when the incidents were reported.  I’ve heard parents state the same thing far too often.  On the facebook blog page, I hear from both victims and parents of victims who say the same thing.  Over and over.  I’m going to state something that should, by now, be painfully obvious:  we’re allowing this to continue.

We’re allowing this to continue because, although more and more people are getting involved and making sure their voices are being heard, we’re not demanding immediate and definitive action.  We’re allowing this to continue by allowing “them” to continue to sweep it all under the carpet and hope it goes away.  Meanwhile, kids are dying at their own hands.

Let the suicide of this very young person be the wake-up call that’s sorely needed.  If nothing changes, nothing changes.  That’s not acceptable.  Let’s send lots of love and support to the family of this 7-year-old yet-to-be-named child.  Imagine for a minute, if you can, the sheer agony they are going through right now.

Valuable Resources to help end teen (and, pre-teen) suicide:

Befrienders

Suicide Support

Suicide Prevention Lifeline

The Trevor Project

His Friends Called Him Corey: Jay’Corey Jones, 17, Death by Suicide

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Sunday night, 17-year-old, Jay’Corey Jones, “Corey” to his friends, ended his life in Rochester, MN.  According to his father, he had been bullied for a very long time because of his sexual orientation.  That bullying lead to depression.  And, like many before him, that combination proved to be deadly.

According to the news report, in which Corey’s father, JayBocka Strader was very candid and forthcoming about the life of his son, everything that could be done was being done.  His single-parent father was very supportive of his son.  Corey had friends who loved him.  He was even briefly involved with his school’s Gay/Straight Alliance.  He was out and proud.  He wanted to make a stand for gay rights.  Unfortunately, that put him in the cross hairs for bullies.  And, once again, rather than seeing all of the positives going on in his life, the negative of being bullied proved too much for him to handle.

Still reeling from the report of a 16-year-old girl who ended her life just a few hours ago right here in Maryland (much too early for any details), I’m left to wonder “what are we not doing enough of!?”  We’re very obviously missing a beat somewhere, somehow.  Yes, we know about the problem with bullying and how it needs to be dealt with on a much different level than it is today.  Yes, we have an idea of the mental health issues involved with many of the teen suicides.  Whether they’re being properly addressed, however, is a question mark.

Somehow, these teens who give up on their young lives are seeing a world that’s so dark, so bleak for them, they see no point in going on.  And, that’s an issue that we, as adults, must find a way to figure out so that we can deal with it.

In a case of an LGBT teen, as Corey was, it’s really not too hard to see where their vision of a too-bleak world comes from.  The bullying they endure from their peers at school and in cyberspace is only exacerbated by the bullying they see from adults in the news and on the Internet.  Bullying directed specifically at the LGBT community.  They’re hearing the message from politicians and so-called religious leaders that their lives are invalid.  That their feelings are moot.  They’re seeing and hearing, as hate-filled, intolerant politician after hate-filled, intolerant politician attempt to legislate their own bigotry, that the bullies they deal with in school are only a mirror-image of what they perceive as the real world.  As states like North Carolina legislates hate and discrimination, the message is driven home that they are second-class citizens, that their lives will always be inconsequential, that there are people in power who don’t care a bit if they end their life.  They hear that.  They see that.  And, guess what?  So do the ones who do the bullying.  They feel vindicated in their actions because they, too, see and hear that same message.

Make no mistake:  no one should ever allow someone else define who they are.  It doesn’t matter if “they” hate you.  That’s their burden to carry.  What’s important is loving yourself, first and foremost.  However, that is also a very difficult message to get across to an already fragile teen.  Jamie Hubley had an amazing, very loving and supportive family.  He had incredible friends who still adore him.  Yet, he couldn’t see past the negatives of life long enough to wrap that warm blanket of support around himself.  Smart money says that that is the issue in many of these tragic events.  That was the issue with Corey Jones.

So, sadly, we say goodbye to yet another young person.  A young person who will never get to know just how good life could’ve been.  Corey, I wish things could’ve been different for you.  And, to his friends and family, I wish you love and support during this incredibly trying time.

Setting the Record Straight

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After writing a blog post about one of the recent suicide victims, I received an email:

Why did you post a facebook page suggesting [the suicide victim] was gay?  Take is down…his parents don’t need that sh*t.

Alarmed, I rushed to reread what I had written.  There was absolutely nothing in that article to suggest that he that he was gay, so I responded accordingly.

There is absolutely nothing in my article to suggest that he was gay. I made it a point to make sure that there was nothing that would even remotely suggest that he was. People make assumptions, and I can’t control that. It’s unfortunate, and I often warn against that. Yet, they continue to do it. I tried my very best to be as honest and objective is the article as I possibly could, hence the opening paragraph clearly setting aside the earlier rumor of there being bullying

It raises an important issue:  far too often, people see the words “teen” and “suicide”, and there’s an automatic rush-to-judgment that said teen was a.) gay, and b.) bullied.  Whereas that is an issue, and a very serious one at that, it’s obviously not always the case.  Because of that rising issue, the issue of rushing to judgment, I even started that particular article off with the disclaimer that the person had not been bullied.  And, I took special care to make sure that nowhere in the article would I even allude to the notion that he was an LGBT teen.  Still, with all the precautions, some of the comments responded as if he were both LGBT and bullied.  He was a teenager who ended his life far, far too soon, and that’s really all we need to know.  At least in this particular case.

I woke up this morning to an email response from the person who had initially emailed me about this.

I don’t Facebook, my business is nobody else’s business.  Your facebook page is misleading even if unintentional, just look at the comments.  I have a son, 15, just like [the suicide victim], a jock, in fact, playing [the suicide victim’s] team tonite (probably will be cancelled).  This Facebook page is hurtful to his parents and should be taken down…you are far, far removed from this event.
I also believe all this glamorizing of the death…tributes, tee shirts, facebook pages, tweets (“look **** you’re famous” said one girl) will encourage the next depressed kid to go out in a blaze of glory.

Now,  that’s a horse of a different color.  Now, I’m under attack for the integrity of the work I’m attempting to do.  Look, I get the part about glamorization of teen suicides.  I, too, am concerned that perhaps the Internet is helping to propel the acceleration of these events.  And, make no mistake:  we are seeing an acceleration.  To wit, from perusing another facebook page honoring those young people who are gone too soon, I was able to see a disturbing reality:  for every suicide that I write about, there’s at least one that I didn’t know about.  That’s not a brush fire.  That’s a firestorm.  That said, and armed with that knowledge, I do my best to stay away from glamorizing a very solemn event.  What’s needed is awareness.  And, more of it.  For far too long, these devastating events have gone unreported, and under-reported.  Because of that, this has been going on in relative silence.  And, because of that, no one except for the families and friends of the victims had knowledge of this problem.  This is a cancer to the body of our society.  Early detection saves lives.  Left undetected and untreated, it kills.

The facebook blog page was created in December to support the blog, itself.  In truth, I was having issues with facebook and the posting of the blog’s link.  It has grown into a sizable, interactive community of awareness and support.  Its message is clear:  love and acceptance.  People there help one another, talk to each other, support those who need support.  Lives are being saved through the blog and the blog page:

I wanted to contact you to say, simply, thank you.
I was considering suicide tonight, but decided against it, and your blog Enough is Enough was a major reason why I didn’t. I am a 19 year old closeted bisexual male. Thank you for everything you are doing for not only the LGBT community, but for humanity as a whole. Your blog brought me to tears.
Again, thank you. I owe you big time.

It’s because of this email, and others like it, that I will continue pressing forward.  As for the recent emails complaining about what I do, I offer this:  a look at some of the comments will show you that some of his friends have read the article and left their heartfelt comments.  Follow their lead.

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