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

Archive for December 2011

Story of The Year!!!

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To me, at least, this is definitely the story of the year.  And, it delivers the MESSAGE of the year:  eliminate hate-filled language.  Not just in schools, for they’re only repeating what they’ve learned from adults.  Indeed, hate speech needs to be dealt with swiftly and harshly, no matter if it’s Michele Bachmann or Mr. Johnson from down the street.

This story isn’t new.  It went viral August 16th.  See, “Amelia” has a 6-year-old son who just happened to tell her that he likes kissing boys!  In an innocence that only a 6-year-old can provide, he told his mother that it’s quite possible that he’s gay.  Thinking it was cute coming from her 6-year-old son, which it was, she wanted to share that with a couple of online friends.  Overnight, it went viral.  Why would something so cute and innocent, and personal, go viral overnight?  There are two very basic reasons why.

People connected with it easily because we could all relate.  Well, most of us. (those who said they couldn’t lie to themselves)  See, everyone one of us, if we’re honest with ourselves, knew when we were in that age group which gender made us happy on the inside.  And, it’s the ones who make us happy on the inside that we are attracted to, whether it’s in childhood or adulthood.  I knew when I was 7.  And, every single gay friend I’ve ever had has said the same thing.  Conversely, every single straight friend I’ve ever had knew that the opposite sex pushed their internal buttons.  It’s only natural!  See, we’re not talking sex here.  We’re talking attraction.  We’re talking about who makes us feel happy inside.  Isn’t that what love’s really about?

“Amelia” not only accepted her son’s words at face value (knowing full well that, at age 6, those words were definitely not set in stone), she embraced him.  She encouraged him.  Guess what happens when he “comes out” at such an early age AND the most important person in your world embraces and encourages you?  Your self-esteem has no choice but to soar.  Which brings me to the obvious second reason people connected so quickly to this story.

People with Michele Bachmannitis were APPALLED that she would encourage such deviant behavior!  “He is much too young to know about sex”, they argued.  Huh?  I think I missed that part of the story.  See, the Michele Bachmanns of the world would have the exact opposite effect on this boy:  his self-esteem would be ruined.  He’d be chastised for his “unnatural” feelings and, probably, sent off to be “cured”.  That’s what “they” do.  And, in just a few years, we’d run the risk of having another suicide victim on our hands.

“Amelia” sat up and took notice.  And, from her observations, for every Michele Bachmann who commented, there were “multiple messages” saying that they, too, knew when they were very young which gender tickled their fancy.  We all do!  Of course, at age 6, we don’t put a label on it.  We don’t learn that everyone has to fit into a category until later on in life.  But, I knew in 1st grade that Keith made my heart flutter while Debora was just pretty to look at.

The other thing that “Amelia” noticed was how extremely dangerous the hate speech was to not only her 6-year-old son, but to ALL young people!  And, indeed it is.  As I’ve been saying, it’s damaging on both ends:  your bullies learned to hate from somewhere.  Enough said.  Likewise, however, far-too-many of these young suicide victims “learn” from their Michele Bachmannesque parents that they are “abnormal”, “freaks”, “deviant”, “sick” and worse.  They learn that they are defective, that they need to be “fixed”.  I don’t feel I need to say anything about what this does to their young self-esteem.  Let’s just say that we read about them far too frequently and once it’s far too late.

My favorite part of the story, though, is where “Amelia” reached the point where she said “Enough Is Enough!!!”  She made a stand.  She vowed to protect her children from the Michele Bachmanns of the world because THEY spread hate as if they have a license to do so.

Ever ask yourself why is it so important to these hate mongers that everyone HAS to think as they do, act in accordance to what THEY think is right

Written by Ron Kemp

December 30, 2011 at 11:30 pm

With Help Comes Hope

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I finally found it!  Call me slow, I guess.  Earlier in the month, facebook advertised that they were joining the fight against suicides by launching a new page that would be linked with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  Until tonight, however, all I could ever find were ARTICLES telling about it.  Determined, I tracked it down, finally.

This is a link EVERYONE needs to have handy in case of emergency.  Copy and paste it somewhere.  Then, write the phone number down somewhere where it’s easily accessible.

I’m very happy to report that Joshua is doing much better, thanks to the overwhelming support he’s gotten from around the world!  He even started therapy.  So, kudos to all of you who read about him here and reached out to him.  And, for those of you who didn’t, you still can send him a friend request.  He’s accepting all.

When you check out the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and read down the page,  you’ll see several opportunities for you to reach out, send messages, and embrace these emotionally wounded people as they struggle through a very tough period of their lives.  A couple who jumped off the age at me were GaryLucas Love Wang, and Chloe Strand.  They’re both contemplating at this very moment.  Just as we all reached out and pulled Joshua back from the edge, these two people now need that same support.  With help comes hope.

Written by Ron Kemp

December 30, 2011 at 3:50 am

By a Thin Thread

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I was talking to a friend last night.  In fact, she is a very dear friend whom I met since embarking on this life’s journey of trying to save lives.  She’s right there on the frontline with me…and, many others.  Last night’s conversation was sparked by a young man who was posting suicidal comments to his facebook page.  He’s fine.  At least for now.  As she was about to sign off, she told me about another person who was now posting suicidal comments.  This one seemed urgent.

Joshua hasn’t been a teenager since 1999.  Then again, we’re not JUST about trying to save teen’s lives.  Any suicide we can help prevent is a job well done.  I don’t know the circumstances that has led Joshua to feel so hopeless right now. And, frankly, it just doesn’t even matter.  What matters right now is building a wall of support around him to keep him from falling to that place where he won’t be able to get up.  The wall was erected very quickly.

According to his facebook comments, Joshua was hanging on by the thinnest of threads.  Whatever is going on with him has really hit him hard.  The good news is he’s still here.  He went to work today.  He’s now home from work and communicating on his facebook page.

See, I don’t believe for a second that Joshua wants to die.  I don’t think that any suicide victims REALLY want to die.  They want the pain to stop.  They want to feel whole again.  I believe that’s the case with Joshua, as well.  The great think here is that he is freely accepting friend requests on his facebook page right now!  That says to me that he WANTS someone to hold him up until he regains his strength.  And, that’s where we all come in.  That’s what our mission is, right?  Saving lives…one at a time?  You can go, right now!, to Joshua’s facebook page, send him a friend request, he’ll accept it.  I guarantee it.  Right now, he’s hanging on by a thin thread.  What’s most important, however, is that he’s hanging on.

Written by Ron Kemp

December 28, 2011 at 11:38 pm

Fed Up People Are Making a Difference!!!!

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Tennessee awarded the family of a special needs student who had been severely bullied over $300,000.  And, even though Maryland dropped the ball when they had a chance to send a clear “ZERO TOLERANCE” message when they released the school administrators of responsibility in a similar suit, other states are making great progress in toughening their anti-bullying laws.  That’s great news going forward.

The recent suicide of Jacob Rogers, also in Tennessee, has sparked town hall meetings to push their lawmakers to toughen their laws.  Also, over 1,700 people have signed an online petition to force their local government to toughen its laws.  That’s taking action!!!!  Hopefully, every time we see one of these petitions, everyone will sign it.  You don’t have to live in Cheatham County.  You only have to have a burning desire to see things change.  That said, here’s the link again.

In Iowa, a group called the Eychaner Foundation has launched an anti-bullying website for the state of Iowa.  All incidences of bullying can be reported here, with the information sent to school administrators.  Anyone can report an incident as it’s occurring.  That’s a great tool.  At the very least, it’s a huge step in the right direction.  Now, we need to see a similar website for every state.

One thing we know for certain:  If nothing changes, nothing changes.  I think we’re beginning to see changes.  It’s a welcomed sight.

Sing a Song; Light a Candle

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Tomorrow at 1:00pm, the family and friends of Colton Wilson will say goodbye to the boy they only had the pleasure of knowing for a short 13 years but will love forever. Tomorrow, at 1:00pm, say a prayer, sing a song, light a candle. Anything. Just do something to say goodbye to the young man most of us never knew but will always remember as yet another life that ended far too soon.

For those of you who would like to leave online condolences for the family, there is a facebook page set up in his memory. I’m sure that they would love to hear from you all.

I read recently that suicides for 2011 were at a 40 year low. I find that hard to believe but am ecstatic if it’s true. And, yet, to the family and friends of young Colton and the myriad other suicide victims of 2011, that number is completely meaningless. The goal, my prayer, is to get the number of teen suicides down to zero in 2012. Perhaps that’s unrealistic, but if we keep that as our goal and work feverishly towards that goal, we will see the number drop significantly in the coming year. That means less families and friends who have to suffer an excruciating pain. That means less young lives lost because of suicide. Now, THAT’S a New Year’s resolution!!

Written by Ron Kemp

December 28, 2011 at 12:52 am

Sing a Song; Light a Candle

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Tomorrow at 1:00pm, the family and friends of Colton Wilson will say goodbye to the boy they only had the pleasure of knowing for a short 13 years but will love forever.  Tomorrow, at 1:00pm, say a prayer, sing a song, light a candle.  Anything. Just do something to say goodbye to the young man most of us never knew but will always remember as yet another life that ended far too soon.

For those of you who would like to leave online condolences for the family, there is a facebook page set up in his memory.  I’m sure that they would love to hear from you all.

I read recently that suicides for 2011 were at a 40 year low.  I find that hard to believe but am ecstatic if it’s true.  And, yet, to the family and friends of young Colton and the myriad other suicide victims of 2011, that number is completely meaningless.  The goal, my prayer, is to get the number of teen suicides down to zero in 2012.  Perhaps that’s unrealistic, but if we keep that as our goal and work feverishly towards that goal, we will see the number drop significantly in the coming year.  That means less families and friends who have to suffer an excruciating pain.  That means less young lives lost because of suicide.  Now, THAT’S a New Year’s resolution!!

Written by Ron Kemp

December 28, 2011 at 12:52 am

Each One Teach One

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This morning, I received an email from a family member of Colton Wilson, a recent suicide victim.  In it, she thanked me profusely for caring and for sharing her brother’s and her family’s story with everyone.  It touched me like no other email I’ve ever received.  Young Colton’s funeral is coming up Wednesday at 1:00pm.  I will play a song for him that day, for sure.  And, I’ll undoubtedly shed a tear for a boy I never knew.

Reading that email made me understand that this blog is really making a difference in its own little way.  If I’m touching someone’s life, that’s what it’s all about.  If I’m helping to save a life, that’s REALLY what it’s all about!!  Inspired by the suicide death of Jamie Hubley, I’ve set out on a mission that will not end until I take my last breath.  And, that mission is to make a difference somewhere in this world and to start doing my part, small as it may be, to try to prevent some young person from committing suicide.  It’s a daunting task, I’ve since learned.

Writing about it isn’t hardly enough.  I tried that before, writing about it in some of my songs.  Not enough people were listening.  Fair enough.  Then, in October, I read about Jamie in Ottawa, and my life changed forever.  I knew then that I had to get deeper involved.  And, I have.  This blog is being read by over 100 people daily, with more readers coming in almost daily.  Easily, this blog has more of an audience than my music ever had, and I write good music!

So, now, the mission is to take this to the next level.  Writing about it is good.  People are connecting.  People are relating.  And, people are healing.  But, how do we go about making a serious change in our social landscape?  How do we begin to turn the tide so that teen suicide, be they gay, straight, or Martian, becomes a thing of the past?  The answer, to me at least, is a very obvious one:  the #1 place to start is a total re-education of our society as a whole.  That’s a monumental task!  People are set in their ways.  People, including and maybe especially the young, live the way they’re taught.  So, how do you climb that big mountain?  One step at a time.  That’s the approach we need to take.

So, here’s the challenge:  each one (who reads this) teach one.  This is a two-parter, actually.  First step, be kind to someone you don’t know.  Show compassion and understanding to someone you don’t know.  Everyday.  You never know how your kindness will affect someone.  That one person may be having the worst day of his/her life.  You could prevent something tragic from happening.  If nothing else, you’ll put a smile on their face.  How can that be wrong?  The second part to the challenge is equally important:  teach ONE PERSON to do what you’re doing.  BOTH parts!  That’s called paying it forward.  If we can get that ball rolling, imagine the effect it will have in just a month’s time!  If you need added motivation to get started on the challenge, I’ll provide you with a few:

  • Jamey Rodemeyer
  • Jamie Hubley
  • Jasmine McClain
  • Cameron DeVeronica
  • Colton Wilson
  • Ashlynn Connor
  • Mason Carter
  • Jacob Rogers
All of these names are from teenagers who committed suicide just since September!!!!  And, there are many more.  Do I really need to go on?  Enough really is enough.  Let’s start making a difference.

Taking Bullying to a Whole New Level

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We’ve grown use, and perhaps desensitized, to hearing about bullying in our schools.  We’ve even coined a new term for the victims of it who commit suicide because of it:  bullycide.  We know that the effects of it can be devastating both the victims as well as the families and friends of the victims.  But, we don’t expect to hear about a bullycide coming from our military.

Danny Chen was a 19-year-old Army soldier, fresh into the military.  He had only been in Afghanistan since August.  Sadly, his enemy wasn’t the Taliban; it was his own fellow soldiers.  On October 3rd, Danny pulled the trigger on his young life.  He was taunted because of his race.  He was physically abused, even by his superiors.

Currently, 8 people are facing charges in Danny’s death.  I think that’s a great thing.  We are all aware of the dangers of going off to war.  We fully realize that there’s at least a 50-50 chance that we’ll never see our loved one again.  War is hell.  But, we expect the threat to come from the enemy, not those who wave the same flag.

This only serves to prove that we have a very deep societal issue.  See, it’s not just the kids we have to be concerned about.  You’ve seen it written here, as well as other places I’m sure, that the only way we’re going to begin to make a change in our culture and end the senseless bullying is by re-educating our people.  And, as perfectly illustrated here, and as I’ve said many time over, that re-education HAS to start with the adults.  See, it’s not enough to tell the kids that they shouldn’t be mean to others.  That they should treat all people with respect and kindness.  That they should accept all people for who they are.

Young people are far from stupid.  They reject the notion of “do as I say, not as I do!”  If they’re seeing teachers stuff students into duffel bags, if they’re seeing politicians condemn people because of their sexuality, if they’re seeing the men who serve and protect our country bully one of their own because of his race, they’re not going to listen to the message of kindness and acceptance.  Plain and simple.  They’re going to follow the lead being provide to them by the people they learn from:  the adults.

The Army says they’re “…taking this matter very seriously”.  We’ll have to wait and see by their actions.  Punishing those who are directly responsible for Danny Chen’s death is a great start.  But, it’s only a start.  In order to begin to truly work towards ending this epidemic, there HAS to be a re-education of our society as a whole.  That’s a daunting task, but it isn’t impossible.  The important thing is that it’s clearly the only way we’re going to start to see a change.

Written by Ron Kemp

December 26, 2011 at 3:18 am

T’was the Night Before Christmas

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Here we are, just over two hours short of Christmas.  In some parts, it’s already Christmas. (right Aaron?)  For many, this is a time to be with family.  To exchange gifts.  To see the sparkle in the eyes of the “good girls and boys” as they tear the wrappings off of “just what I wanted!!!!”  For some, it’s the time to celebrate the birth of baby Jesus.

Unfortunately, there are far, far too many families who, right now, are hurting because they’re celebrating this Christmas with one less family member.  A family member lost tragically to suicide.  And, it’s to those families, and friends, that my heart really goes out to.  While we all gather around our Christmas trees with our families, our loved ones, our friends, keep these people close to your hearts.  I know I will.

So, right now, I just want to take time out to wish a very Merry Christmas to you, Jamey Rodemeyer.  And, to you Jasmine McClain.  And, you, too, Ashlynn Conner.  You, Roger Crouch.  Colton Wilson, Merry Christmas.  Also to you, Jacob Rogers.  Merry Christmas to you, Mason Carter.  And, to you, Isabelle Guyler.  Ben Lewis, you, too.  And, Cameron DeVeronica, Merry Christmas.

And, then there’s Jamie Hubley.  I’m sure you’re leading the choir right now singing beautiful Christmas carols.  You’ve probably even done a rousing rendition of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch!!”.  I’m sure they’ll love it as much as we did here.  I singled you out, Jamie, because even though every single one of these suicides touched me profoundly, you have left a mark on me forever.  You changed my life.  So, to you my friend, very Merry Christmas.  And, never forget:  this blog and always will be inspired by you.

 

To the families and friends of these wonderful people, I wish you peace, love, and a very Merry Christmas.  If you can, take solace in knowing that your loved ones have a front row seat as we celebrate the birth of Jesus.

 

To those of you who have been reading this blog, I wish you a very Merry Christmas, as well.  Thank you so much for continuing to read this blog, for getting involved, and for trying to make a difference.  There’s no better gift we can give.

Written by Ron Kemp

December 25, 2011 at 3:27 am

Student Stuffed in Duffel Bag by SCHOOL EMPLOYEES!!!

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Ok, I don’t think there’s a way to spin this that could possibly justify tying a 4th-grader, or ANYBODY up in a duffel bad.  It happened in Louisville, KY.  Fourth-grader Christopher Baker, a special needs student with autism, was “jumping off the walls” according the school officials.  I guess their means of keeping him off the walls is by restraining him in a duffel bag.  That is not only wrong:  it’s illegal.

It seems we’re seeing a rash of stories of SCHOOL OFFICIALS bullying special needs students.  It’s bad enough for them to have to worry about being bullied by other students.  No one should ever have to go through that.  It’s a whole different ball of wax when the ones doing the bullying are the ones who are paid to educate and provide them with a safe learning environment.  The question that begs to be asked is “how can we expect the students to stop the bullying if they’re seeing school officials doing it, themselves?”  The answer would be “we can’t”.  Do you ever remember me saying that, in order to bring about the necessary change, it’s going to have to start with the adults?  This story drives home the point.

It is my opinion that the one(s) responsible for this shouldn’t only be terminated immediately, they should face criminal charges.  In a surprising turn of events, the interim school superintendent cited confidentiality laws as the reason he couldn’t comment on the situation.  However, after reading the article, I came away with a very clear understanding that the school officials feel that this boy got what he deserved.  It’s the price you pay for “jumping off the walls”.  Especially when you’re a 10-year-old autistic student.

So, here’s a definite call to action:  Lydia Brown, herself an 18-year-old autistic student at Georgetown University, started a petition online calling for change in Mercer County’s handling of autistic students.  It, quite thoroughly, asks for the heads of the school officials responsible for this despicable act.  And, it goes further as to add measure to prevent it from ever happening to another student again.  I would like to encourage every follower of this blog to sign the petition.  Sign it, and pass this along to your own circle of friends and family.  We cannot expect to stop the kids from bullying if we allow the school administrators to get away with it. (are you listening, Maryland?)  Zero tolerance means absolutely that.

Oh, and if you have kids, tell them unless they like duffel bags, it’s probably best they stay off the walls.