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

Archive for September 2012

Trae Schumaker, 13, Death by Suicide

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At approximately the same time 13-year-old Cade Poulos ended his life on Wednesday, Trae Schumaker, also 13, ended his, as well.

I received news of this tragedy almost immediately after it happened.  Gathering fact s can prove to be painstaking.  The initial word was that he was being bullied.  And, the beat goes on.  I was given a reason for the bullying, but I can’t verify that.  Therefore, the “why” will remain a mystery to all of us who aren’t close to the case.

I just posted new information to the facebook blog page citing that suicide is now the #1 injury caused death surpassing auto accidents and homicides.  If I’ve failed at getting the severity of this situation across to you, perhaps reading this article will help.  Young people are killing themselves at an alarming pace, and the time is right here and right now to work harder to bring about change.  But, how do we get there?

“It Gets Better” isn’t working.  At least not to a degree where it’s make noticeable, concrete differences.  The young people are left with the lingering and haunting question of “when”.  When, will “it get better”?  I’ve heard that question asked often enough to know that the message, albeit very well intended, is being lost on far too many of our young people.  Look no further than Jamey Rodemeyer and EricJames Borges, both of whom had even made videos for the “It Gets Better” project before succumbing, themselves, to suicide.  The creators of the project started with only the very best of intentions.  And, to be sure, there probably are some people who credit their being here today to the “It Gets Better” project.

This blog, and its companion facebook blog page, is obviously not enough, either.  That was pointed out to me with screaming urgency earlier in the year with the suicide deaths of Kenny Wolf and Grace McComas.  Their untimely deaths caused me to step back and examine exactly why do I do this.  These two bright and intelligent young people both lived virtually “in my backyard”.  So, when they were lost to us, I had to reconcile in my own mind exactly why I was doing this.  Overwhelmed with the grieve of having these two local young people end their lives, my initial though was “how did I miss them?  They’re right here in my back yard!”

The reality, of course, is that there are people who are benefitting from this blog, as well as the “It Gets Better” project.  However, much more needs to be done, and by more people.  With suicide now officially the #1 cause of injury death, it’s painfully obvious that much, much more needs to be done.  How do we reach these young people before it’s too late.  Writing about them after they’ve already ended their lives is good for heightening awareness to the problem.  That’s after the fact.

There are some very simple, very concrete ways that we can all start making a difference, in my opinion:

  • It is imperative that these young people are encouraged to talk about their issues…and, keep talking about them until someone cares and listens.  They need to be made aware that other people have gone through what they’re going through and that it is  possible to work through whatever their problems may be.  The down side to that is far too many people, young and not so young, echo the same refrain:  “I tried talking, but nobody listened!!  I’ve personally witnessed this and can attest to its validity.
  • It makes no sense to encourage them to talk if no one is going to listen.  What that means is that every caring and concerned adult (parents, teachers, older siblings, whomever!) simply must be willing to not just HEAR what they’re trying to convey to you but LISTEN intently.  By listening intently, you’ll be able to hear exactly what it is that’s causing them dismay.  This is a crucial step.  I keep going back to the Andy Williams case from 2001.  It haunts me.  He tried his best to tell the adults in his life that he was in distress.  No one listened.  As a result, three young people lost their lives that day:  the two he killed, and Andy, himself.  At age 16, he was sentenced to 50 years.  He had spent the weekend with his best friend.  He confided in the friend’s dad that he was in distress.  The day didn’t take him seriously.  Monday morning, everything changed forever.  The value of truly listening cannot be overemphasized.
  • We, as adults, simply must educate ourselves to the complexities of bullying.  It goes well beyond just someone saying something mean or rude to another person.  I witnessed, up close and person, just this past week, just how ingrained bullying truly is and why we’re having such a hard time eradicating it.  But, that’s a different story for a different time.  Suffice it to say, as I sat in front of my computer monitor and watched what was transpiring right before my eyes, I was, at once, mortified and relieved.  Relieved because now, finally, I get it.  I understand how difficult eradicating bullying is and will continue to be until we all get a much better grasp on exactly what’s going on.
  • We simply must figure out an effective way to compel school administrators to stop turning a blind eye to bullying situations, to stop treating instances and reports of bullying as insignificant events.  That’s mandatory!  Someone on the facebook blog page reported having a teacher tell him, once, that she didn’t “…get paid enough money to deal with it”.  Really?  That teacher should’ve lost her job immediately and never been allowed to teach again.  Many schools and school districts now have stringent anti-bullying policies in place.  Stringent anti-bullying policies are 100% useless unless they are properly enforced.

These things are not going to sudden put an end to the bullying/teen suicide cycle that we’re in.  However, I feel like this represents a good starting point.  Suicide is preventable.  We need to do more.  Much more.

Sadly, all of our efforts won’t bring Trae Schumaker back to his loving and grieving family and friends.  We can make a difference and prevent the next one from happening, though.  To do that, however, we need to stop shaking our collective heads, stop talking about how (insert your own adjective) it is, and start taking much more definite and direct action.  I’m not comfortable with knowing that suicide is now the #1 cause of injury deaths, and you shouldn’t be, either.

Rest in peace, young Trae Schumaker.  I hope you’re at peace, now.  To his family and friends, I send my deepest, most heartfelt condolences.


Suicide Prevention

The Trevor Project

Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Enough is Enough: the blog page

Teen Suicide Cluster in Pennsylvania

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In a span of one week, beginning September 18th with the suicide death of Joshuah Delos Santos, there have been 4 confirmed teen suicides in a 7 day period.  That’s 4 confirmed teen suicides within 30 miles!  Map out a 30-mile radius in your own area, and you’ll see the significance of that troubling graphic

  • September 18:  13-year-old Joshuah Delos Santos commits suicide in Nanticoke, with bullying being a contributing factor;
  • September 21:  16-year-old Matthew Montagna, pictured, ends his life in Pittston.  Classmates and friends cite bullying as a contributing factor;
  • September 24:  an unidentified 15-year-old cheerleader ends her young life in Duryea.  Classmates and friends cite bullying as a contributing factor;
  • September 25:  an unidentified 13-year-old boy ends his life in his home in Hazelton.  The Hazelton Chief of police said, in a news conference, his suicide was not “bullying-related”.  We’ve heard that before.

Seven days, four teen suicides, all within 30 miles of each other.  Is there a problem there?  The obvious answer is “yes”.  Just the Joshuah Delos Santos suicide was horrific by itself, but to add three more in the next 6 days is just unfathomable.  Then, to add salt to the gaping wound, 3 of the 4 have a strong possibly of being bully-related.  Is there a problem there?  Yes, there is.

In our typical, knee-jerk reactionary society, suddenly there are town hall meetings to address the issues of bullying and teen suicides.  Parents are alarmed, and rightfully so.  If I had a school-aged child in that area, (s)he wouldn’t be back in school until I was certain, 100% certain, that the school environment was safe enough to return to.  What does that mean?  To me, that’s a very simple answer:

A safe school environment is one in which students can attend, interact, and learn without the specter of being taunted, for whatever reason, picked on, or otherwise minimized.  It’s an environment where they can intermingle with whomever their social circle may be without the fear of being ridiculed, feel secure and develop the social skills they’re going to need as they move into the adult “workaday” world without the fear of being discriminated against or taunted, and be able to have an environment conducive to learning as opposed to living in fear of being picked on just because of who they are.  That’s not too much to ask.

Is there a problem there?  You can bet the farm on it.  I have recently seen with my own eyes exactly how deeply ingrained this problem of bullying and teen suicide is.  The mindset is so fluid, because its deep-roots, that many, many young people don’t even realize the repercussions of their words and actions.  I know that, now, for a fact.  I watched it unfold.  And, more than ever, I’m convinced that the ball is being dropped in the homes, by the adults in these young people’s lives, and by (in some cases) the parents. If for no other reason than the fact that some parents don’t even know that their child is a schoolyard or cyber bully, they have to be held accountable to a degree.

On the other side of the coin is the authoritative figures who run…no…sprint from the issue of bullying.  Where is the accountability in that?  If not for the 3 suicides that followed Joshuah Delos Santos, within the next 2-3 weeks, the whole issue and question of bullying would’ve been swept under the carpet just like many have before it.  That’s been made impossible, sadly, with 2 of the 3 suicide victims that followed were reported to involve bullying.  And, yet, it has become redundantly customary for the school officials and, often, law enforcement officials to very quickly erase the bullying possibility (probability?) from the equation.  Why?  Better question:  why are we allowing it to continue?

Here’s a reality check:  if a young person’s friends and social circle says, “yes, (s)he was being badly bullied”, it really doesn’t matter what the adult figures say about it.  It was happening.  Period.  It doesn’t matter if the teachers, principles, or school superintendents say “there’s no evidence…” of bullying.  It happened!  It doesn’t matter that the Chief of Police or just the school police liaison says “there’s no evidence…” of bullying.  It happened!  And, in reality, it doesn’t always matter if mom and dad says their child wasn’t being bullied because, the bare-boned fact of the matter is they spend much more time with their friends and social circle than they do with you!  Did you really tell your parents everything about your life when you were 13, 14, 15, 16 years old?  No.  You didn’t.  Neither did I.  Neither do they.  But, their friends, their social network, their peers…they know!  And, if they say it was happening, to believe otherwise is just plain silly.  And, obviously, deadly.

In response to the recent spate of suicides, officials have said:

“We need to respond. We just want to try to reach out to the parents in the community and make them understand we all need to work together. This is not a Pittston Area School District issue only. This is an issue that is bigger than the school district,” Pittston Area superintendent Michael Garzella said early Tuesday afternoon. “This is a community issue. This is a national issue. This is a problem that has to be dealt with. The only way we’re going to be able to prevent these things from happening is if we all work together.”

Congratulations on your epiphany.  This is what many of us have been trying to get “you” to understand for quite a while.  We’ve got an epidemic on our hands, it’s costing the lives of young people, and it’s time to stop dodging this issue and start the dialogue.  It’s just regretful that it’s taken you these four young lives to finally realize that this is real.



Suicide Prevention Lifeline


The Trevor Project

Enough is Enough: the blog page


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


The Trevor Project

Enough is Enough: the blog page

Cade Poulos, 13, Death by Suicide

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The question “WHEN WILL THIS END” comes to mind.  The story was all over the news today:  “A 13-year-old student dies…at Oklahoma School”.  That 13-year-old had a name.  And, his name was Cade Poulos.

The authorities wasted absolutely no time whatsoever clearing the bullying theory from the table.

School Superintendent Ann Caine, who oversees the district about 70 miles west of Tulsa, said there weren’t any reports that the teen had been bullied.  “There is no indication that that’s what occurred,” Caine said.  She said the teen was a good student who got along with other kids.

Yet, and once again, people closer to the situation had something completely different to say.  This is what one person had to say on the facebook memorial page set up just today in Cade’s honor:

He was bullied. The school & children at the school confirmed he WAS bullied.

Said yet another one:

Kids from his school are saying he was bullied. I am sure they know way more about it than the school records.

“I am sure they know way more about it than the school records.”  And, that’s the point.  Why is it so easy for them to wash their hands of the bullying menace when we’re seeing so many young people end their lives and so many people close to the victim states emphatically that there was bullying involved?  Shouldn’t they, at the very least, look deeply into the bullying aspect of it first and foremost?  I say yes.  I say that when a bright, outwardly happy 13-year-old goes to school and ends his life in front of his other schoolmates, that 13-year-old was doing more than ending his life.  He was sending a message.  And, he chose that stage for his final act for a reason.  That, to me anyway, is just common sense.

Now, I’m nowhere close to the situation.  Was bullying the only factor that led Cade Poulos to end his life in front of his schoolmates today?  I don’t know that answer.  In fact, we may never know that answer.  Was bullying a factor at all in his decision?  My answer, and my opinion, is a definitive yes.  I think back to Andy Williams and the Santee High School shooting in 2001.  There comes a point when enough is enough.  They can’t take any more of the torment.  They snap.  And, you have what we witnessed today.  I can’t accept, on any level, that these school officials actually believe that bullying has nothing to do with many of these teen suicides.

Cade Poulos’ suicide brings the total for this new school year up to 14, that I know of!  The school year is only a month old!!  That’s a pace of, roughly, one every 2.something days.  Do the math.  At that pace, how many will that total reach by school year’s end.  Answer:  a totally unacceptable total.  Then, ask yourself these questions:  What response would we be seeing if someone was going into the schools and killing a student once every 2.something days?  What would the response be if another kid was dying every 2.something days after eating a cafeteria lunch?  I’ll tell you:  we’d see widespread panic, a full 5-alarm blaze.  New emergency legislations would be passed and enforced.  Extra funding would be made available to combat the epidemic.  Task forces would be in place to tackle the issue.  And, they wouldn’t dare stop until the epidemic was a thing of the past.  So, then, the question is:  “Why aren’t they treating bullying and teen suicides with that same level of intensity?”  “Why does it seem that the officials who can make a difference are racing to the nearest sink to wash their hands of the situation?”  Answering those questions will drastically lower the teen suicide rate, especially when it involves bullying.  Answering and rectifying.  I don’t care how one looks at it, how one tries to rationalize it, what’s going on right now is 100% unacceptable and preventable.

Instead of it getting better, we’re seeing family after grief-stricken family have to bury their young, school-aged child because of suicide.  We’re seeing friends of the victims left with a lifetime of deep-rooted sorrow that they couldn’t do anything to help their friend.  We’re seeing communities completely devastated by the unspeakable happening right there in their backyard.  One of the members of the facebook blog page had this to say today:

You see it on tv and think “oh wow that is sad”, and think it would never happen in your town.  Well, this morning here in Stillwater, Oklahoma, a 13 yr old named Cade Poulos shot himself at the local Jr. High.  Sources say he was bullied to the point that he couldn’t take it anymore.  RIP Cade, your life was over before you even got a chance to live it. When will we say enough is enough and teach our children to love, not hate.

Indeed, Rich, when will we…teach our youth to love, not hate.  That’s the question.

Saying how sorry I am that the Poulos family is going through this seems…empty.  Their grief at this moment is unimaginable.  And, to you, Cade Poulos, may you now rest in peace.  They can’t torment you anymore.

Joshuah Delos Santos, 13, Death by Suicide

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We have failed yet another one.  On Tuesday, September 18th, 13-year-old Joshuah Delos Santos took his own life.  Martha Angelica Gonzales wrote this about her cousin,  Joshuah:

Imagine being 13 and thinking about ending your life because you are being bullied… No one to turn to because you feel like speaking out will fuel the fire.  So you hide from everyone and mask it with a smile because you don’t want to make it a big deal.  Then, the day comes where you can’t take anymore and have that moment’s courage to end all the pain and suffering inside of you.

That day came.  The morning of September 18, 2012, my cousin Joshuah Allen Delos Santos decided to end his life because he was being bullied.

Please have a heart and make a difference by raising awareness about Bullying before it’s too late.  Josh did now show signs of being bullied.  Dont wait for the next victim to end their life because of bullies.  Stand up.  Speak out!

Joshuah must have endured some intense bullying, and probably for quite a while, to be pushed to the point of ending his life.  Several things really stand out, for me at least, about this tragedy:

  1. Once again, the authorities swept the bullying element right off the table and under the carpet:  “…police have not been able to find any evidence to corroborate those claims.

    “There’s nothing in our investigation at this point in time that he was bullied at all,” said Nanticoke police Chief Bill Shulz in a phone interview Wednesday.”  As is the case far too often, there seems to be a rush-to-judgement to take the bullying element out of the picture.

  2. According to everything I’ve read, Joshuah dealt with this all on his own.  He kept it in.  No one knew what he was going through.  That is, until Tuesday.

I don’t know what it’s going to take to compel the authorities, from the school administrators to the law enforcement agencies, to stop running from the reality of the menace of bullying.  Far too often I’ve reported cases of teen suicides where everyone close to the situation acknowledged that bullying was the culprit only to have the school officials and law enforcement agency in place at the time completely dismiss it.  Many schools, including Joshuah’s, now have zero-tolerance bullying policies on the books.  Yet, when we lose another teenager to suicide, and everyone close to the victim screams to the top of their lungs BULLYING, the authorities tuck their tails and run, quick to release “official” statements that bullying wasn’t involved.  Like Bill Shulz did in this case.

Zero tolerance is the perfect answer, and it looks great on paper.  It’s sounds even better to be able to tell the parents at the beginning of the new school year that, “yes, we have a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy on bullying.”  But, what does that mean?  What good is “zero-tolerance” when kids are still being bullied to the point of wanting to end their lives?  “Zero-tolerance” is a great policy.  It looks and sounds great; however, this is real life.  And, in the real world, words without action are meaningless.  “Zero-tolerance” could’ve, and probably would’ve, saved Joshuah Delos Santos’ life had it been enforced rather than just in theory.

Like many young suicide victims before him, Joshuah kept all of the torment in.  His sister, Nicole, said:  “He was really good at hiding his feelings”.  Part of the pain that his family and friends will have to cope with for a long time to come is the fact that no one knew of his inner struggles.  But, in order for anyone to know, it is imperative for youngsters everywhere to understand that it is completely okay, even expected!, for them to speak up and speak out.  This has to be instilled at a very early age.  Speak up.  And, don’t stop speaking up until someone hears you!  I’m 100% convinced that it works.  It may not work 100% of the time.  However, if it works only 85% of the time, imagine the dramatic drop in bully-related suicides.

We must create a culture in where young people, like Joshuah, know in their heart of hearts that they can speak up and out, and there will be someone, anyone!, who will indeed listen and try to help.  In the homes.  In the schools.  Everywhere.  It’s has to happen if we’re ever going to see this devastating trend begin to reverse.  Indeed, the policy in place where Joshuah went to school can be very good:

The Greater Nanticoke Area School District, where Joshuah attended eighth grade, has a “zero tolerance” bullying policy and an anonymous “bullying report form” on the district website.

They have to have the confidence that talking about it, speaking up, speaking out will make a difference.  Too many of them are afraid that speaking up will only make things worse.  And, that’s our fault as adults.   We, as a society, are failing these young people miserably.  These suicides are very much preventable.  It’s imperative that we stop shaking our collective head, complaining about how bad this has gotten (which it has), and start taking strong, positive action to make this go away.  It’s not going to go away on its own.  It’s not going to go away with concerted effort.

Joshuah, rest in peace.  You can’t be tormented now.  And, to the family and friends Joshua Allen Delos Santos, my heart goes out to you.

*********************TALKING IS VITAL!  IT CAN SAVE LIVES!*********************

Suicide Prevention Lifeline

The Trevor Project


Enough is Enough: the blog page

Matthew Braamse, 15, Death by Suicide

with 12 comments


Matthew Braamse was an aspiring musician, with his music spread widely around the Interest.  A glance at the facebook memorial page in his honor clearly shows that Matthew was very much-loved, and loved by many.  Yet, on Saturday, September 15th, 15-year-old Matthew ended his brief, promising life.As is the case in nearly every teen suicide, the bullying issue has been brought up.  Was he bullied?  I don’t know.  Some, on the memorial page, say yes; some say no.  Was it depression he suffered from?  No answer for that.  Not at this point.  And, we may never find out.  The stunned family is still very much in shock and grieving, I’m sure.  The bottom line right now is it doesn’t matter why he chose to end his life.  What matters is that he did.

As is too often the case, we don’t really know what’s going on in the minds of some of these troubled, at-risk teens.  Outwardly, they appear to be happy, perhaps well-adjusted, in some cases even popular.  However, if all of those things were true, we wouldn’t be seeing the suicide rate amongst young people continue to climb.  So, then, the question becomes “what’s the missing element”?  What are we missing?  How do we go about keeping these young people alive?  Unfortunately, the answer to any of those questions aren’t easy to come by.

If bullying was involved, and again there’s no definitive answer to that at this moment, how do we get past all of the seemingly meaningless dialogue and get to the crux of the issue?  Indeed, the very words “bully” and “bullying” have become ingrained into our society’s psyche.  And, there is a virtual army of people around the globe, including myself on the facebook blog page, working tirelessly to bring awareness to the issue while, hopefully, start seeing a reduction in bullying…and, by extension, a reduction in bully-related teen suicides.  So far, just shy of a month into the new school year, the opposite is proving to be true:  bullying is still a very central issue; bully-related suicides aren’t going away.  Hell, they’re not even subsiding.

Here’s what I do know:  we, as a society, are failing miserably at handling the double-headed monster of bullying and bully-related suicides.  It is 100% impossible for any school-aged person in today’s world to not know that the occurrences of bully-related suicides have been steadily climbing over the past few years.  It’s in the news; it’s all over the Internet.  Almost daily!  That said, how is it that it is still happening?  Not only is it still happening but, from my perspective, it’s still escalating.  As the father of yet another recent teen suicide victims said just last week:

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

I could not agree more.  Adults, parents, it’s time to re-examine how we’re all going about handling this.  If bullying was the culprit, it’s unfathomable, from what I’ve been reading on his memorial page that anyone would be as mean-spirited and cold-hearted as to bully someone who, at least from the outside looking in, was so gifted, cheerful, loving, and lovable.  Bullying needs to addressed.  Talking about addressing it is obviously failing miserably.  Definitive action needs to be taken, and that action absolutely MUST start in the homes!  There is no other way.  That has become painfully obvious.

Mental health issues need to become de-stigmatized and talked about openly and honestly.  These young people are “…reaching out to us, and we owe them more than what we’re giving them.”  No family should have to go through the suicide death of their young child.  Not one.  Yet, it’s still happening with alarming frequency.

Everyone adored him, that’s what the paper said, but, worst of all, they never knew the hell they put him through.

That’s a lyric from one of my own songs about teen suicide, “The Struggle“.  I wrote that years ago.  It still rings true today.  It.  Must.  End.

If you’re a young person reading this, know that talking saves lives.  Talk, and don’t stop talking until you find someone who will really listen.  Or, be that person who will listen, mouth closed, ears and hearts open.  Enough is enough.  It’s time to bring this dark chapter to an end.  Don’t you agree?

To the loving family and friends of Matthew Braamse, I offer you my sincerest condolences.  Rest in peace, young Matthew.




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


Bradley Chisholm, 16, Death by Suicide

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Last week was brutal.  The world said goodbye to three more young people at the hands of suicide.  And, that’s three that I know of.  Of the three, two were reportedly because of, at least in part, bullying.  Sixteen year old Bradley Chisholm was one of the two.


Brad was a beautiful young man who had been bullied for most of his high school years.  I am not sure of all the details, but I know that one of the things he was bullied for was his weight.  He was bigger than most kids, but so was his personality.  He seemed happy in the lead up to this but was obviously really hurting inside.  His mates have been talking about some kid from the area.  Not sure if he was the one bullying Brad before his passing, but it sure sounds that way.

And, again the question arises:  how do we tackle the issue of bullying?  How many more young lives will it take before it’s taken for exactly what it is:  an escalating epidemic that’s costly lives and causing unnecessary grief for those left behind.  I’ve said before, but it bears repeating over and over until the point is clearly made:  if this were a virus killing kids at this rate, there would be an all-out assault on eradicating the disease.  If this were blatant violence, such as gun violence or stabbings, measures would be taken immediately to make it end.  And, of course, rightly so.  So, why is, then, that the senseless bully-related suicides are continuing to mount up.  Worse, why is it that all-too-often, the response seems to be read from the same, generic cue card:  “Our investigation hasn’t shown bullying to be an issue…”?  Sweeping the issue under the proverbial carpet is not, and will not, make it go away.

One of the issues in dealing with bullying, and the suicides that come from it, is that far too many victims of bullying opt for keeping it to themselves…keeping it in…until they end up taking irreversible, permanent action.  Perhaps that’s a good starting point:  teaching, and instilling!, in young people who they HAVE  to speak up; they HAVE to speak out; they HAVE to make sure their voices are being heard by people who will do something about it.  However, there’s a reason why so many prefer not talking about it as opposed to telling someone:  they’ve learned that little-to-nothing is done about it when they do tell someone.  It’s an issue that’s widely swept under the carpet, or minimized, to the point where they conclude that there’s no one who will help them…that their on their own.  That becomes too much for them to handle.  Then, sadly, we lose yet another one to a death that could’ve very easily been prevented.

On the facebook blog page, where people often tell their stories, one of the members just posted this:

I just want others to know that if you’re being bullied, please, don’t keep it to yourself. Find someone you trust and love, someone who can help, and tell them! Nobody can help if they don’t know. You may run into some stone walls when trying to find help, but don’t let that discourage you. Stay strong…

That is an absolute.  Instilling in these young people that there really IS someone “out there” who will listen, and do their best to intervene, it essential.  Getting them to keep talking until they find that person is imperative.  Being that person who will be there to listen and do whatever it takes to end the bullying they’re dealing with is crucial to lowering the suicide rate.  It’s just that simple.

To the family and friends of young Bradley Chisholm, we send our deepest, heartfelt sympathies.  May you rest in peace now, Bradley.

Daniel Tatum, 15, Death by Suicide

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This might be the most complex, and heart-wrenching, teen suicide I’ve written about in quite a while.  Reading comments written in  the days surrounding the event, from people who were close to him, there were several elements in play, all at once.  That’s difficult, at times, for some adults.  For a 15-year-old, it can prove to be fatal.

According to “close friends” of Daniel’s, he had been dealing with bullying.  Whether it was at school or cyberbullying, or both, wasn’t stated.  There’s also a report, from yet another friend, that a friend of his was involved in a horrific car accident that left her with brain damage, an accident that involved them texting to each other, with her sending him a text right before the accident.  There’s no word on her condition; however, another student from Bank County High School, which Daniel attended posted this:

We had 2 deaths today at banks county high school. Courtney Phagen and Daniel Tatum.  Courtney was in a wreck earlier this week, and Daniel was shot at the high school. Please keep the families of these 2 wonderful people in your prayers tonight. The whole town is devastated.

It is unknown to me, at the time of this writing, whether Courtney was the friend that Daniel was texting at the time of her accident.  What is known, however, is that she died the same day of Daniel’s suicide attempt.

Whether or not Courtney was the girl he was texting at the time of her, the thought of having a hand in a friend’s accident, one that caused severe damage, is a heavy load for anyone to carry.  Being 15-years-old and in that predicament can be devastating.

The bullying issue, though still unconfirmed, is a recurring issue we hear in the overwhelming majority of all teen suicides.  Unfortunately, we continue to hear about it in the overwhelming majority of all teen suicides.  That, of course, says that not nearly enough is being done to address the situation.  And, until it is truly addressed as the epidemic that it is, we’re going to continue to hear about it for months and years to come.

By this point, there can’t be an adult or school-aged kid around who hasn’t heard that bullying, as it pertains to teens, has become a major issue in schools, online, on the school buses, and more.  It’s so heavily covered, in the media as well as online, it makes you wonder how and why it’s not only continuing but, seemingly, increasing in both frequency and intensity.  I guess what I’m not understanding is how can school-aged kids see the occurrences of bully related suicides that constantly appear in the media and online and continue to do the very actions that they already know is driving others to end their own lives?  If people are dying as a result of being bullied, how is it that the ones responsible for the bullying still continue to bully, as if it’s a game?

One thing I’ve learned since getting involved with the bullying/teen suicide phenomena is that there are no easy answers to any of these questions.  The bullying issue is deeply complex.  Oft times, the bullies, themselves, are dealing with deep-rooted issues, issues that manifests themselves in the bullying of others.  In many cases, the bullying is brought from the homes, where they’re taught (be it directly or indirectly) to be intolerant as opposed to being tolerant of others.  Then, on top of that, they’re bombarded daily will social cues that tells them that bullying others, people whom they perceive as different from themselves, is not only okay but, in some cases, acceptable.   That leaves us with the question:  “where do we begin?”  So far, the answer has proven to be elusive.

One day shy of his Sweet 16th birthday, Daniel Tatum had too much on his young plate.  Much more than he was capable of dealing with by himself.  Tragically, the only way he could see to “clean his slate” was to end his life.  We can speculate forever as to what exactly caused the final break.  And, all the speculation in the world won’t return Daniel to his family and friends who loved him.  Rest in peace, Daniel.


Enough is Enough: the blog page


Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Suicide Prevention

Ashley McIntyre, 16, Family Blames Bullying in Suicide Death

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According the WBOY, a news outlet in West Virginia:

Ashley McIntyre, 16, was hanging out with friends at home Friday night, before she disappeared.

Ashley was later found, dead by suicide.  Friends and family alike say that bullying was a contributing factor.  The Liberty High school Prevention Resource Officer, Mike Daugherty, didn’t rule out the possibility that bullying played a role while also adding that…”he said he worked hard to eliminate bullying at Liberty.”  School Board President, Mike Queen, also is on record as saying he’s heard that bullying is to blame.

Conversely, Ashley’s family has said that she never said anything about being bullied, adding that she often kept to herself.  If she was being bullied, only her friends would’ve known…those who were with her in school and were able to witness it.  Apparently, she never talked to anyone about it.  Added PRO, Mike Daugherty:

Statistics show that 90% of teens who are being picked on or bullied, they don’t report it. They don’t report it to an adult, they don’t report it to a parent, they just sit in silence. Although they haven’t proven it to be bullying as of yet, we still see a lot of people wearing the pink shirts, supporting, saying that they’re not going to stand for bullying anymore

If Ashley was indeed being bullied, she kept it to herself…tried to deal with it on her own.  And, if that’s the case, it cost her her life.  Regrettably, far too many young people opt to keep it to themselves, for whatever reason.  In some cases, they fear telling someone about being bullied will only make things worse.  In truth, in some cases, that’s been proven to be correct.  In still other cases, they don’t report it because they’ve come to the realization, real or imagined, that nothing will be done about it.  Either way, we’ve created a culture where the bullied feels isolated.  My own surrogate son, Marty, was bullied badly when he was high school.  When asked if he ever reported it, his response was similar to what I’ve heard and read many times before:

After making several attempts to report my own bullying, I soon realized it became useless because they don’t take it seriously.  They always take the “kiss and make up” approach.  Another thing is I don’t really think they care.  They get to go home everyday to their families.  They have a passion to teach; they don’t have a passion resolve conflicts, unfortunately.

As adults, as school administrators, and in some cases, even as parents, we are failing today’s youth.  We are failing the ones who need us most, at the time they need us most.  It’s easy to say “how can we help if they don’t let us know what’s going on?”   However, to look at it from their perspective, we have failed to provide them an environment where they feel comfortable telling “us” that they’ve been or are being bullied; we’ve also failed them by creating an environment where they feel that telling “us” doesn’t do any good.  Marty’s words are echoed many, many times by far too many other young people who are bullied or are being bullied.  We send the message out, daily, that “if you’re being bullied, tell someone”, then, somehow, we drop the ball.  In this case, dropping the ball is costing lives.

Ashley’s mother, along with the rest of her family and friends, are now left with a lifetime of trying to figure out exactly what went wrong.  The void will never be filled.  Our sincerest condolences go to the family and friends of 16-year-old Ashley McIntyre.  May you rest in peace.

Thursday, the day of her funeral, I encourage everyone who reads this to wear a purple ribbon.  Wear it in Ashley’s honor.  Wear it for the teenaged suicide victims who came before her.  Wear it because this is Suicide Prevention Month Worldwide, and we must start doing a much better job at trying to prevent these tragic losses.

If you, or anyone you know, is “at-risk”, please talk to someone.  YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!!!  There is ALWAYS someone ready and willing to talk to you when you need it most: 

Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Enough is Enough: the blog page