Dustin VanLaningham, 17, Gone Too Soon
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!!!*****************
Written by Ron Kemp
September 27, 2012 at 7:21 pm
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