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

Teen Suicide Cluster in Pennsylvania

with 15 comments


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



15 Responses

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  1. Too sad for words over this 😦

    Cheryl M

    September 28, 2012 at 6:31 pm

  2. A child is bullied in elementary school, and nothing happens. Child goes to a different middle school than all the other kids he/she went to elementary school with. Child fears getting into trouble for fighting back and is constantly told, to just walk away and tell the teacher. The teachers didn’t listen; even one tells this child that she (A Teacher) doesn’t get paid enough to deal with the problem. This child is verbally and physically assaulted the school doesn’t do a damn thing. The dean (a doctorate in education) suspends the child and the abuser (bully) the child is scared to death that he/she would be in serious trouble at home for the suspension…. During the parent conference to get the child back in school. The dean complains that the child can’t deal with the bullying on his/her own, and that the dean is tired of having to deal with it. After school that day while walking to his/her parent’s vehicle the bully comes up behind the child and without warning or the child seeing it coming the bully punches full force into the child’s spine. The child is made fun of by other students for falling down from the punch and then running away. This was reported to the school and since it was on school property, the school did nothing. The second to the last day of school before the Christmas break, the child’s life is threatened. The child is told that he/she will be shot with a gun the next day (last day of school for Christmas break) the child tells his/her parents, and the child is told that he/she must be causing the bullying and that the parent didn’t want to deal with the drama….. The parents keep the child home the next day as a precautionary measure, however that day the child got extra chores etc. because the child had to stay home from school. The threat on the child’s life is reported to the school, nothing happens. This child is massively depressed and legitimately suicidal, he/she tries to talk to his/her parents into getting help, the parent threatens the child that they will have the child locked up permanently, the child fears this and NEVER receives help in any way, and stops talking to people, fearing that if he/she talks or attempts suicide and doesn’t succeed in suicide that he/she will be locked up permanently….

    This is well before victimized/ bullied kids, started shooting up the schools and before the higher suicide rates we have now.

    In the above case, IF the child had not told his/her parents of the death threat, and the child would have been killed, they would all say “If he/she only told us we could have helped etc.” but in the above case the child does tell and is not helped, it was worse for the child. The child was given a guilt trips that he/she wanted out of this life and end the pain he/she was in, but there are many other children that want to live and cant due to medical issues etc., and that this child was wasting a life that someone else would gladly accept.


    September 28, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    • Did this happen to you?

      Ron Kemp

      September 28, 2012 at 7:12 pm

      • Thank You I happen to google myself and this came up. I turn 53 tomorrow. GOD IS GREAT !!! I’m married now and VERY HAPPY!!!!

        Marleen Alojipan

        September 27, 2016 at 6:33 pm

  3. So, so very heartbreaking, on so many levels, this avoidable tragedy.

    Deborah the Closet Monster

    September 28, 2012 at 7:51 pm

  4. how does society reach out to these kids. how do we let them know we are willing to help, to stand up for them? a personal loss in my own community has me begging this question every day. How do I help?

    Mindy Johnson

    September 28, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    • The problem is that the people they try to get help from won’t help and make it worse. The other problem is they don’t trust anyone after being let down by the ones they did trust and hide within to protect what dignity and protection they have left. Being from there myself, I still have issues with the very one person I have entrusted my life with. I don’t know where you could form a union with these victims of society and keep it from looking like they should hide from you or protect them from others who are accusing them of squeeling or from looking like you are after them as a preditor. Maybe people like myself could help in some way but they shun away from everyone and keep a closed mouth fearing repercusions. I know for a fact that it would take a long long time to get someone to open up if they aren’t ready or trust taking the step. A secret underground rail road such as where women entrust their lives when running from an abusive husband or boyfriend would help. It could be just for teens could go to hide from abusive families and schools. That would work. It would have to be legal and fair and completely discreet for them where they wouldn’t be forced to go back if they chose not to. I would have taken that route and gladly. I know something needs to be done.


      September 28, 2012 at 11:54 pm

  5. The bullying was worse at home by siblings and mother who turned her back and laughed when told of it. At school the bullying continued on a different note. Not part of the neighborhood group, girls shunning the girl. Boys picking on her and making her fight back. Then inner city started when transfered to a new school and they were worse kids. All they thought of was violence and drugs. So between home siblings making a daily routine of setting up punishment from the parents ,for no apparent reason other then a plan to have entertainment of the sister being punished and school bullies announcing that she should be dead everyday, the stress was eating at her will to make it in school. Illness set in and the fight for life got worse. Bad teachers added to the mix while one stepped up and stuck up for her. A glimmer of hope. Thank you for that.
    A decision ….. if suicide was the answer then they would be rid of the girl just like they wanted, so to stick it out and make them suffer was a better answer. It took 60 years to find peace but It happened. They are all jealous of the girl now. Go Figure. Fight, you are worth it and you have the right to live here just as much as they do. You will make it for I did.


    September 28, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    • I am happy to know you are here with us to share your story for others to find inspiration. Thank you.


      September 29, 2012 at 12:00 am

  6. This is so sad. I was never really bullied in school. I had nicknames that weren’t real flattering. But being at school was a better environment then staying home with an abusive step mother. I have mental health issues and have tryed suicide. I turned 49 today and I am glad God saved me, from myself. My last attempt was 3 years ago. It really opened my eyes to get the toxic people out of my life. Even if they are family. If people can’t acccept that I am not perfect NONE OF US ARE. Then I don’t need them in my life.

    Marleen Lacey Alojipan

    September 29, 2012 at 5:57 am

    • Happy Birthday to you, Marleen!! And, I’m very glad that your attempt was unsuccessful and that you’re still here.

      Ron Kemp

      September 29, 2012 at 6:35 am

  7. […] Teen Suicide Cluster in Pennsylvania ( […]

  8. […] articles about South African lesbians being subjected to “corrective rape” and four bullied Pennsylvania teenagers committing suicide within one week. It means being one of two gay actors in a conservative town’s production of […]

  9. October 15 my best friend I had just here’d he had shot himself in the head from one of the kids at my school bullying him and I have known him for eleven years and know he is gone


    October 15, 2012 at 11:44 pm

  10. I think the issue here has been with the world changing, along with technology, and what I mean is cyber families. we don’t eat as a family don’t talk as a family and don’t socialize as we use to. always a screen stuffed into somebody’s face and poor or noconversation or HEALTHY COPING SKILLS passed on. my thoughts will there will always be builling, I was as a child, and had no family support, and becoming hooked in drugs as a result, feel that if we talk and be a friend to these lost feelig kids we can make a difference. not sure if my point got across but how much do you love other to put extra effort in stead of pointing at the next guy and loving only yourself.

    Brian bready

    November 12, 2012 at 7:04 am

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