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Archive for October 2012

Tallulah Wilson, 15, Yet Another Death by Suicide

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Why are there websites that encourage suicide and/or self-harm?  Freedom of speech is one thing.  As with everything else in life, that freedom comes with a responsibility.  In this case, that “responsibility” was thrown out the window.  In fact, if there’s any “responsibility” involved, someone should be responsible for encouraging 15-year-old Tallulah Wilson to commit suicide.Tallulah Wilson ended her young life, in the U.K., Sunday, October 14th.  She had dealt with anorexia.  Before her death, she had frequented websites that promoted anorexia and suicide.  It’s also apparent, from some of her online posts just three days before her death, that she was dealing with depression.

“My life is not worth living when we don’t talk. The temptation is unbearable. I just don’t want to wake up any more.”

There is also talk of Tallulah being bullied at her school.  That’s unconfirmed, at this point.  However, for someone already dealing with mental health issues – and, anorexia is a mental health issue – bullying would only exacerbate the problem.

“why the f*** should I stay if no one around me stay for me? It’s not f***ing fair. I’m done. I’m f***ing done”  It was followed by another harrowing message last week that read: ‘I don’t want to wake up anymore’.

There are so many things wrong, here.  First and foremost, once again, I’m left scratching my head, wondering how is it that these young people a crying out for help in a, world-wide public forum, yet no one is hearing them?  Every cry for help has to be taken seriously until the crisis is at least manageable.  Now, I do know that there are cases where the cries are heard and the loved ones do everything within their power to save the person in crisis, and their efforts just aren’t enough to overpower the deep depression the person is in.  That said, the question in my mind is “are those cases the exception or the rule?”  Obviously, I can’t answer that.

Tallulah’s devastated parents…said in a statement: “She was a clever, cheerful and creative girl with a talent for dance and huge potential. She will be sadly missed.”

The Head Master at Tallulah’s school said that there was “…no hint that she was unhappy”.  Yet, we now know that she had been dealing with suicidal thoughts at least as far back as July.  We’re missing crucial signs that could be saving lives.

What makes this even more troubling is the websites that Tallulah had been frequenting prior to her suicide.  How is it that there’s no accountability for having a website that promotes self-harm and suicide?  Doesn’t free speech come with responsibility?  Well, of course it does.  It’s very well-known that there are things that you can say right now that would have you immediately arrested or, at the very least, have a lot of questions to answer.  But, why?  Shouldn’t it be covered by free speech?  The answer is that with “free speech” comes responsibility.  As such, sites that promotes any type of violence, self-harm, or suicide needs to be heavily regulated.

Pro-anorexia sites can be particularly dangerous. They encourage people to believe that eating disorders are a lifestyle choice and not the serious mental illness they truly are.”

Or, perhaps we need to do a much, much better job of monitor what our young people are doing online.  Either way, this is a serious instance of the proverbial ball being dropped.  And, as a result, here we are, once again, saying goodbye to another person whose life hadn’t even begun.

So sorry no one could catch you in time, Tallulah.  You can rest, now, in peace.

******************************Suicide Prevention Resources******************************

Understanding Teenage Depression

What Teen Depression Looks Like

Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Befrienders

Enough is Enough: the blog page

 

 

 

Felicia Garcia, 15, Death by Suicide

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It’s being called a case of bullying by some.  By others, it’s not bullying at all.  Either way, 15-year-old Felicia Garcia ended her life Wednesday, October 24th, as horrified schoolmates looked on.By her own admission, to a friend, Felicia had had consensual sex with several members of her high school football team Saturday at an after-game party.  Unfortunately, it didn’t end there.  Apparently, the boys told others about the encounter when they returned to school on Monday.  It was downhill from there.

According to new reports, Felicia had a troubled life even before last weekend’s events.  She was a foster child who’d frequently run away from home, having been reported missing 7 times in the past.  I would appear that there were some mental health issues involved that, perhaps, were not being properly addressed.

The question being asked now is “does what the boys did (by telling others about their sexual encounter with Felicia) constitute bullying.  Certainly, it’s nothing new that high school boys brag about their sexual conquests to their peers.  And, it isn’t as if they were making up lies and rumors and spreading them around the school.  By her own admission, this did happen, and it was consensual.  So, does that constitute being bullied?

I’m going to go on record as saying that this wasn’t a case of bullying.  Rather, in my opinion, it was a sad case of a troubled young girl who cried out for attention, couldn’t find it in her foster home (hence the repeated running away), so she found it wherever she could.  Sadly, “wherever she could” put her in exactly the wrong place at the right time.  And, stopping teenaged boys from bragging about their sexual encounters will prove to be as easy as we’re finding it to bring an end to the bullying.

Make no mistake:  this is an enormous tragedy.  Felicia Garcia was tormented.  She’d been tormented for quite some time.  What happened after Saturday’s football game was her last straw.  It’s deeply troubling that a 15-year-old even has a “last straw”!!!  Troubling as it may be, the fact of the matter is that they do have that “last straw”, and we’re seeing it manifested again and again and again.

On the facebook blog page, I was recently asked by two different concerned parents “what can I do to save our children”?  There’s no easy answer, to be sure.  However, I would say that a great starting place would be keeping a wide-open channel for honest dialogue.  Hone your listening skills so that you can actually hear what they’re saying to you.  We tell young people all the time, in this time of crisis, that they need to talk to someone.  They know when their words are falling on deaf ears.

In many cases, such as this one with Felicia Garcia, knowing and understanding issues like depression will save lives, as well.  There was a reason why she ran away from home frequently, did some of the other things she did, and ultimately ended her life.

A memorial for suicide victim Felicia Garcia

Felicia Garcia was a tortured soul.  But, the torture did come about because of Saturday’s party or the boys talking about their conquest.  The “torture” was already in place.  Undoubtedly, there were signs given that were apparently missed.  In hindsight, they’re usually clear as day.  We’ve got a lot of work to do.  As a society, we are failing the youth of today in a very frightening way.  They’re responding to our failure by ending their own lives.

May you now find peace, Felicia.

******************************SUICIDE IS NOT THE ANSWER!!!!******************************

Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Befrienders

The Trevor Project

Enough is Enough: the blog page

Suicide Prevention

 

Nathaniel Hamrick, 19, Death by Suicide

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

Rest Peacefully, dear.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rest in peace, Nathan

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

Enough is Enough: the blog page

Suicide Prevention

Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Befrienders

The Trevor Project

Desa Bane, 15, Death by Suicide

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I was sent a haunting video tonight, made by one of Desa’s friends, chronicling her short life and wishing her farewell.  When I received the emailed video, I was still in the process of writing the previous blog post, about yet another young suicide victim.  For those who don’t understand, yet, we are in a crisis!!   This is an epidemic.

The video opens with a blackened screen and the written words:

Desa Bane was a beautiful girl.  Desa was the kind of girl who stepped up to solve your problems but kept her own to herself.  Desa was bullied by jealous girls who thought they were better.  Desa also had epilepsy.

Rest in Paradise, Des.  We love you.

<3333333

I’m certainly have no idea, at this point, how accurate or inaccurate the claim of being bullied is.  What I do know is that there is yet another young person whose family and friends are dealing with some of the worst pain they’ll ever have to endure.

What’s important, from my point-of-view, is that the number of teen suicides is growing daily, but rather than being able to hear about actions being down to address the epidemic on my car radio, I’m hearing about a medical outbreak that’s taking people’s lives.  I’m not minimizing the loss of life in that case by any stretch of the imagination.  And, to be sure, the pain that their families are feeling is every bit as real as the pain felt by the families and friends of these young suicide victims.  I get that.  My problem with this picture is that these teen suicides are

  • being kept relatively secret
  • not being given the urgency they need and deserve
  • being treated as if there’s a stigma attached

There’s no stigma attached:  there’s an epidemic in full-bloom that’s screaming to be addressed.  The issue of bullying, cyberbullying, and teen suicide needs to come out of the shadows, stopped being whispered about, and given the full, center-stage, blaring-spotlight attention it’s going to take to make it go away.  Waiting for someone else to step up and lead the charge isn’t the answer, either.  That’s seemingly what we’ve been doing all along, and we see almost daily how effective that’s been.

Here’s the deal:  Today is October 22nd, 2012.  It is 100% impossible for there to be a living, breathing human being, with even minimal comprehension level or intelligence, to not know that bullying is a crisis amongst today’s youth.  It’s contributing mightily to the teen suicide rate.  Parents know it.  Teachers know it.  School administrators know it.  And, the kids, themselves, know it!!  Therefore, with everyone knowing that we’re in crisis mode with the continued bullying and teen suicides, it wouldn’t take much of a leap to get the impression that there’s a general apathy towards the whole situation.  There are kids who still think it’s cool or funny to bully others in their peer group.  As we witnessed in the aftermath of Amanda Todd’s tragic suicide, even after the victim is dead, these heartless young people still find it cool or funny to continue their bullying.  They continue bullying at schools and online as if the last suicide didn’t matter to them at all.

On the other side of that same coin, we simply must figure out a way to convey to these young people who it is absolutely okay for them to find someone to talk to about their problems…whatever they may be.  In fact, it’s essential.  It could save their lives.  “Desa was the kind of girl who stepped up to solve your problems but kept her own to herself.”  Even if it’s only an online-type service, there is ALWAYS someone ready and willing to listen…and, help:

Obviously, there are even more resources available.  It’s beyond time we stop passively talking about how bad this epidemic is and start actively doing something about it.  This isn’t going to go away by itself.  It won’t go away if we collectively wait for someone else to be the one to step up.

To you, Desa Bane, may you now find peace.  To the family and friends of Desa, we send our deepest sympathy and support.

Jarrod Nickell, 18, Bullied to Death

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He wanted to play football for his new high school’s football team.  Unfortunately, even though he joined the team, he wasn’t allowed to because he had just transferred to his new school in Michigan, moving from Maryland.  As a transfer student, Michigan required more credits before being eligible to play.  Disappointed, but not dejected, he went on to wear his football jersey, #10, and cheer his school’s team on when they played.  Then, the bullying started.

They bullied him for wearing the football jersey and working the sidelines during the games.  That’s something I’ll probably never understand.  And, as we’ve heard far too many times, school authorities passed it off as boys being boys.  His step-mother, Michele had to intervene which, of course, only made it worse.  Now, he was bullied for being a “momma’s boy”, as well.  January 10, Jarrod ended the bullying he had endured by taking his own life.

There’s far more to the story, as you can imagine.  According to Michele, she and her husband have said all along that it was more than bullying that led Jarrod to end his life.  He’d also been dealing with depression from a young age.  He’d been living here in Maryland with his mother and step-father; however, once he turned 18, he moved to Michigan to live with his father and step-mother.

In the aftermath of Jarrod’s suicide, it’s reported that the Flushing Township police released a statement within 24 hours, sending letters home to the parent of his schoolmates, stating that bullying had nothing to do with his actions.  And, we’ve heard that before, as well.  Yet, it is confirmed by his step-mother that he was, indeed, bullied.  At times, severely so.  According to his step-mother:

The week prior to his death someone removed all the lugnuts from his tire and it came off while he was driving .. again not bullying

That goes beyond bullying, reaching into criminal activities: reckless endangerment and possibly even attempted murder.  But, boys will be boys.  As we’ve seen far, far too many times before, there was a breakneck rush to declare “bullying had nothing to do with…” Jarrod’s suicide.  And, whereas it’s acknowledged that bullying wasn’t the sole reason for the tragic event, clearly bullying…and, blatant bullying, was involved.

Javon Gill, 20, of Flint was a close a friend of Jarrod’s. Gill first met Jarrod in October at Jarrod sister’s Halloween party and they clicked — like brothers.

Gill said Jarrod confided in him, telling him he was having trouble focusing in school because of the bullying and that he missed having a lot of friends like he did in Maryland.

Who do these “authorities” check with before hastily committing to their “bullying wasn’t involved” stance?  Where do they get their information?  Why are they so eager to wash their hands of the situation when a young person has ended their lives?

“[Bullying] may not have been the only factor that pushed him, but it was a factor,” said James Nickell.

Here’s my take on this continuing issue:  we, the concerned citizens, family members, and friends of the bullycide victims need to resolve to hold these authorities’ feet to the proverbial fire and force them to take the bullying and ensuing teen suicide issue for what it is.  It’s a plague.  It’s an epidemic for our society.  To brush these events off as “boys will be boys” or “bullying has always been around” or whatever other catch-phrase they chose to absolve themselves of any responsibility or accountability is absolutely not acceptable.  However, we can continue to say that for as long as we want.  It won’t be until we come up with a solution, a solid plan, that holds their feet to the fire in each of these cases.  The plain, sad truth is that they are just not taking these cases seriously, regardless of what they say in attempt to make us believe otherwise.  They can argue that point all they want, but the proof is right in our faces.

Currently, one of the major news stories I hear every day (many times every day) is about this meningitis outbreak that’s been traced back to tainted steroids having been injected.  Currently, at least 20 people have died from this outbreak.  And, of course, officials are working hard to end the outbreak, including holding people accountable.  After all, 20 people have died from it.  Conversely, I’ve personally written about over 20 teen suicide just since the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year!!  Where is the outrage over that!?  Where is the media coverage on the bullying/teen suicide phenomena?  Where is the accountability when there are clear-cut cases of bullying?  Am I minimizing the deadly outbreak of meningitis?  Absolutely not.  What I am saying, though, is that for whatever reason, these cases of bullying, cyberbullying, and teen suicide are being treated as “oh well”.  “Boys will be boys”.  In some cases, the victim is found to blame…for being bullied!!  What I am saying is that it’s long past time for this to be treated with the urgency that it screams to be treated with.  This is a 5-alarm blaze, but it’s being treated as a brush fire.  For the sake of the thousands of teens who end their lives annually, that’s a grave injustice.  For their families, it’s a slap in the face.

Jarrod Nickell was an Eagle Scout, an assistant Cub Scout leader, a teenager who sometimes struggled and, some say, a victim of bullying.  He said he planned to join the Marine Corps following graduation.  He’d even already talked to a recruiter and started training.  He was living a promising, exciting life.  And, now he’s gone.

For Jarrod’s parents, it’s an ongoing struggle as they learn to cope without their beloved son.  The pain is still very raw.  You can offer your condolences and support on this facebook page set up in Jarrod’s memory.

Jordan E. Shaffer, 15, Death by Suicide

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His best friend contacted me, via a comment on the blog post about the teen suicide cluster last month on the other side of Pennsylvania:

October 15, my best friend, I had just heard he had [committed suicide] [because of] one of the kids at my school bullying him.  I have known him for eleven years, and now he is gone.Jordan Shaffer, 15, of Meadville, PA, ended his life Sunday, October 14th.  It was a case that seems to have involved some bullying; however, bullying does not seem to be what led to break point.  In fact, in a post on one of the memorial pages already set up in Jordan’s name on facebook, his mother clearly stated that it wasn’t because of bullying.

I realize there are many rumors floating around there about various things concerning Jordan’s death.  To my knowledge, he was NOT a victim of bullying.  PLEASE STOP SPREADING RUMORS!!!  What Jordan did was DUMB.  I do NOT blame anyone for what happened.

How do we go about making these young people understand that, regardless of what they’re going through at the moment, no matter how bleak things seem to be or how overwhelmed they may feel at the moment, nothing is worth ending their lives? What is it that we’re missing in our quest to convey to them that, given time, their lives will get better?  Like everyone before him, Jordan’s friends characterized him as someone they’d never expect to end their life.  Outwardly happy.  Obviously, though, inwardly, there had to be a lot of inner turmoil.

There has to be a way to keep these young people alive long enough to realize that they haven’t even reached the prime of their lives, yet!  There has to be something we can do and/or say to make them understand that no matter what they’re going through at the moment, it isn’t so severe that they should end their lives.  Before we can get to that point, however, we must come to the point where we can see life through their eyes as opposed to life through our own “teenaged” eyes.  They’re two completely separate worlds.

For many, teen years are some of the most difficult in life. Our bodies go through changes; relationships become complex; we begin to learn social roles; and more than ever we’re expected to grow up earlier. These changes and demands may leave a teenager feeling helpless, confused and pessimistic about the future.
Sometimes problematic circumstances, such as divorce, substance abuse, domestic violence or sexual abuse, complicate and worsen these “growing pains.” Dealing with adolescence is difficult enough by itself. When other such problems are added into the mix, life can seem unbearable to the teenager, resulting in feelings of depression, destructive behavior or even suicide. (ref: Understanding Teen Suicide)

There are many things we experience as teenagers.  A broad spectrum of emotions.  That holds true today more than ever as today’s youth are exposed to so much more than the generations before them could ever imagine.  The heightened level of teen suicides speaks to that.  Yet, in hindsight, I’m sure it’s not much of a stretch at all to say that there were warning signs of imminent danger.  Unfortunately, most of us aren’t too well-versed in knowing the warning signs:

  • pulling away from friends or family and losing desire to go out
  • trouble concentrating or thinking clearly
  • changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • major changes in appearance (for example, if a normally neat person looks very sloppy – as if they’re not taking the usual care of themselves )
  • talk about feeling hopeless or feeling guilty
  • talk about suicide
  • talk about death
  • talk about “going away”
  • self-destructive behavior (drinking alcohol, taking drugs, or driving too fast, for example)
  • no desire to take part in favorite things or activities
  • the giving away of favorite possessions (like offering to give away a favorite piece of jewelry, for example) suddenly very happy and cheerful moods after being depressed or sad for a long time (this may mean that a person has decided to attempt suicide and feels relieved to have found a “solution”)  (ref: Warning Signs of Teen Suicide – What to Look For)


Jordan Shaffer leaves behind a grieving family and at least one devastated friend who contacted me the day Jordan’s life ended to let me know that his best friend “…for the past 11 years” was now gone for good.  And, that nothing would ever be the same.  No, it won’t.  Hopefully, now you’ve found peace, Jordan.  And, to you, his family and friends, may you, too, find peace.

********************************SUICIDE PREVENTION RESOURCES********************************
Suicide Prevention Lifeline
The Trevor Project
Suicide Prevention
Enough is Enough: the blog page

Zachary Gales, 14, Death by Suicide

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Someone sent me information late last night to the facebook blog page about yet another young life lost to bully-related suicide.  Stunned, but not surprised, I decided to do a quick search of just the ones that I’ve written about, the ones I know about.  Since the beginning of this still-new school year, I’ve covered 18 teen suicides!!!  Eighteen young lives, that I know about!, that was cut short due to suicide.  And, in the majority of the cases, bullying played a role to some degree.  Tonight’s makes 19.Zachary Gales would’ve turned 14 years old tomorrow.  Life was just beginning.  Instead, his family and loved ones are left to deal with what has to be unbearable grief.  His mother posted a message to him on the tribute page that is already set up on facebook in his honor:

Zack, I keep opening this page and looking at you and trying to write something, and I just don’t know what to say.  I love you so much, I can’t sleep ’cause I know you are no longer here.  I want to yell and scream at you asking “why”.  Why couldn’t you just talk to me?  You are so beautiful, smart, loving, giving, and I miss you so much.  I try to keep my mind busy and think of the times I knew you were happy, but it’s so hard to keep my mind away from I will never hold you again or kiss your soft cheek. Oh baby, I miss you so much.

Parents shouldn’t have to be going through that kind of grief as they mourn their young child who committed suicide.  They shouldn’t be; yet, they are.  It’s happening much more frequently than you’re reading about here.  And, relief seems like it’s moving at a snail’s pace.

There is a long laundry list of why this is continuing at the pace it is, as I see it:

  1. There appears to be a stigma attached to being bullied.  There has been cases where there was obvious bullying involved; yet, the family, for whatever reason, vehemently denied that fact.  Listen, if close friends and schoolmates, or even siblings say that there was bullying involved, there was bullying involved.  They are the ones who are spending the most time with these victims.  They are the ones who really know what’s going on.  Face it, when you or I were in our adolescent years, who knew more about what we were doing on a day-to-day, hour-to-hour basis:  our parents?  Or, our friends and siblings?  We can’t fix a problem that we routinely refuse to acknowledge is there.
  2. There seems to be an extreme reluctance, from peers, to step up and get involved.  I posted an article on the facebook blog page last week about a 13-year-old being absolutely pummeled at school by a 15-year-old.  Savagely beaten.  There were schoolmates abound!  One was recording a video of it!!!  NO ONE INTERVENED!!!  Yet, when one of these bullying victims reach their break point and end their lives, hundreds and thousands of people, including schoolmates, show up on the various memorial pages, at the memorials and funerals, expressing their sorrow, their anger that this is going on, and their love for the victim.  Reactionary.  Being proactionary makes the difference.
  3. Across the country and around the world, officials who could and should be making a difference simply are not.  Despite having the bright, worldwide spotlight now being shone on the bullying and teen suicide issue, there is still a tendency for school administrators and law enforcement to hurriedly make the “official” statement that “our ‘investigation’ has not found bullying to be an issue.”  How convenient is that?  How do these people go home and kiss their own children knowing that their inactivity is playing a major role other parents’ kids to end their lives?
  4. I get story after story after story about bullying incidents where the bullied victim reaches their break point and fights back…only to be punished and labeled a bully, themselves!!!  That’s hardly a recipe for remedy.  Instead, it’s a recipe for disaster.  And, that disaster is being played out right before our eyes.
  5. We constantly encourage young people to talk.  Talk!!!  “Don’t stop until you find someone who will listen.”  “There are people who care and will do something about it.”  That’s what our words say.  Our actions say something completely different.  These young people aren’t necessarily so naive that they don’t recognize that, in most cases, they’re simply on their own.  I harken back to Charles Andrew Williams and the 2001 Santee High School murders.  Andy screamed at the top of his lungs for help from the bullying. No.  One.  Listened.  Instead, 3 teens lost their lives in March 2001. (the 2 he killed, and Andy, himself, as he is now spending the majority of his life in a prison cell.)
  6. “Boys will be boys”; “kids will be kids”.  The next adult who utters those words needs to be required to spend time with a grieving family that’s mourning the loss of their child from “boys being boys” or “kids being kids”.

So, why isn’t this slowing down?  Why aren’t we seeing positive results for the efforts of thousands of people around the globe, both online and in “real life”?  How is it that I have personally published now-19 stories about teens ending their lives since the beginning of the 5-week-old school year!!?? (realizing, sadly, that if I’ve written about 19 of them, there’s at least twice that amount that I haven’t heard about)  Why is this school year off to a worse start than last year’s insofar as the sheer number of teen suicide cases?  Here’s the answer:  it’s because, for as painful as this is to understand and accept, not enough people are taking this seriously.  Sad, but true.  Oh, there’s plenty of the routine, “I’m so sorry” or “this has to end” to go around.  But, what’s being done about it?  Who’s really taking it seriously.  Obviously, the families of the victims now take it very seriously.  They now understand fully that more could’ve and should’ve been done.  If nothing else, if every single person who reads this would step their own efforts up, even just a notch, if everyone who reads this were to intervene the next time they see bullying occurring, if everyone who reads this were to sit down and really listen to someone who needs to be heard, at least one life will be saved.  Maybe more.  The thing is we must, must, must stop talking about it, especially after the fact!, and start doing more about it.  That’s an absolute.

Picture this:  A mysterious virus has infected students and spread like a wildfire around the country.  What pretty much amounts to one child per day is dying because of this virus.  How quickly and definitely would we, as a society, work to eradicate this virus?  What lengths would we, as a society, go to to make sure that this virus doesn’t kill any more kids?

Now, ask yourselves this:  Why isn’t that same urgency being applied to the bullying and teen suicide menace that is plaguing our society?

The family and friends of Zachary Gales shouldn’t be mourning his death right now.  They should be enjoying his presence and watching him continue to blossom.  As of October 9th, however, all blossoming ceased.  Heartfelt sympathy and condolences are sent to his family and friends.  May you now find peace, young Zachary.

************************SUICIDE IS PREVENTABLE!!!************************

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

The Trevor Project

Suicide Prevention

Befrienders

Ciara Pugsley, 15, Succumbs to Cyberbullying

with 9 comments


This is playing out like a bad rerun.  Another teen, everything going for her, well loved by everyone who knew her…with the exception of the person or people who chose, instead, bully her online until she couldn’t handle it anymore.Ciara Pugsley, just 15-years-old, ended her life Wednesday, September 19th.  What’s apparent is that Ciara had experienced “extreme bullying” on the website Ask.fm, which is an anonymous site where people can post whatever they want with no impunity.

Ask.fm did not respond to … requests for statement in the days following the death of 15 year old Ciara Pugsley, who experienced extreme bullying through the anonymous site in the months before her suicide.

Ask.fm’s co-founder, Mark Terebin did, however, offer a statement, which comes off as more of an excuse as to why his site isn’t responsible for what happened:

“Of course there is a problem with cyber-bullying in social media. But, as far as we can see, we only have this situation in Ireland and the UK most of all, trust me. There are no complaints regarding cyberbullying from parents, children, or other sources in other countries. It seems like children are crueller (sic) in these countries (Ireland and UK).”

Don’t tell that to the parents of kids in the U.S. or Canada or Australia who have lost their children to suicide largely due to being cyberbullied.  Once again, there is a lack of accountability and responsibility.  No one wants to be held accountable; no one wants to be held responsible when these young people end their own lives.  Yet, as we’re seeing instances of teen suicide due to cyberbullying increase, there absolutely must be accountability.  If you’re going to have a site where everyone posts anonymously, there must be safeguards in place to protect vulnerable and innocent users:  the children who use it.  That’s the responsibility of the site owner.  Conversely, parents must have their own safeguards that they can put in place to ensure their child’s safety online.  See, there’s a breakdown all the way across the board.  Meanwhile, young people are ending their lives daily, and some of it is due to, at least in part, cyberbullying.

And, make no mistake:  cyberbullying today is intense.  We just witnessed how severe it can be with the Amanda Todd story. These young people can be relentless and unremorseful.  In fact, they’re still taunting Amanda, even in death.  What that tells me is that there is a total collapse, at least in this case, of any semblance of parental guidance.  No accountability; no responsibility.

By all accounts, Ciara was a very happy girl who loved life.  She didn’t want to die.  Once again, it was a case where she felt no other way out except for to end her life.  A fellow blogger had this to say:

As a community we have to pull together for the benefit of our next generation. We owe it to the memory of Ciara Pugsley and to our own beloved children. We simply cannot skirt the issues of cyber-bullying and teenage suicide. The stakes are too high.

That’s exactly the point:  The stakes are too high.  Too many lives are being lost needlessly.  Accountability.  Responsibility.  Both are needed before we can even begin to think about making a dent in the bullying/cyberbullying/teen suicide epidemic.  The first step, though, is acknowledging that there’s an epidemic in the first place.  Even that obvious point is being glossed over.

Rest in peace, Ciara.

 

Amanda Todd, 15, Bullied to Death

with 25 comments


This is the one.  If ever there was one event that got a little too deep under my skin, this is it.  If ever there was one teen suicide that illustrated as clearly as the day is long that it is beyond time for us to stop talking about this and start getting our hands dirty trying to fix it, this is it!!!

I had originally saved this article to my computer earlier in the day, just before leaving out for work, but I didn’t read it.  That wasn’t until later in the day, after I was done “working”. (trust me:  playing music isn’t “work”)  Not knowing that they were related, I read another article about a teen suicide from the day before.  I went to read it and was confronted with this video.  After watching the video, my emotions were boiling over.  I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t.  What I’d just watched on youtube had me much too angry to be able to cry.  So, take the time out to watch this video….

Ok, if you didn’t watch it, you really need to in order to fully understand everything that will follow.  This video, and what happened to 15-year-old Amanda Todd, clearly and definitely points out the two top reasons why we’re not making a dent in the incidents of bullying and/or the deadly aftermath it leaves:

  • Far too many parents either have no clue what their school-aged children are doing, or the flat-out don’t care.
  • Young people today, whether we want to accept it or not, have taken bullying to a whole different level.  Worse, they show a callousness and lack of compassion unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

Kid yourself, if you’d like, and say that there’s always been bullying and this is nothing new.  My response to you will be a bucket of cold water poured over your head in an effort to wake you up!!  This is a whole new level of bullying!!!  This adolescent terrorist is guilty of real and punishable crimes!  He stalked Amanda Todd until she couldn’t take it anymore.  He stalked her and terrorized her until it was obvious, at least to her already-fragile mind, that her only escape was death.  For him to get to the point where he knew her entire life’s story and history of family and friends clear indicates that his intent was malicious and criminal, and it MUST be handled as such!  This incredibly sad story is wrought with issues that should help clarify why bullying is still escalating, in frequency and intensity, and the teen suicide rate is still so high, despite the efforts of a virtual army to reduce it.

  1. At the top of the list is where is there evidence of ANY adult supervision!?  Why is as 12-year-old girl sending nude pictures over the Internet without any detection or consequences?  How is it that this boy is able to literally stalk Amanda Todd to the point where he has every piece of her vital information without any detection or consequences!?
  2. There is a very obvious lack of guidance on the part of the kid who terrorized Amanda.  Set aside his criminal activity that led to her death for a second.  It’s October 12, 2012.  Besides this blog, and the facebook blog page, there are literally hundreds upon tens of thousands of people and organizations mobilized to bring awareness to the issue of bullying and teen suicide.  Celebrities are speaking out…loudly!  Political and (some) religious leaders of speaking out.  If this kid is computer savvy enough to spy on someone’s entire life as effectively as he did, there is NO WAY he doesn’t know that his activities could lead to this girl’s death!  Yet, he did it anyway.  And, that he did all of this in spite of knowing what the consequences could be clearly indicates an absence of compassion or even a sense of right and wrong.  Those things are, or at least SHOULD be taught at home.
  3. Further, that other kids were posting “I hope she dies” and other such mean-spirited comments online shows the same lack of compassion or sense of right and wrong.
  4. And, worst of all, that young Amanda couldn’t find any relief from the terror she was enduring speaks to the state of our society, worldwide.  Unfortunately, with this being a world of high-speed, immediate connection with the world, cyberbullying can be, and in many cases is a 24-hour menace.

Amanda created that YouTube video in a last-ditch effort to reach out for help.  It’s what these young people are instructed and encouraged to do.  I post it regularly on the facebook blog page.  Yet, no one heard her.  Oh, sure, now that she’s gone, the comments are flooding the youtube comment board, and the video is, right now, going viral.  Unfortunately, Amanda Todd screamed out for help a month ago.  Her screams fell upon deaf ears.

Amanda Todd’s suicide was so incredibly preventable.  Too many things went wrong in this case to even know where to begin.  What is certain, at least in one man’s mind, is that the perpetrator of this heinous cyberbullying must be held accountable.  Forget the cries of “he’s just a kid, himself”!!  He knew, 100%, what he was doing!  He did it meticulously and methodically.  He stalked her.  For years!!!  He terrorized her.  For years!!!  He is no less responsible for her death than he would be had he hunted her down and shot her, himself.

If we’re ever going to bring this madness to an end, it’s time to stop sugar-coating everything.  It’s time to stop sidestepping the real, core issues.  It’s time for us, as adults, to step up our own game and make changes that will prevent things like this from ever happening again.  Whatever it takes!!

To you, Amanda, we say a very painful and tearful goodbye.  You shouldn’t have had to go through this.  Certainly, you shouldn’t have had to go through it alone.  You’re at peace, now.

David Hernandez Barros, 16, Death by Suicide

with 4 comments


According to news sources, the news about David Hernandez Barros’ suicide circulated last week throughout the LGBT community on facebook.  Somehow, I missed it.  I’ve said for a while, now: “just because we’re not hearing about them doesn’t mean these tragedies aren’t happening.  In face, they continue to happen on a daily basis. (there’s one from just yesterday that happened right here in my own backyard, again, that I’m waiting for information on.)

David Hernandez Barros, 16, ended his life on September 29th.  David’s friends say that he had been bullied because of his sexual orientation.  That David was an LGBT teen has been neither confirmed nor denied by his family at this point.  However, friends say that he was attending Gay/Straight Alliance meetings at his school.  In fact, according to the co-founders of the GSA in both the East Hampton Middle School and High School, David had attending one just days before his death.

The tragedy in this particular case is that David did find a support group.  At school.  He did have a peer group that he could turn to that would accept him for who he was and allow him to simply be himself.  At school.  Unfortunately, at least in his own mind, there was a breakdown of support somewhere.  And, sadly, like many, or most before him, we may never learn all of the answers.

The Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth network is a consortium of gay and lesbian outreach and support groups across Long Island. The network’s CEO, David Kilmnick, said this week that the circumstances 
facing gay and lesbian youth can be even more inhospitable outside of school than in 
school, especially for some members of the Hispanic immigrant community. “They don’t have the support system outside of school and with the East Hampton School District being 40 percent Latino, there is a great need for us to have a place for those students to come,” he said.

“We hear from many young people that there is a lack of support system for many 
Latino and African-American young people who are gay,” Mr. Kilmnick said. “In churches, which is often an important part 
of the Latino culture and of their family life, there is not a lot of good things said about gay people and little or no standing on the side of equality.”

“It gets to a point where sometimes kids can’t take it 
anymore and some find that taking their own life is the only way they can deal with that because they have nowhere to go,” Mr. Kilmnick said. “Regardless of whether David was gay or not, he should have had a place he could have seen as a lifesaver.”

We may never know the answer to why David felt he had no more reason to be here, but one thing is absolutely certain:  we are failing miserably at keeping these young people alive.  But, in truth, where do we start?  Well, some of the more obvious answers have already been well-covered:

  • Stronger anti-bullying policies that are actually enforced
  • Re-educating the adults so that they (we) can begin teaching more love and acceptance to the younger generation
  • Talking to young people, especially those who you might suspect is “at-risk”
  • Knowing the warning signs
  • Knowing, and having handy, resources…just in case of crisis.

The list could go on.  You get the point.  However, a school administrator sent me this point-of-view that really makes a lot of sense:

I am a health teacher in a public school.  It is difficult to monitor or be aware of every situation.  I emphasize to my students they have the power to stop the bullying.  They witness the bullying behavior long before a teacher has any clue it is happening.  Easy to blame school.  What about the students who sat next to this wonderful young man in classes, in the lunch room, on the bus,etc.

Fellow classmates need to stop sitting passively by watching and allow it to happen.  Silence gives the bully more power over their targets. EVERYONE needs to stand up to the bully. The school cannot do it alone.

That point couldn’t be made any more clearly than here in this video of an unrelated incident seen earlier in the week on the facebook blog page

Here’s the point:  we’re never going to see a reduction in the incidences of bullying or in teen, bully-related suicide until we stop shaking our heads, bemoaning how horrible it it (and, it is!!), screaming at the top of our lungs that “this has to end!” (and, it does) and start rolling up our sleeves and getting active in making it end.  At the end of the day, it’s going to have to include elements of everything listed above.  It’s going to take us adults completely retraining our own thought processes as it pertains to bullying and teen suicides.  I wonder, at times, just how willing we are to really do that?  Talk is one thing; taking action is entirely different.  It’s going to take peers, students, friends, anybody who witnesses acts of bullying to step up, speak out, and intervene when you see or hear incidents of bullying.  It’s simply the only way.  Otherwise, we can talk, and complain about the situation until we’re blue in the face, but it will just continue.

Sadly, once again we say farewell to one of our youth who, in his mind, simply ran out of options and out of time.  That breaks my heart.  Rest in peace, David.  You can’t be bullied anymore.  And, to your family and friends who are left to struggle, my heart is really aching as I write these words.  I can only imagine how yours feel right now.  I offer my sincerest condolences.

********DON’T STRUGGLE IN SILENCE!!  REACH OUT!!  SPEAK OUT!!  SOMEONE WILL LISTEN!!********

Enough is Enough: the blog page

Suicide Prevention 

The Trevor Project

Befrienders

Written by Ron Kemp

October 11, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Posted in Uncategorized