David Hernandez Barros, 16, Death by Suicide
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.
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!!********