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

Zachary Gales, 14, Death by Suicide

with 28 comments

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



28 Responses

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  1. My sympathies. I pray for our youth. I reach out to our youth. We are losing beautiful people.

    Mindy Johnson

    October 15, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    • We need more people like you, Mindy.

      Ron Kemp

      October 15, 2012 at 4:20 pm

  2. I was one of those kids who stood up to my bullies and fought back. I was bullied for years, and when i couldn’t stand it anymore, and fought back against it, I was punished. A week suspention. It gave me time away from school, but that wasn’t the issue. The real issue? The kid who bullied me wasn’t punished. Not a damn bit. What kind of justice is there for victims when zero-tolerance policies invade schools like mine? What kind of examples are we setting for our children when our schools say fighting back is wrong? No justice at all. I’m a well rounded and happy 24-year old now, but it was only because of a supportive set of parents, one of whom was bullied herself. Not all children are blessed with parents like mine, and real friends like i was lucky to have. This has to stop, and the first place we need to go is in showing kids there isn’t a stigma for standing up for yourself, and showing school administrations that this is serious.


    October 15, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    • And, the next thing we have to do is find more people like you, Roxanne.

      Ron Kemp

      October 15, 2012 at 4:24 pm



    October 15, 2012 at 5:00 pm

  4. Zach would 14 tomorrow, not 15. No pun intended. Thank you for writing this.


    October 15, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    • Thanks for the correction. I’ve made the change in the article. I knew I’d seen his age and birthdate somewhere on the facebook memorial page. I couldn’t find it a second time. I knew his birthday was either the 16th or 19th, but I didn’t want to put the wrong date in the article. Thanks again for the correction.

      Ron Kemp

      October 15, 2012 at 5:38 pm

  5. Being bullied is a very isolating thing for a kid to experience. It is degrading and embarrassing. For those suffering with self-esteem issues, which many bullied kids are, it creates the feeling that they somehow deserve the abuse. Reporting the abuse carries its own risks. Kids are on their own most of the time, and retribution for ‘snitching’ can be worse than the original bullying. When one is bullied, friends tend to scatter from the bullied lest they get caught up in it, too (guilt by association). Parents are busy and want/need their kids to be in school, not troubling them with problems or refusing to go to school (they don’t have to actually say that to get that message across to their kids). Teachers often don’t want to get involved. They are overburdened and underpaid, and they may even fear some of the bullies themselves for what could be done to them….best to just stay out of it. The popular kids — the athletes, the prom queens — don’t want to risk their status so they say/do nothing. It’s a very complex psychological issue and has been around since their were kids and schools, but now with cyber bullying and more sophisticated bullies, it has taken on a whole new dimension.

    Larry Augustyn

    October 15, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    • What an incredibly precise and logical answer. Thanks, Larry.

      Ron Kemp

      October 15, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    • I understand what you are saying but I was not one of those moms, I let Zach stay home from school I called the school I talked to the person I needed to. Zach went back to school on his own. He never came to me and told me he was still being bullied and when I asked him if he was he told me he was ok everything was fine. I later found out that it wasn’t and the kids picked on him even more when they found out he told.

      Andrea Gales

      July 21, 2013 at 2:02 am

  6. My 9 yr old was bullied at the beginning of this school year. The school said it was a peer conflict. Now my son doesn’t want to get up and go to school, has gained weight. We have an outside professional who agreed it was bullying. I am follow chain of command but no one is listening but I will not stop until someone does listen! I will not stand for bullying and my son is paying for it! Not fair!!!!

    Karis Heyne

    October 15, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    • It really isn’t! Zach was a dear friend of mine. I was, and still am, bullied also so I know how he felt. There are time where I feel taking my life would be better. I feel that whoever is up there just put me on this Earth to torture me.I know how he felt and I agree. It isn’t fair!


      March 18, 2013 at 10:42 pm

  7. Back in the late 1960’s through the early 1970’s I was bullied relentlessly to the point of attempting suicide when I was 14, so I know very well what Zachary felt. The only difference is that my attempt failed, which I am grateful for. I would say this: The most important thing that a bullied kid needs to know is that there are adults around him who genuinely care and who love them unconditionally. Caring, concerned teachers or school officials are helpful, but the bullied kid needs parents or other adults behind them who have a real, personal interest in them. Other kids are helpful, too (siblings, real friends, etc..) but most importantly adults they can talk to and take refuge in and hear positive feedback from……and most importantly they need to hear “this too shall pass”, to hang in there and not give in to despair, that the situation will end and life will be better. At 14, the world is a very narrow place. The bullied kid needs to know that there is a much wider world waiting for them as an adult. That is a very hard thing for a kid to imagine when they are caught up in a current bad situation.

    Larry Augustyn

    October 15, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    • You and I are from the same basic age group. I, too, understand what these kids are going through. I’ve been there. Didn’t attempt suicide until into my 20s, but the attempts were serious. The biggest difference between what’s going on now and what we dealt with at this same age is technology. These kids can’t escape. We were able to.

      Ron Kemp

      October 15, 2012 at 6:04 pm

      • Yeah, I was talking about that to someone just the other day and said the same thing. Back when I was bullied, I knew it would end and I was free of it once I got home. Today it doesn’t necessarily end, with cell phones, social media and other technology coupled with more sophisticated kids that know how to make the most of that technology and bring the bullying to a whole new level. I don’t have kids, so I can’t imagine how parents would deal with that, but I can see how the situation is made that much more serious than what I experienced, and that was bad enough. People who are arguing that kids are kids and bullying has always been an issue don’t seem to realize the new heights it has been taken to these days. They’re looking at the shove in the playground or the harassment in the lunch room and thinking ‘We all experienced that and we got over it” —– it’s not the same thing these days. Today it is more like terrorism than bullying.

        Larry Augustyn

        October 15, 2012 at 6:26 pm

        • Yeah, I agree. And, for the first time that I can remember, we actually got a play-by-play account of what happened with the Amanda Todd case. And, if other cases of cyberbullying is anywhere close to what she experienced, the problem isn’t even so much that it happened but more of a fact that NOTHING is being done to stop it. What she experienced was criminal. Period. She was stalked and terrorized. If this is typical of what victims of cyberbullying are enduring, the problem is MUCH deeper than I ever imagined.

          Ron Kemp

          October 15, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    • I new Zach when he lived in Ohio, If i would have been there this wouldn’t have happened. I mourn for Zach and his family. I’d like to teach those mother fuckers a thing or two.


      December 28, 2012 at 5:48 am

  8. I have been bullied through out my school year and then my children but I was there for them, what happened at the bus stop and getting the police involved when my son was being beat up so I filed a complaint to the police. My son stood up for himself and no one messed with him after that. I feel for the families of the kids who couldn’t take it anymore, I know the feeling I tried suicide many times in school because of the bullying. I don’t know how I lived but I did.Its sad but it happens because people don’t see the signs or they choose not too. I feel bad for the families who are going through the deaths of their children.I hope that one day there will be no more bullying but I know with the kids now days that won’t happened unless they are bullied. Then they will understand that bullying is hurtful, maybe if they were in the shoes of the kids they bullied maybe they won’t do it to the next one.


    October 15, 2012 at 6:08 pm

  9. Is there any ideas to stamp out bullying? It’s rampant in my son’s ‘no bullying’ school & I don’t want my or anyone else’s children 2 suffer because of this!


    October 15, 2012 at 10:49 pm

  10. I was bullied at Primary School. Force-fed to eat everyone else’s dinner that they didn’t like and just so they could go out and play. This went on for prob a year till my friend told my mum. At 15 and very over weight I almost committed suicide too, but something good stopped me. I wanted a life of happiness not pain. I went to my doctor, started a diet, and un-fortunatly developed an eating disorder. Took me 17 years to get over that bullying…


    October 16, 2012 at 5:05 am

  11. I miss Zachary soooo Much;( we where really good friends;(
    Rest in Paradise lil buddy 🙂 10.09.12

    Juliette Buduen

    November 22, 2012 at 4:54 am

  12. Zach was one of my close friends….. I hate to know i couldnt help him…. He wasnt even 14 yet! His life was just starting… I remember seeing him in 7th period 🙂 we were so dumb… No everytime i go to that class all i do is sit there and cry. Itsbeen almost 2 months. And im only 13…. He was the only person i could talk to… I love you Zach R.I.P


    December 1, 2012 at 4:41 am

    • Morgan… I feel the same way when I walk into Mr. Cummings’s room…


      March 18, 2013 at 10:35 pm

  13. I really miss Zachary. He was always a good friend of mine, making us laugh in history, cracking jokes and such… When I found out, I couldn’t stop crying. I spent my birthday crying for a dear friend. Every time I open my yearbook, I always cry, seeing his picture and message to me.
    I really miss you, Zach.


    March 18, 2013 at 10:33 pm

  14. i’ll miss you Zach and how I text you that one time pretending to be taryn and you where like BYE and I was just joking I know you called me smurf but you where cool you weren’t like the others who called me ugly for no reason we use to laugh a lot in ms.pattons class and its almost a year since this pasted and sometimes I cry and think about it..


    October 3, 2013 at 12:49 am

  15. i miss you zach, i love you so much ill never forget you!!!!!!!!


    October 4, 2013 at 6:39 pm

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