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Archive for January 2013

Jerad Meriweather, 13: Parents Blame Bullying for Suicide

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” Vibrant”, “prolific writer”, “brilliant mind”.  These are just some of the accolades bestowed upon 13-year-old Jerad Meriweather, who committed suicide Friday, January 18th.jerad meriweatherThe dual dilemma of bullying and bully-related suicides amongst teens is not going away.  Far from it.  We’re actually seeing an acceleration of incidences where bullying has been named as the root cause, or at the very least a contributor, to another teen ending his or her young life.  It’s a runaway train of a broken record.  Worse, the “officials” responses and handling of these cases are both irresponsible and mind-numbingly repetitive.

“There is no record of ______ ever being bullied”.

“Our records show that bullying was not involved in this case.”

Clearly, I could go on and on with the typical responses we hear time and time again.  Meanwhile, we’re seeing case after case of another teen’s life cut short, by their own hand, in which families and friends name bullying as the culprit.  What concerns me is that we are continuing to allow them to get away with being irresponsible in the handling of these cases.jerad meriweather2

Jerad had a circle of close friends whom he cared about deeply and was known to take on their pain and troubles as if they were his own.

Here’s what we know about bullying cases:  there’s rarely a “record on file” of it because these young people are afraid and/or reluctant to come forward with it.  They’re told over and over to “talk to someone”, to “tell a trusted adult”, “talk to your counselor”, all good things, to be sure.  However, what experience teaches them is that even if they do report it, typically one of these three things will happen:

  1. Reporting it will only lead to more bullying, of at a heightened level of intensity;
  2. THEY get labeled the problem, the troublemaker, as if it’s their fault that someone else  lacks so badly in self-control and self-esteem that they have to find others to pick on…typically someone they perceive to be weaker than themselves;
  3. Nothing.  Nothing at all.  I hear over and over and over ad nauseam about cases where the bullied reported it to “the responsible adult” only to have nothing done about it at all.  I guess the solace we could find here is that at least in the event the worst were to happen, there actually would be something “on record”.  

vigil for jeradFar too often, families and friends are having to say goodbye to their young loved one because…well…we, as a society, have yet to figure out how to get a firm grip on the bullying and bully-related suicides.  We’re failing miserably at coming up with a solid plan-of-action that will reduce the roar of bullying and bully-related suicides to a dull murmur.  The cost of that failure is a seemingly endless stream of teen suicides.  Teens, like Jerad Meriweather, who, by all accounts, was a shining star in the making.  At the same time, we must also work harder to understand another common component in teen, or any, suicide:  depression.  Did Jerad deal with depression and bullying.  Well, that question will remain unanswered for a lifetime.  However, according to Gerald, Jerad’s father, his son…

…devoured books and wrote essays that were better than work by adult authors. One essay about depression won Jerad an award at school in October.

 Of course, writing an awarding winning essay about it doesn’t mean that he was dealing with it, himself.  He could’ve very well been looking at it through the eyes of one of his close friends:

Jerad had a circle of close friends whom he cared about deeply and was known to take on their pain and troubles as if they were his own.

“Passionate” is how Gerald Meriweather described his son.  From everything I’ve read about him, “incredible” would have to be added to the many accolades.  It’s maddening that we, as adults, cannot figure a way to prevent this from continuing to happen.  It’s shattering, to me, to continue to see these young faces appear with the word “suicide” attached.  But, it’s heart-wrenching to see that we, as a society and as adults!, we’re still failing so miserably at preventing this to happen.  They deserve so much more.  They deserve a lifetime.

Rest in peace, Jerad.

Brenden Robert Lumley, 16: Depression, “…the worst bully…” Claims his Life

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Every time I learn about another teen suicide, it wrenches my heart.  Sometimes, I even get overwhelmed writing about them.  And, sometimes, I just cry.  That was the case as I read about Brenden Lumley’s suicide, which occurred on December 9th, read over some of the information, and looked at some of the pictures that his loyal and devoted friends and family are posting on the facebook memorial page that has been set up, by them, in his honor.  Nothing, though, moved me more than a letter Brenden’s mother, Sherry, wrote to the assembled group of friends and family.  She spoke openly and honestly about the wonderful 16 years she was able to spend with her son and how incredible of a young person he was; she spoke of the “bully” that claimed his life; and, she passionately reached out to other young people who may be dealing with depression, as well.  And, she made me cry. Brendan

Thank you everyone for joining this group, in support of the most amazing person that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing….my son….my life….Brenden (Boo) Lumley.  What strikes everyone the most when they think about Brenden is his amazing smile, his laugh and what a great loyal, honest and trustworthy friend he was.  I know he will be missed by so many, and I really feel that he would want me to share a few things with all of you…his family…his friends…and anyone who has been affected by this tragedy.  Most important, Brenden never meant to hurt anyone; he just could not deal with the pain and the rage that tormented him inside.  He did have so many loyal friends, and he had his big brother who always tried to protect him and guide him.  And, of course he always knew that he had me, his mommy, and he knew that I loved him more than life!!  But, where he got stuck was not wanting to bother any of us with his pain, he didn’t want to put that weight on us, even though we tried so many times to encourage him to let us in,  But, he did not want us to hurt the way that he hurt, so he trapped it inside.

Depression robs us all of any peaceful thoughts…it allows u to believe horrible things about yourself and eventually if you allow it to….it will close of any light in your life until we feel so alone that you feel like there is no other choice!!!  That is simply not true at all!!!  It is worse than any other disease because it can only be diagnosed by your heart, and the only cure is for you to be humble enough to accept the help from the ones that love you…which is very hard for some people to do.  Brenden thought it was impossible.  Depression is the worst bully and one that we cannot just lock up in jail and throw away the key!!!

Please know from me personally some of the pain and effects of suicide.  Brenden left behind a brother who feels like he couldn’t protect him, a step brother who feels lost without him.  Two sisters that are scared to walk freely in our home because of the terror that we all still feel from what we witnessed that night!!  A mommy and dad that feels so much guilt, so much loss, broken hearts and the most unimaginable pain every moment of every day!!  We are frozen in time, and our world will NEVER be the same!!  It will take years for us to rebuild this home again and to fill it with peace, happiness and love again!  Please honour Brenden’s name and stand up against depression, please talk to the people who love you…believe me…you are not alone even…but depression will tell you otherwise!  I promise right now that if anyone ever feels alone, I WILL be your friend.  I CAN help you.  I WANT to help you.  I WILL find someone to help you!  Brenden would not want any other family to go through this pain and what we have been through.  Don’t be scared…don’t be too proud…seek out the ones that love you, they want to help you….and if you really don’t think you can find anyone…I AM HERE.  I was here for my Boo, but he could not take my hand.  Please don’t make that same mistake.

Thank you all again for your love and support.

Sherry Ayres….mommy of Brenden (Boo) Lumley and siblings…..suicide survivor…friendBrendan-Lumley-213x300

With bullying and the terrible effects it’s having in school and online today, there’s a tendency to overlook the fact that not all teen suicides are a result of bullying.  Although there are no “official” statistics, due in part to the fact that bully-related suicides are enormously downplayed, depression plays a major role in many, if not the majority, of teen suicides.  It was depression that claimed Jamie Hubley’s life.  It was depression that claimed EricJames Borges’ life.  It was depression that claimed Brenden Lumley’s life.  There are more…many, many more.

Brenden was surrounded by an overwhelming amount of love and support.  The depression lied to him an convinced him otherwise.  That’s a common trait with that disease.  I was told by one of Jamie Hubley’s family members that he, too, was completely surrounded by lots of love and support.  I know that to be true.  Like Brenden, he couldn’t see it.  The depression wouldn’t allow him to.

It’s time that we, as a people, remove the stigmatism of mental illnesses, depression in particular.  As we’re seeing over and over, depression can be deadly.  If we’re truly concerned about changing this climate of young people feeling so alone and hopeless that they fell ending their lives is the only way out, it’s imperative that we begin to put into place mechanisms for them to better deal with their depression.  Whatever it takes.  Whatever will spare another family from having to go through what Brenden’s is going through right now.

Rest in peace, Brenden.  You were loved, and are missed, by many.faces of Brendan

***IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW ARE STRUGGLING WITH DEPRESSION, TALK TO SOMEONE!!!***

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Duncan Ballard, 14: Family Says Suicide Was Due to Bullying

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On New Year’s Day, 14-year-old Duncan Ballard ended his life.  The family of the eighth-grader says that his suicide was the result of bullying.

Duncan Alexander BallardIt’s hard to imagine that, in the year 2013, with all of the glory of the Internet and the “Information Age”, non-stop 24/7 news outlets, and social networks that, at times, supersedes the news outlets, that we are still trying to figure out how to put an end to the bullying that is causing teens to end their lives.  It been said here to the point of repetitiveness that anyone, anyone!!, who doesn’t know by now that bullying is at the root of far-too-many teen suicides either has their head buried (fill in your own expression completion), or they just flat-out don’t care.  Either case is problematic.

Stories continue to pour in, on a daily basis, to the facebook blog page telling about being bullied, sometimes severely so.  And, almost always, the stories are pretty much the same:  They’re getting bullied at school; the teachers/school administrators pretty much turn a blind eye and do nothing; depression is followed by self-harm (in one way or another).  And, sadly, sometimes it comes to this.  Yet, even when it does come to this, STILL nothing is done.  It’s as if today’s youth are expendable.  They’re not.  Not by a long shot.

Duncan’s family described him as different, loving, smart.  Creative.  He was a songwriter and liked to write and sing his songs.  He was also, they say, being “picked on” both at school and at home by his peers.  New Year’s Day, he reached his breaking point.  He went to the upstairs of his family’s house and ended his life.

As for the responses from both the school administration and the Marion police department, you can recite their answers from memory.  It doesn’t change much.

So, then, what IS the answer?  How do we even begin to get across to these young schoolyard bullies that their behavior is a.) unacceptable; and, b.) causing severe harm and even death?  How do we get them to care!!??  How do we get the officials to change their mindset and approach when it comes to bullying?  How do we get them to care!?  And, how do we get the bullying victims, themselves, to understand that they’re stronger than they realize, that this incredibly cruel and sometimes even criminal behavior they’re enduring now will definitely pass?  It’s unfortunate that in 2013 there are still so many unanswered questions.  It’s even more unfortunate that there are still young people who are ending their lives because of the actions of a few, actions that there are no repercussions for!!!!  

Duncan Ballard should still be here, writing and singing his songs.  Putting smiles on people’s faces, and in their hearts.  Instead, some mean-spirited, perhaps even hateful kids chose him to pick on, to exercise their own low self-esteem on.  They pushed him to the end of his young rope.  Worse, there will be no consequences for their actions.  Count on it.  And, before you naysayers chime in with the “nobody-made-him-end-his-life; he-chose-to-do-that” rhetoric, save it for some of the parents of some of these young suicide victims where bullying was involved.  I’m certain they’d have a thing or two to say to you about it.

Rest in peace, Duncan.  I sure wish I could’ve heard some of your music.

********************SUICIDE IS NEVER THE ANSWER!!!  TALK TO SOMEONE!!!********************

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Dillion Burns, 18, Death by Suicide

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The New Year holiday wasn’t happy for everyone.  On New Year’s Eve, 18 year old Dillion Burns ended his life after, allegedly, being bullied because of his sexuality. dillion burns2At this point, Pennsylvania appears to be running away with the dubious distinction of being the teen suicide capital of the 2012-2013 school year.  It’s a distinction no one should be comfortable with having.

Apparently, one of the contributing factors in Dillion’s suicide was a facebook page designated to bullying people in the Erie area of Pennsylvania:  “Erie on Blast”.  From the information I was able to gather, there was at least one other teen suicide attributed to the activities on that page with at least one other attempted suicide.  The page has since been removed.

Of course, as has become the norm, the local law enforcement are stating that there’s “no evidence” of “criminal activity”, meaning there was no bullying involved.  And, granted, it would be highly unlikely that whatever occurred on “Erie on Blast” was the sole reason for Dillion’s fateful decision.  That said, this event once again reveals a total failure in our society to deal with the bullying, cyberbullying, and related teen suicides.

As adults, we’re failing miserably to get a handle on what’s going on, both in this country and around the world, insofar as these incidences are concerned.  It’s almost as if it’s not being taken seriously at all.  Or, at the very least, it isn’t being given the gravity it so obviously needs.  If that were not the case, if bullying, cyberbullying, and teen suicides were being treated as the epidemic they represent, we’d be seeing dramatic declines in all three activities.  That’s not the case.

Young people are failing to get the message that their actions are costing lives.  Or, they just don’t care.  Maybe it’s a combination of the two.  In either case, this fails back on the adults.  Teen suicide has been a fairly prominent topic for the past few years.  Bullying and cyberbullying have both become a national dinner table topics.  There is zero probability that these young people don’t know that their words and actions are causing their peers to end their lives.  Therefore, the only plausible answer has to be that they flat-out just don’t care.  And, that’s a problem of catastrophic proportions.

One necessary solution to this problem is to rid ourselves, as a society, of the cloak of secrecy that surrounds these events.  Keeping these teen suicides and bully-related teen suicides secret is not helping anything.  Granted, it’s the families right to privacy, and grieving the sudden and incredibly traumatic loss of a young loved one to suicide can be devastating.  I get it.  At the same time, the more these events are kept in the shadows, the more pervasive the problem becomes.  As long as no one knows the true impact this is having, the perception will remain that “it’s really not as bad as some people are making it sound”.  In fact, it’s that bad, and even worse.  I’ve stopped counting for this school year, but I know that I have written about more than 40 teen suicides since the beginning of the school year.  FORTY!!!!  And, rest assured, there has been many more than the 40 or so that I know about.  Therein lies the problem…or, at least part of the problem.  Unless we really know the full impact, this crisis will continue to treated as a non-issue.dillion burnsAccording to unidentified sources, Dillion had been bullied because of his bisexuality.  Here’s a cold, hard fact:  It’s pure folly for us to even begin to entertain the possibility of young people being more tolerant and accepting of ALL people, regardless of their race or sexual orientation as long as they continue to see adults in their lives be intolerant and bigoted.  Simple fact.  And, the reality is that they need look no further than their televisions, their computers, or (in some cases) their own dinner table.  The negative role models are everywhere.  They young people are being taught that their actions are normal, acceptable, and, in some cases, even expected.

Dillion Thomas Burns didn’t even get a chance to ring in the new year.  To think that he ended his life at least in part because of someone else’s callousness, coldness, and general disrespect for human life is, to me, beyond reprehension.  This isn’t going to end on its own, and talking about “it must end” is proving to be futile.  Like the young man who created the facebook page, Get Rid of Erie on Blast, in response to Dillion’s tragic suicide, we need more and more people to step up and get involved.  It’s the only way we’re going to make a difference.

Rest in peace, Dillion.

********************SUICIDE IS NOT THE ANSWER!!!  TALK TO SOMEONE!!!!********************

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