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Jadin Bell, 15: Bullied for Sexuality Leads to Suicide

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By now, Jadin Bell’s name isn’t news to anyone.  The story began to circulate even before he had taken his last breath.  Days before that, one of his relatives who is also a member of the facebook blog page had told about this tragic turn of events.  We knew this day was coming.jadin-bell-21680Jadin Bell was just 15.  He was vibrant.  He was a cheerleader.  He was bullied, “viciously”, both at school and online, because of his sexuality.  Jadin’s suicide is particularly troubling for me on a few levels:

  • It has a “hit’s home” feel because his relative had been talking to me about even before the Internet media machine picked up on the story.  His relative has been a part of the facebook blog page for quite some time.  Family;
  • It shows that for all of the historic and marvelous gains the LGBT community has made just over the past year, we still have so very far to go.
  • It, at once, saddens and angers me that, in 2013, we’re still dealing with bullying and intolerance to a point where young people feel no other way out but to end their lives.

The question is asked regularly:  “When will this end?”  It’s often accompanied by “What can I do to help make this stop?”  They are two very powerful questions, questions that must be answered before we can expect to see any real changes in this landscape of bullying, intolerance, sexual identification discrimination, and teen suicides.  Of course, there are more factors that must be dealt with, as well.  The point is clear:  more must be done!

“When will this end?”  “This” will end when more people become fed up with seeing these young people feel that the only option they have to end the pain and struggle they’re dealing with is to end their lives.  “This” will end when we, as a society, stop tip-toeing around the scoundrel named bullying and tackle it head-on.  “This” will end when can finally come together on what is the best way to address the issue of bullying and bully-related teen suicides.  We’re still miles apart on that part of the equation!

There is something inherently wrong with the way we’re teaching our young when middle-schoolers believe that bullies are the cool kids!!!  Yet, an article I read just today reports a study that says exactly that!  Surely, tackling the bullying issue in middle school will continue to be difficult, at best, as long as the students there believe that the bullies are the cool ones.

“What can I do to help…”  Get involved!!  Roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty.  There is a Jacob Rogers right there under your nose who just needs someone to let him know that he really does matter, that he’s not invisible, that there really is someone who will stand beside him as he tries to get his footing in life.  There is a Jadin Bell right there in your backyard that needs someone to let him know that he’s perfect just as he is, that he has a lot to offer the world, that the bullying he’s enduring right now will end.  

See, this isn’t rocket science!  What’s needed is for more people to become more deeply and directly involved in the business of saving these young people’s lives.  Period!  Is your son or daughter a bully?  How do you know?  “Because they said they’re not!”  Really?  How do you know?  You need to know in order to prevent it.  Is your child being cyberbullied?  Then, why on Earth is (s)he still online!?  Simple things.  What is needed is for more people to become more deeply and directly involved in the business of saving these young people’s lives.  Period!jadin cheerleading
Jadin was a cheerleader.  He was loved by his friends and, obviously, family.  One friend said of Jadin:

Jadin is one of the best people I have ever met. He makes everyone around him feel good all the time.

A friend of the family had this to say about him:

He was different, and they tend to pick on the different ones. If someone was down and out he would walk into a room and say a couple quick words and everybody would just forget about their problems and smile. He just had a gift.

“He just had a gift”, a gift that the world has been robbed of.  Enough really is enough.  This really does have to end.  The time really has come for us, as a society, to dig in, roll up our sleeves, get our hands dirty, and bring this torturous chapter to a screeching halt.

So sorry you felt no other way out, Jadin.  Rest in peace.

******************SUICIDE IS NOT AN OPTION!!  TALK TO SOMEONE…PLEASE!!!!******************

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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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THE TREVOR PROJECT

SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: the blog page

For World AIDS Day, A Troubling Report

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I heard this report yesterday on the all-news radio station in my area, and it caught my attention.  With World AIDS Day coming up on December 1st, some sobering statistics were announced that I think we need to take heed to.  The first thing that grabbed my attention was this:

“More than half of young people infected with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. DON’T know they’re infected.”

Young people, between 13-24, account for more than 1/4 of all new infections.  If there are 50,000 new infections per year, which is what they’re reporting, that means that roughly 12,500 of those new cases are young males between the ages of 13-24.  That’s not a good statistic.  That means that we’re failing in educating young people on HIV/AIDS prevention.  How can that even be possible with a disease that has been around since the early 1980s?

According to Julie Steenhuysen, Health and Science Correspondent for Reuters, that figure of 1/4 being young males stems from high infection rates amongst LGBT young people, African-American, and, Latino males.  What makes this problematic is that a lot of these young people report that they “Haven’t really learned much about how to protect [themselves] against infection.”  And, again, the question, “how is this even possible?”, comes into play.

And, of course, there are some who report being subjected to a lot of shame because of their sexuality and the stigma attached to being LGBT.  Now, the picture becomes a bit clearer.  Shame and stigma.  That goes back to a huge cultural problem we’re facing in today’s society as it pertains to the LGBT community.  This is the year 2012.  There is no way we should still be dealing with prejudices and bigotry when it comes to something as intrinsic to our being as our sexuality.  Worse, here’s more evidence of the life-threatening harm that it’s causing.

When asked what she thought needed to be done to reverse this trend, Julie Steenhuysen added this:

Communicating to the community how important it is to support young people, no matter where they are [with their sexuality] so that they can at least stay safe. That could mean…to train leaders who are not LGBT, perhaps in the faith community and entertainers to be more sensitive to stigma, and help establish a healthy environment for these young men in which to grow and to learn about their own sexuality.

I was a young, gay man when the HIV/AIDS epidemic exploded on the scene back in the early 1980s.  Worse, I lived in San Francisco during that time.  “Worse” because a.) I literally watched a least one friend die from this epidemic on a daily basis; and, b.) it was easily the most frightening time of my life.  Being a young, virile gay man, myself, at the time, of course I was sexually active as I searched for my Mr. Right.  And, at one point, I even resigned myself to the “reality” of “well, if all of my friends are infected, I must obviously be infected as well.”  By the grace of God, that was not the case.  And, once I got myself tested and learned that I’d been spared of this devastating disease, I changed everything about how I lived my life.  I educated myself.  Educating oneself was very easy then, pre-Internet days; it’s much easier today because of the Internet.  And, education is 100% effective.

Gone are the days when we can feel invincible and just do everything, sexually, we want to do.  That half of these young people didn’t even know they were infected is all the proof you need.  The only foolproof way of avoiding infection is protection.  Yes, I know that there will be fundamentalists who will argue that abstinence is the only true foolproof way of avoiding infection.  But, perhaps, being more in tune with the reality that these young people are going to have sex, protection is key.  Education has to be a key component in protecting oneself from contracting HIV/AIDS.  It’s that simple.  It’s 2012.  There’s no way there should be anyone, anyone!, who doesn’t have access to all of the education necessary to prevent numbers like this report reveals from happening.

December 1st, as we remember those who have already died from this epidemic, we must also re-energize our efforts to prevent it from continuing to spread.  That’s going to take acceptance.  That’s going to take communication.  That’s going to take education.

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Mallory Owens: a Hate Crime in Alabama

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Any man who beats up on a woman has a special place in Hell awaiting him.  Any man who brutally beats a woman nearly to death because of her sexuality not only holds a reservation in Hell but also a warm spot at a penitentiary.  Hopefully, for a long time.

On Thanksgiving, Mallory Owens went to celebrate the holiday with dinner with her girlfriend, Ally Hawkins, at her girlfriend’s family’s home.  Travis Hawkins Jr., Ally’s brother, viciously attacked Mallory, reportedly as the family looked on.  Travis Hawkins, Jr. is just 18-years-old!A man who does this to a woman is no man whatsoever.  According to Mallory’s sister, this isn’t even the first time this woman-beater attacked Mallory, stating that “…he never liked Mallory and Ally to begin with.”  I don’t necessarily like my sister, either, but I’d never raise a hand to hurt her and wouldn’t allow anyone else to do it, either.

There are a few issues involved in this troubling case that makes it even more disturbing.  First of all, how is it that the family “stood around and watched” as this attack took place?  Why aren’t there charges being filed against every one of them who “stood around and watched” as this young woman was being pulverized by a deranged teenager?  If no one intervened during the obvious commission of a crime but remains a witness to it, shouldn’t that make them guilty of “accessory to…” the crime being committed?

Secondly, this attack occurred on Thanksgiving day.  That was Thursday.  Four days ago!  No local Mobile, Alabama picked up the story until this very day, November 26th, four days after the horrendous attack.  In fact, the only reason they were “pushed” into “breaking” the story is because it had begun to circulate and go viral on the social media giant, facebook. Several prominent pages, including Wipe Out Homophobia, STOP Teenage Suicide, and Enough is Enough: the blog page, began to publish the story late morning.  By mid-afternoon, it had gone viral.  It was then that the local stations saw an urgency to push the story.  How can that be?  Why wasn’t this first-page news immediately after it happened.  A 23-year-old lesbian was beaten within inches of her life, and that’s not newsworthy?  Or, was that another “boys will be boys” incident that didn’t require any media attention.  The editors of all of the local Mobile, Alabama media outlets should be ashamed of themselves for failing to bring this story to light.  It shouldn’t have taken a facebook effort to shine light on this travesty.

Thirdly, and most egregious, is what young Travis Hawkins, Jr. is charged with.  For the crime of beating a 23-year-old woman nearly to death, Travis is charged with second degree assault.  Second degree assault!  I know that in the state where I live, second degree assault carries very little time.  The crime Travis Hawkins, Jr. committed on Thanksgiving Day, against Mallory Owens, is attempted murder.  Period.  Further, he should be charged with a hate crime.  Alas, his charge is a simple second degree assault charge for beating a woman so badly, she now has metal plates under each eye socket.  She now has bleeding on the brain.  Her life will never be the same.  Second degree assault.  At the very least, he should’ve been charged with first degree assault.  

In addition to the facebook pages that are responsible for bringing this story the national attention it deserves, there is now a  facebook page dedicated to getting justice for Mallory:  Justice Today – For Mallory.  There is also a petition, that needs signatures!, that is designed to compel the Alabama judicial branch to charge Travis Hawkins, Jr. with what he should’ve been charged with from the beginning:  attempted murder and a hate crime. (at LEAST a first degree assault charge)  Please sign the petition, then pass it on so that others can sign it, as well.

Shame on Travis for beating on a woman; shame on the Mobile, Alabama media for not picking up this story before today; and, shame on the Alabama State’s Attorney’s Office for charging this young thug with a mere second degree assault in the brutal attack.  We demand justice for Mallory, and we won’t rest until we see it.

SIGN THIS PETITION TO BRING TRAVIS HAWKINS, JR. TO JUSTICE:

http://www.change.org/petitions/mobile-county-alabama-prosecutor-bring-travis-hawkins-jr-to-justice

 

Kyle Wells, 16, Bullied for Being Gay

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The bad news just keeps getting worse.  I was alerted to this tragedy on the facebook blog page just moments after publishing the blog post about the three teens from St. Clair, MO. Kyle Wells, 16, from Cody, Wyoming ended his life October 30th.  According to his grandmother, she left home to buy some Halloween candy.  When she returned, Cody was already dead.  His grandmother and his best friend, Stephen, both agree that Kyle was bullied.  He was bullied because of his small size.  He was bullied for being gay.

His grandmother says that the bullying, because of his size, started as early as kindergarten.

It started when he was in kindergarten. He was about the size of a two-year old. And the kids would carry him around and call him their baby…He hated that. He wanted to feel as big and important as they were

His angry best friend, Stephen, added that Kyle would not have committed suicide if not for the bullying:

No he would not. He would have not. That’s what caused most of his problems, was the bullying. He’s been bullied for being gay, for being short, pretty much everything he’s done in his life

And, of course, the school officials gave their standard, scripted response:

School officials say they had no reports of bullying before Kyle died

Kyle had a failed suicide attempt two years before, an attempt that led to him being hospitalized in a behavioral and treatment center in Salt Lake City.  Born with fetal alcohol syndrome, his grandmother believes that that affected the way he dealt with bullying.

I’m going to play this song again because not enough people are listening to it.  They’re hearing it, but they’re not paying attention to the message of the lyric.  The time for you, the school officials left in charge of protecting each and every student in your care for every single day of the school year, to stop running from the issue of bullying is long, long past due.  You’re seeing the bullying for yourselves, but you’re looking the other way.  You’re hearing student after bullied student tell you, plead to you!, that they need your help to keep them from the bullying they are enduring, but you’re not listening to them.  Meanwhile, young people are dying needlessly because of it!  Sweeping this issue under the carpet isn’t making it go away.  It won’t go away without your intervention.  So what if you have “…no documentation” of bullying!  You’re SEEING it with your own eyes.  I know you are.  You know you are.  So, why are you continuing to allow these children to die!?  The same can be said about the police officials who rapidly release “official reports” that their “…investigation hasn’t found bullying to be the cause…”.  You KNOW it’s happening.  You know it!!!!  So, why are you rushing to dismiss it?  It’s a huge black eye on the otherwise great work you do.  “Zero tolerance” for bullying is 100% meaningless as long as you, the school officials, and you, the law enforcement communities, are doing nothing to enforce it.  And, the death toll rises.

Kyle Wells’ grandmother says she went to the school a couple of times every year to confer with the administrators about the bullying he was enduring.

“All through school I had to go to the schools once or twice a year, discussing the bullying problems and what was being said to him, and what affects it was having on him and things, and nothing ever changed,” she says.

How many more times do we need to hear that before we understand that there’s a real and serious problem?  How many more lives need to be senselessly lost because of the inaction of the very people who are supposed to be caring for the welfare of each and every student?  These suicides are 100% preventable.  One hundred percent!  To get to that point, however, bully prevention and suicide prevention both need to be taken 100% more seriously.

That Kyle was dealing with fetal alcohol syndrome was trying enough for him.  I know this because I’ve seen it up close and personal.  That Kyle also had to deal with a lifetime of bullying because he was apparently undersized for his age and, then, because of his sexuality proved to be too much for him to handle.  Alone.  He shouldn’t have had to deal with it alone.

Rest in peace, Kyle.  You shouldn’t have had to endure what you did.  You definitely shouldn’t have had to deal with it alone.

 

Following the Elections, Racism and Intolerance Takes Center Stage in the U.S.

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With Election 2012 now in our rear-view mirror, President Obama re-established as our leader for the next 4 years, and equality winning huge around the country, the hate mongers are coming out of the woodwork!  From National Organization for Marriage’s leader, Tony Perkins, all the way down to high school kids, the level of sheer hatred and intolerance is deeply disturbing.

Because equality won big, and it did, because the United States’ first black President, Barack Obama, won big, and he did, bigots from coast-to-coast and border-to-border are screaming hate at the top of their lungs to a point where, just days after the General Elections, it’s easy to see that this will be a frightening four years.

Immediately following the elections Tuesday night, many, many people, Donald Trump, included, took to the twitterverse with vile, menacing, racist, and even threatening tweets.  Perhaps most troubling were the tweets that came from the high school students.  Teenagers.  Their level of disrespect, hatred, and intolerance was frightening.  It clearly illustrated the depth of the problems we face as we work hard to eliminate bullying in the schools.  What this also clearly shows is that whatever efforts we’re putting forth right now is not NEARLY enough!!  We’re not even scratching the surface of just how troubled today’s youth are.  And, as the adage “hatred and intolerance are taught to young people” goes, these high school students have had hatred scholars as teachers.

Tuesday’s election results sent such a shockwave across our country, there have even been people fired from their jobs because of things they tweeted once we knew for sure Obama had won.  Their disgust at the idea of another 4 years of a Black president is now being worn on their sleeves, expressed in cyberspace.The attack on equality and race wasn’t, by any means, restricted to high school students or ice cream store employees.  From Donald Trump, to Brian Brown, to Tony Perkins, people – white people – were letting their disgust get the better of them.  Perkins, the head of designated hate group Family Research Council (SPLC),   went on record as saying that if the Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage equality, it could lead to a revolution.

“I think if the court steps in at this moment and says, ‘We’re redefining marriage, same-sex marriage will be the law in every land,’ I’ll tell you what, I think you will create a firestorm of opposition,”  And, “”When you look at a nation that is so divided along these moral and cultural issues, that you could have, I hate to use the word, but a revolt, a revolution.”

A revolution!?  Why?  Because people want the right to love who they love?  Because people want to have the right to marry who they love?  What, exactly, is it about Mr. Perkins that prevents him from understanding that whom someone else loves is absolutely none of his business?  Is granting everyone the right to marry the person they love really worth a revolution?  According to Tony Perkins, the answer is an emphatic “yes”.  That’s dangerous.Brian S. Brown.  The very mention of that name is to pour salt into wounds within the LGBT community.  Brian S. Brown, director of the National Organization of Marriage, whose sole mission and reason for existence is to prevent same-sex couples from getting married, went into a frenzy following Tuesday night’s stunning defeats.  Rather than understanding and accepting that voters nationwide voted against hatred, Brown vowed to dig in and fight even harder.  Rather than accept and understand that the world, and America, is finally evolving from its Ozzie and Harriet mentality and becoming a true reflection of the world as it exists in 2012, Brown blamed being outspent, which is highly unlikely, and even presidential candidate Mitt Romney for the sweeping defeats.  Rather than accept and understand that the voters, the people of this country, sent him a clear message that hatred and intolerance is finally becoming yesterday’s news, Brown vows to keep fighting.  Now, he wants to direct his venom towards corporations that support same-sex marriage, in particular Starbuck’s:

According to an article in The Advocate:

…Brown promised to keep up the fight against same-sex marriage and asked his followers for more money. The group is also going after corporations like Starbucks which publicly advocate for marriage equality. NOM’s plan is to garner support in the Middle East, an area hostile to same-sex marriage and an area the coffee chain is interested in expanding in.

“[Starbucks’s] international outreach is where we can have the most effect,” Brown said. “So for example, in Qatar, in the Middle East, we’ve begun working to make sure that there’s some price to be paid for this. These are not countries that look kindly on same-sex marriage. And this is where Starbucks wants to expand, as well as India. So we have done some of this; we’ve got to do a lot more.”

STOP!!!!  Enough of the hatred!!  Brian Brown’s hate group is planning actions that they know full well could lead to the death of innocent members of the LGBT community in Qatar as well as the Starbuck’s employees, themselves.  They are so bitter in their hatred, so determined to impose their hateful views on the world, they’re perfectly fine with the idea that innocent people could, and probably would!, be killed.

If you want to be hateful, spiteful, and intolerant in your own personal and private life, that’s your right.  We, The People, however, the voters, told you loudly and clearly that we don’t want any part of your bigotry.  That, however unfortunate, does not register with those who are filled with hatred and intolerance.  And, it doesn’t seem to deter Brian S. Brown.  And, because of that reality, it is incumbent upon us to continue the fight that has gotten us to the point we are today.  There is now a petition that aims to prevent the National Organization of Marriage from derailing Starbuck’s.  Hopefully, every reader will sign and share it.  We can’t afford to rest on the laurels of our victories Tuesday night.

In the real world, Tuesday night, November 6th, the American voter sent a very clear message.  The victories were decisive.  We, The People, aren’t about hatred and intolerance.  We, The People, are about acceptance and inclusion.  The world is ever-evolving.  This is not the same America as it was during the Ozzie and Harriet years.  We’re much more diverse than we were in the 1950’s.  Accept it.

Trae Schumaker, 13, Death by Suicide

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At approximately the same time 13-year-old Cade Poulos ended his life on Wednesday, Trae Schumaker, also 13, ended his, as well.

I received news of this tragedy almost immediately after it happened.  Gathering fact s can prove to be painstaking.  The initial word was that he was being bullied.  And, the beat goes on.  I was given a reason for the bullying, but I can’t verify that.  Therefore, the “why” will remain a mystery to all of us who aren’t close to the case.

I just posted new information to the facebook blog page citing that suicide is now the #1 injury caused death surpassing auto accidents and homicides.  If I’ve failed at getting the severity of this situation across to you, perhaps reading this article will help.  Young people are killing themselves at an alarming pace, and the time is right here and right now to work harder to bring about change.  But, how do we get there?

“It Gets Better” isn’t working.  At least not to a degree where it’s make noticeable, concrete differences.  The young people are left with the lingering and haunting question of “when”.  When, will “it get better”?  I’ve heard that question asked often enough to know that the message, albeit very well intended, is being lost on far too many of our young people.  Look no further than Jamey Rodemeyer and EricJames Borges, both of whom had even made videos for the “It Gets Better” project before succumbing, themselves, to suicide.  The creators of the project started with only the very best of intentions.  And, to be sure, there probably are some people who credit their being here today to the “It Gets Better” project.

This blog, and its companion facebook blog page, is obviously not enough, either.  That was pointed out to me with screaming urgency earlier in the year with the suicide deaths of Kenny Wolf and Grace McComas.  Their untimely deaths caused me to step back and examine exactly why do I do this.  These two bright and intelligent young people both lived virtually “in my backyard”.  So, when they were lost to us, I had to reconcile in my own mind exactly why I was doing this.  Overwhelmed with the grieve of having these two local young people end their lives, my initial though was “how did I miss them?  They’re right here in my back yard!”

The reality, of course, is that there are people who are benefitting from this blog, as well as the “It Gets Better” project.  However, much more needs to be done, and by more people.  With suicide now officially the #1 cause of injury death, it’s painfully obvious that much, much more needs to be done.  How do we reach these young people before it’s too late.  Writing about them after they’ve already ended their lives is good for heightening awareness to the problem.  That’s after the fact.

There are some very simple, very concrete ways that we can all start making a difference, in my opinion:

  • It is imperative that these young people are encouraged to talk about their issues…and, keep talking about them until someone cares and listens.  They need to be made aware that other people have gone through what they’re going through and that it is  possible to work through whatever their problems may be.  The down side to that is far too many people, young and not so young, echo the same refrain:  “I tried talking, but nobody listened!!  I’ve personally witnessed this and can attest to its validity.
  • It makes no sense to encourage them to talk if no one is going to listen.  What that means is that every caring and concerned adult (parents, teachers, older siblings, whomever!) simply must be willing to not just HEAR what they’re trying to convey to you but LISTEN intently.  By listening intently, you’ll be able to hear exactly what it is that’s causing them dismay.  This is a crucial step.  I keep going back to the Andy Williams case from 2001.  It haunts me.  He tried his best to tell the adults in his life that he was in distress.  No one listened.  As a result, three young people lost their lives that day:  the two he killed, and Andy, himself.  At age 16, he was sentenced to 50 years.  He had spent the weekend with his best friend.  He confided in the friend’s dad that he was in distress.  The day didn’t take him seriously.  Monday morning, everything changed forever.  The value of truly listening cannot be overemphasized.
  • We, as adults, simply must educate ourselves to the complexities of bullying.  It goes well beyond just someone saying something mean or rude to another person.  I witnessed, up close and person, just this past week, just how ingrained bullying truly is and why we’re having such a hard time eradicating it.  But, that’s a different story for a different time.  Suffice it to say, as I sat in front of my computer monitor and watched what was transpiring right before my eyes, I was, at once, mortified and relieved.  Relieved because now, finally, I get it.  I understand how difficult eradicating bullying is and will continue to be until we all get a much better grasp on exactly what’s going on.
  • We simply must figure out an effective way to compel school administrators to stop turning a blind eye to bullying situations, to stop treating instances and reports of bullying as insignificant events.  That’s mandatory!  Someone on the facebook blog page reported having a teacher tell him, once, that she didn’t “…get paid enough money to deal with it”.  Really?  That teacher should’ve lost her job immediately and never been allowed to teach again.  Many schools and school districts now have stringent anti-bullying policies in place.  Stringent anti-bullying policies are 100% useless unless they are properly enforced.

These things are not going to sudden put an end to the bullying/teen suicide cycle that we’re in.  However, I feel like this represents a good starting point.  Suicide is preventable.  We need to do more.  Much more.

Sadly, all of our efforts won’t bring Trae Schumaker back to his loving and grieving family and friends.  We can make a difference and prevent the next one from happening, though.  To do that, however, we need to stop shaking our collective heads, stop talking about how (insert your own adjective) it is, and start taking much more definite and direct action.  I’m not comfortable with knowing that suicide is now the #1 cause of injury deaths, and you shouldn’t be, either.

Rest in peace, young Trae Schumaker.  I hope you’re at peace, now.  To his family and friends, I send my deepest, most heartfelt condolences.

****SUICIDE IS PREVENTABLE!!!  IF YOU, OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW, IS IN CRISIS, SEEK HELP!!!****

Suicide Prevention

The Trevor Project

Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Enough is Enough: the blog page