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

Posts Tagged ‘ask.fm

Erin Gallagher, 13, Cyberbullying Claims Another Life

with 3 comments


On the news today, I heard the latest report about the high-profile case of in the fungal meningitis outbreak that’s gripping our country.  So far, 29 people have died from the outbreak, an outbreak that has affected more that 400.  A true tragedy, and they’re working feverishly and tirelessly to bring an end to the loss of lives.  What I didn’t hear on the news today, haven’t heard on the news at all, was anything – whatsoever! – about the seemingly neverending stream of teen suicides.  The silent epidemic.

Saturday night, October 27th, 13-year-old Erin Gallagher ended her short life after enduring “severe” cyberbullying on the website Ask.fm.  If you’re thinking that that name sounds familiar, it should.  I hasn’t even been a month – 18 days, to be exact – since I wrote about yet another young girl who ended her life because of cyberbullying endured on that same website.  I certainly don’t mean to diminish the impact of the deaths in the fungal meningitis outbreak that’s sweeping this country.  Death, whatever the cause, is final.  Families are left to grieve.  Families are left with unanswered questions.  Families face unfulfilled dreams.  And, from someone’s negligence, so far 29 people are dead.  Twenty-nine sets of families and friends have been forever impacted.  Absolutely, that’s newsworthy.

Here’s my point:  since the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year in August, this blog has identified 29 teen suicides!  And, those are only the ones I’ve found out about!  There.  Are.  More.  Yet, there’s no news reports for me to listen to.  There isn’t some type of “task force” in place to try to get to the bottom of the epidemic called teen suicide.  In fact, in most cases, it’s kept very hush-hush.  Twenty-nine teen suicides that I know about since the beginning of the school year.  Families are left to grieve.  Families are left with unanswered questions.  Families face unfulfilled dreams.  And, because they saw no other way, so far 29 people are dead.  Twenty-nine sets of families and friends have been forever impacted.  Absolutely, that’s newsworthy!!!! 

Once teen suicides moves from being the silent epidemic to the headline news it should be, perhaps then we can start moving towards a definitive answer to the problem.  For example, Ask.fm has now been directly linked to two teen suicides in the less than 3 weeks.  Why?  Because there’s apparently no accountability factor on the website at all.  In both cases, it was reported that it was basically a free-for-all with cyberbullying running rampant.  There’s no way to report anything; worse, people can post there anonymously.  If this kind of information was being made public, like the meningitis outbreak, AS IT SHOULD BE!!, then, as with the meningitis outbreak, we could start working towards a solution.  Sadly, that’s not the case.

The theory of reporting it could possibly lead to more, “copycat”, suicides kinda pales when you look at the reality that the suicides are still happening on almost a daily basis!!   Therefore, obviously, keeping them “silent” isn’t the answer.  How many fatalities would there have been had they not hit the “panic button” on the meningitis outbreak?  How many lives would’ve been lost had A.I.D.S. not taken center stage back in the early days of the epidemic.  Right now, your head should be reeling as you think of how high the toll could’ve been in either case.  Rightfully so.  It’s scary to think about.  Now, think for a minute how many fewer teen suicides there would be if the epidemic was properly addressed, put on center stage.  We’d be forced to look at it for what it is:  a devastating epidemic…and epidemic that is highly preventable.  Then, by looking at it realistically, and head-on, we could start working towards a badly needed solution.

Anything short of removing the misplaced veil of secrecy from the epidemic of teen suicide is doing a great disservice to the victims as well as their families and friends left to mourn them.  Keeping it secret is allowing it to continue unchecked.  Keeping it silent is allowing the bullies to get away with playing a role in another human being ending their life with no consequences.  Keeping it silent is allowing school officials and, in some cases, law officials to continue to minimize incidences of bullying and the effect they have on people.  Keeping it silent is, simply put, allowing the death toll to continue to soar.

Ask yourself how many of these young people would still be alive if only half the attention that the meningitis outbreak has received what put on the epidemic of teen suicides.  Then, ask yourself “why isn’t that happening!?”  Break the silence, confront it head-on, and we’ll start seeing the number of teen suicides reduce.

This has spun out-of-control.  Twenty-nine teen suicides, that I know of, just since the start of this school year.  And, I just learned of two more, just tonight.  For those who haven’t figured it out yet, whatever it is we’re doing to prevent this from happening isn’t working.  For the sake of 13-year-old Erin Gallagher, and those who have gone before her, we need to try something different.  And, we need to start right now!

May you rest in peace, young Erin.

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Ciara Pugsley, 15, Succumbs to Cyberbullying

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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.