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

Posts Tagged ‘Bullycide

Nigel Hardy, 13, Bully-related Suicide

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Even though you haven’t been reading about them here over the past month, the teen suicides – LGBT and straight, alike – have been steadily mounting.  And, even now, with the news of the Boston Marathon bombing dominating the news (and, rightfully so), the teen suicides continue.  What really gets under my skin is how little attention these tragic events get even as the death toll continues to climb. I’ve said it before, and it’s worth saying again and again:  it’s as if these young people’s lives are expendable.  They.  Are.  Not.nigel hardyYesterday, April 15th, 13-year-old Nigel Hardy was reported missing after being suspended from school for defending himself in school against bullies.  Seeing that news circulate on facebook made me nervous, at best.  Fear of the worst set in quickly.  Word spread very quickly in Palmdale, where he lived and went to school.  His father found a suicide note in his bedroom Monday morning and then noticed his handgun was missing.  The school Nigel attended, Hillview Middle School, was placed on “heightened awareness”, basically lockdown.  Monday night, Nigel was found.  Shortly after, he was pronounced dead at an Antelope Valley hospital.

Nigel, who turned 13 only last Thursday, April 11th, was a cheerleader at his middle school.  Apparently, that led to his being bullied. Various news reports say that he had gotten in a fight with his bully, or bullies, and that led to him being suspended.  He became despondent over that.  Now, he’s gone.Nigel Hardy2Where does this end?  When do we seriously and honestly reach the point where we’ve seen enough carnage and devastation that comes with these teen suicides and their aftermath?  When do we stop making excuses for the ones responsible for pushing these young people to the edge and start holding them accountable?  When is enough truly enough?  I don’t think anyone can answer that, and that’s what has become overwhelmingly frustrating for me.  No one has any answers!!  No one has any solutions!!  And, to add insult to injury, our government officials are paying attention to any- and everything but the fact that bullying and the related teen suicides have reached epidemic proportions.  Instead, we’re continuously dished the same, tired rhetorical responses.  We’re still getting the “boys will be boys”, “kids will be kids” spiel that we’ve been hearing for far too long, now.  Nigel’s suicide is not the first one where the person(s) involved in the bullying are known.  What is being done about the fact that their actions cost another teenager his life!!??

Here in Maryland last year, there was a horrific traffic accident involving four young people who were best of friends.  They’d been partying, and the driver certainly should not have been driving.  Three of them died in the accident.  The driver survived.  He’s now serving a lengthy prison sentence for his actions.  Why?  Because his actions led to the deaths of his three friends. He was held accountable.  These young people who terrorize their schoolmates, or sometimes even strangers online!, to the point where the victim ends their lives get nothing!  There is zero accountability!!  And, that, as much as anything, is a major part of the problem.  As long as they know they can continue to do this without any risk of repercussion, they will continue.  Not only that, but their actions will continue to escalate.  It’s really just that simple.

Sure, there are those who believe that the best way to deal with this is to also “treat” the bully(s).  As one person on the facebook blog page commented last week:

Bullies have a Reason for the way the act so I felt sorry for them

We agreed, ahem, to disagree.  I do understand that these menaces have issues going on in their own lives that causes them to do the things they do.  In many, if not most!, cases, it’s a very bad living condition at home.  That’s a whole different issue for another time.  And, I’m all for getting them the help they need to become better, more productive, and less menacing people.  That is, when there isn’t a death attached to their name and their actions.  Understand this:  it is 2013.  The “Information Age” is maturing.  There is 100% absolutely NO WAY that Nigel Hardy’s bullies didn’t know that there are teens committing suicide NEARLY EVERYDAY!!, and bullying is often the root of it!!  NO.  WAY.  They KNOW this is happening!  It’s impossible for them to NOT know.  Period.  Accept that.  It’s impossible for these kids to NOT know that their actions could very well lead to yet another suicide.  We’ve MUST understand and accept this reality!  And, the reason why it’s so vital that we, as adults, come to this understanding of what really going on is because, once we accept the reality that they KNOW what they’re doing could very well lead to yet another suicide, we can accept the reality that they absolutely must be held accountable for their actions.  Anything less than that, and we’re only fooling ourselves.  These young people are telling us, as loudly as they can, that they don’t care if their victim kills themselves!!  In some cases, they even TELL the victim to “go kill yourself”, “nobody would care if you died”, and worse.  How can we NOT hold them accountable for their actions!  How can we even dream of coddling the perpetrators when there is a devastated, grieving family who will never, ever have their young, loved one to coddle anymore?  How is that even justifiable?  It’s not.

This has gone much, much too far.  The time has long since passed for us to take some serious action that will prevent this from continuing to happen.  As loudly as people are shouting for marriage equality, so, too, should the voices be raised for our school officials, our law enforcement agencies, and our lawmakers to get off their collective asses and start making some real changes in policies that will prevent these teen suicides to continue to mount.  Anything less, and we’re only spinning our wheels as yet another family mourns.Nigel collageWe’ll never know how brightly Nigel’s star would’ve shone.  Rest in peace, young man.

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Bradley Chisholm, 16, Death by Suicide

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Last week was brutal.  The world said goodbye to three more young people at the hands of suicide.  And, that’s three that I know of.  Of the three, two were reportedly because of, at least in part, bullying.  Sixteen year old Bradley Chisholm was one of the two.

 

Brad was a beautiful young man who had been bullied for most of his high school years.  I am not sure of all the details, but I know that one of the things he was bullied for was his weight.  He was bigger than most kids, but so was his personality.  He seemed happy in the lead up to this but was obviously really hurting inside.  His mates have been talking about some kid from the area.  Not sure if he was the one bullying Brad before his passing, but it sure sounds that way.

And, again the question arises:  how do we tackle the issue of bullying?  How many more young lives will it take before it’s taken for exactly what it is:  an escalating epidemic that’s costly lives and causing unnecessary grief for those left behind.  I’ve said before, but it bears repeating over and over until the point is clearly made:  if this were a virus killing kids at this rate, there would be an all-out assault on eradicating the disease.  If this were blatant violence, such as gun violence or stabbings, measures would be taken immediately to make it end.  And, of course, rightly so.  So, why is, then, that the senseless bully-related suicides are continuing to mount up.  Worse, why is it that all-too-often, the response seems to be read from the same, generic cue card:  “Our investigation hasn’t shown bullying to be an issue…”?  Sweeping the issue under the proverbial carpet is not, and will not, make it go away.

One of the issues in dealing with bullying, and the suicides that come from it, is that far too many victims of bullying opt for keeping it to themselves…keeping it in…until they end up taking irreversible, permanent action.  Perhaps that’s a good starting point:  teaching, and instilling!, in young people who they HAVE  to speak up; they HAVE to speak out; they HAVE to make sure their voices are being heard by people who will do something about it.  However, there’s a reason why so many prefer not talking about it as opposed to telling someone:  they’ve learned that little-to-nothing is done about it when they do tell someone.  It’s an issue that’s widely swept under the carpet, or minimized, to the point where they conclude that there’s no one who will help them…that their on their own.  That becomes too much for them to handle.  Then, sadly, we lose yet another one to a death that could’ve very easily been prevented.

On the facebook blog page, where people often tell their stories, one of the members just posted this:

I just want others to know that if you’re being bullied, please, don’t keep it to yourself. Find someone you trust and love, someone who can help, and tell them! Nobody can help if they don’t know. You may run into some stone walls when trying to find help, but don’t let that discourage you. Stay strong…

That is an absolute.  Instilling in these young people that there really IS someone “out there” who will listen, and do their best to intervene, it essential.  Getting them to keep talking until they find that person is imperative.  Being that person who will be there to listen and do whatever it takes to end the bullying they’re dealing with is crucial to lowering the suicide rate.  It’s just that simple.

To the family and friends of young Bradley Chisholm, we send our deepest, heartfelt sympathies.  May you rest in peace now, Bradley.

Noah Grawemeyer, 12, Bullying Leads to Suicide Death

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It’s August 24, 2012.  The new school year is just barely underway, and here we are:  already saying goodbye to the second known student lost to suicide so far this school year.  Noah Grawemeyer was only 12 years old.  He had just started seventh grade at Hazelwood Middle School in New Albany, Indiana.  According to his mother, he didn’t want to go to school Monday:

“He was sick to his stomach, and he just was so upset when I talked to him and crying that he didn’t want to go to school, and I didn’t understand why he was crying not to…”

Police in New Albany are investigating whether or not there was bullying involved.  Same ol’, same ol’.  Undoubtedly, their conclusion will be one that we’ve heard many, many, too many times before:  “Our investigation has concluded that bullying was not an issue… .”  And, that leaves Noah’s distraught family and friends in anguish.  I’m certain that, on a core level, whether or not he was pushed to suicide due to bullying pales, by comparison, to the fact that he’s gone.  Rightly so.  No parent or family member should ever have to go through the debilitating loss of a child to suicide.

On the other side of the coin, it is August 2012.  I refuse to believe that there’s a single person alive today, and of reasonable intelligence, who doesn’t know that there’s an enormous problem today with bullying and teen suicides.  There’s literally no place in the media a person can go and not hear stories of bullying and of teen suicides.  It’s in the newspapers for people who still read them; it’s on the news channels and talk shows for those who watch television; it’s on the Internet for those who spend most of their time there.  It’s an unavoidable issue.  The stories are there.  The faces are there.  The broken families are there.  The lawmakers are there vowing new legislation.  So, with all of this in place, how is it that we’re barely into the new school year and,already!, we’re facing teen suicides due to bullying?  Where is the ball being dropped?  And, make no mistake:  the ball is clearly being dropped.  Do we wait until this affects us directly before we get involved?  Do we continue to not educate our own young ones about the value of acceptance until we’re face-to-face with the horror of the loss of our own child or teenager due to bullying and suicide?  Do we continue to make our posters – “No More Bullying!!!”; “Bullying Stops Here!!” – march them around town while we wait for someone else to roll up their sleeves and get busy working for a solution?  Or, do we look at this as what it is:  a scourge in our society; an epidemic that is claiming many lives year after year; something that is totally controllable and avoidable?  Once enough people begin to look at this for what it really is and feel in their heart that it has to stop before one more family has to go through what the Grawemeyers are currently going through, we’ll start seeing real changes.

There are resources available, numbers that can be called, websites, and help pages.

Enough is Enough: the blog page

National Suicide Lifeline

The Trevor Project

Befrienders

Suicide Prevention Information

There’s been a facebook page set up in Noah’s memory.  You can go there and give your condolences to the family.  And, to you, young Noah, you’re at peace, now.  No more bullying.

 

Lane Laymon, 14, Death by Suicide

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I had just finished writing about Kenneth Weishuhn’s suicide when I got the news about Dustin “Lane” Laymon.  And, I just broke down.  That makes 4 teen suicides since April 6th…in this country alone, and that we know of!…and, all 4 were a result of being bullied.

On Wednesday, April 11th, Lane Laymon, of Dover, Arkansas, felt he’d had enough of the bullying, so he made a suicide attempt in his school’s bathroom.  On Friday, April 13th, the attempt became a success.

There is little-to-no information surrounding this event.  I do know that, according to sources, he’d been badly bullied.  It is uncertain as to why he was being bullied.  Frankly, the “why” doesn’t matter.  What matters, most, is that yet another teen has been driven a point of hopelessness, a point where he felt no other way out but to end his life.  What matters, also, is that yet another teen’s family and friends have to endure the nightmare of coping with the suicide death of their loved one.

To say “this has to end” has become both redundant and empty.  Empty, because we’ve long ago passed to point of simply talking about it:  with 4 known teen suicides from bullying in the past 10 days, it’s time for real action.

How do we put those words into action to get real, tangible results?  The first and maybe not-so-simple answer is it has to, has to, has to start in the homes.  These young people would not be hurtful to others if they weren’t taught that that’s acceptable behavior.  A commenter to the article about Kenneth James Weishuhn wrote this:

The blame should not rest at all on the bullies in this school. They have grown up in an environment that teaches kids that being “gay” is against the bible. In such a conservative area where this idea is accepted by the vast majority of the residents, how can you blame these kids for pointing out a kid who is different.

It’s not hard to figure this out:  it starts in the homes.  We’re born to love; we’re taught to hate.  As I’ve been saying, and as is pointed out in this comment, the “teachers” are the adults.  And, sadly, in far too many cases, the adults are these bullies’ parents.  Human life is of much more value than religious or political beliefs.  Plain and simple.

That same commenter also had this to say:

It is absolutely absurd that you people don’t realize that this isn’t an issue for “politicians and school administrators” to solve.

Speechless.  When you see 98% of one party’s presidential candidates essentially running their campaign on their hatred for and intolerance of members of the LGBT community, when you have elected officials tirelessly attempting to pass laws that would be oppressive and very dangerous for a portion of this country’s population, you have a problem that needs to be solved.  These people are dangerous on more than one level, to be sure.  Their laws, if passed, would send the message to any LGBT teen that they are, in fact, defective, perverted, and worse.  See the damage?  Their rhetoric is passed down to their followers, filters into the homes, and suddenly there’s a community in Iowa or Arkansas or Anoka-Hennepin that becomes a hotbed for bullying.  And, sadly, we end up with a Justin Aaberg, a Kenneth Weishuhn and, now, a Lane Laymon.  These young people are taught to hate and be intolerant.

Real results for this very real issue?  Teach love every single day.  Teach love in your homes.  Demand acceptance from the school teachers and administrators.  Let your political and religious leaders know that human life means much more than their beliefs or teachings.  See, what’s “absolutely absurd” is continuing to believe that neither group of people have anything to do with this deadly cycle of bullying and teen suicides.

There isn’t one, simple, cut-and-dried solution to this, obviously.  That said, it should be clear that the time for just talking about it has come and gone.  Now, it’s time to actually work towards making a change.  Change won’t bring back the ones we’ve lost, obviously; however, I believe that we can end this vicious cycle of bully-driven teen suicides.  Whether they are gay or straight or whatever!, these teens deserve to be able to simply exist without being worried about relentlessly and, sometimes, brutally being bullied because of who they are.  If nothing else, their lives are worth our effort to at least try our hardest to make a difference.  It surely beats what’s going on right now.

Our efforts won’t save Lane Laymon, sadly enough.  He’s now in a place where he can no longer be bullied.  It shouldn’t have had to come to that.  May he rest in peace.  And, to the family and friends of Lane, may you find strength during these very difficult and trying times.

Bullying Claims Another: Rest in Peace Eden Wormer, Age 14

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I was certain that the respite wouldn’t last long.  It never does.  It’s usually the quiet before the next storm.

Wednesday, March 8, 14-year-old Eden Wormer ended her life in Vancouver, WA.  According to her family, it was a direct result of bullying.  Bullying that had been going on for 2 years.  Says her older sister, Audri, Eden tried everything she could think of to get the girls to stop bullying her.  They wouldn’t. 

Vancouver police say they have found no evidence to indicate the bullying rose to the level of a crime.  I read that twice to make sure I read it correctly.  So, to recap, a 14-year-old girl is dead as a direct result of being bullying; yet, the police say they found no evidence to indicate the bullying rose to the level of a crime.  No matter how many times I repeat that, it just sounds like I’m reading it wrong.  I can’t imagine those words escaping someone’s mouth.  Especially someone in authority.  Especially at a time when the family of the person who didn’t have the crime committed against her is grieving her death.

Sorry, I’m a little irritated right now.

Incredibly, the reporting news outlet found out about Eden’s suicide while talking to a 13-year-old boy from the same school who had allegedly been bullied.  Because of the bullying he endured, the same day that Eden ended her life, Izaya Hamilton ended up in the emergency room with a black eye, a bump on his head, and bruises on his shoulder.  More incredibly, the school officials “can’t talk about specific cases” but did go on record as saying that they “…take bullying seriously.”  Well, that’s obvious!  Izaya had to go to the emergency room; Eden won’t be coming back to school.  Or, going home to her loving family.

I wrote a post yesterday about a news story I’d just heard about the epidemic of teen smoking and how irate that made me become.  And, this is precisely why!  While teens are dying around the world on a daily basis, and at their own hands!, our officials are offering band-aids to a situation that calls for immediate and emergency action!!  Words are meaningless without action.

In my opinion, the first question that these officials, from school teachers and administrators straight through the police departments and on to the politicians!, is “why are you afraid to attack this issue!?”  They do the moonwalk around it seemingly every time.  In La Crescenta, the police reported there that 15-year-old Drew Ferraro “…hadn’t been bullied” before he ended his life.  And, there’s no doubt I could find more.  Does the uttering of those feeble words absolve them from any responsibilty?  If so, that has to change!

Words are meaningless without action.  It is totally unacceptable that on one day, one student from Cascade Middle School had to go to the emergency room because of injuries sustained from being bullied while another one surrendered her life.  They, as well as every other school administrator from shore-to-shore, from border-to-border, from one end of the globe to another, need to be put on notice:  WE are not going to tolerate this any longer.  And, then, WE need to take action!  WE need to hold their feet to the fire every single time it is revealed that a student is being bullied.  In the movie, Bully, a teacher goes on record saying “I’ve ridden that bus, and they’re as good as gold”.  Those words haunt me in my sleep!  Her image burned into my mind as she says it with such faux-conviction.  The boy who’d complained about being bullied on that bus is dead.  Suicide.

This issue…well, it would be redundant to tell you how real or how important it is.  They’re concerned about teens smoking cigarettes, as well they should be, and calling it an epidemic.  They’re watching teenager die, at their own hands, from being bullied, and reporting that “our investigation has found no evidence of bullying”.  I can’t be the only one who has a problem with this.

To Izaya Hamilton, give names.  Tell your teacher(s).  If that doesn’t work, tell the principal.  No luck there, go over their heads!  Go to the media if you have to.  Most importantly, though, never ever ever give up.

To the family and friends of Eden Wormer, my heart is with you as you struggle through this unimaginable time.

Payton Ruth Anne Richardson Was Only 12-Year-Old

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What’s really heartbreaking is that, during a time when there is such a strong, positive movement going on worldwide, we’re still having young people end their lives.  Sunday, February 12, 2012, 12-year-old Payton Ruth Anne Richardson ended her young life.  Her friends say, for sure, that it was due to bullying.  The school superintendent says “there was no indication of bullying”.  With the climate being what it is around the world right now, that’s exactly what one would expect him to say.  I, for one, would have to believe those close to her before believing the paid official.  Whatever happened, the outcome is the tragic same.  This beautiful 12-year-old child is gone.

Immediately, one of her friends posted a video on youtube both as a tribute to her fallen friend and as a social message that’s been resonating around the globe for the past few months:  STOP BULLYING!!!  It’s heartwarming to know that this was done by our future, the ones who will be leading our country, and world!, soon enough.  I’m beginning to think that THEY get it better than a lot of our adults do, and that’s a frightening reality.  I strongly encourage you to not just watch this video, but share it as well.  The message is powerful as it is coming from a close friend of someone who has just left this world.

YOU can prevent bullying.  Don’t sit around and watch it happen.  TAKE ACTION!!!

The message can’t be any clearer.

To be sure, much is being done right now.  I can attest to the fact that there are people all around the globe doing huge and wonderful things as means to an end, with that “end” being the eradication of bullying and bullycide.  However, until we’ve actually seen the end of it, much more still needs to be done.  We need more people doing their part to bring this to an end.  We need everyone working in concert, with one crystal-clear goal:  TO END BULLYCIDES…once and for all.  We need to continue to reach out, but that’s not enough, either.  We also need to keep the pressure on every school district, and every politician, to implement stronger anti-bullying measures AND enforce them.  Until this ends, we need to be vigilant.

In the meantime, we need to know, immediately!, where to go to get the resources needed if we’re “in the moment” or if we suspect that bullying is taking place.  As Kim Towne said TAKE ACTION!!!

Here’s a list of resources to keep handy:

STOPTeenage Suicide
WHOF’s Suicide Support
ABC:  Anti-Bullying Coalition
Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Befrienders
How To Identify and Deal With Bullying (pdf)

To the family and friends of Payton Ruth Anne Richardson, my heart goes out to you.  I wish you peace and comfort in what is sure to be the most heartwrenching time of your lives.  May you now be at peace, Payton.

Drew Ferraro, 15, Dead of Bullycide

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My band played “The Struggle” tonight with the usual zest.  I made it through the whole song without breaking down at some point, which happens especially when we perform it after a recent teen suicide.  It had been relatively calm for the past week or so.  I said to one of my best friends, biggest fans, and occasional reader of the blog that it has been quite for a week or so, and that had me cautiously concerned.  Then, I return home from another triumphant show only to get the news.

Friday, February 11th, 15-yer-old Drew Ferraro succumbed to bullycide.  According to one of Drew’s friends, “he was a funny, clever kid who played football and loved heavy metal music and gigs”.  Said another friend, “he was definitely bullied and he didn’t want to go to school”.

The sad irony is that his suicide came mere hours before the release of the very powerful song and video, “It Does Get Better”, done by some of the best lesbian talent that the U.K. has to offer.  Seeing that video, hearing that song, albeit not heavy metal, could’ve very well saved Drew’s life.  We’ll never know.

It’s imperative that everyone has resources readily available in the event that you’re faced, eye-to-eye, with a potentially dangerous situation.  Intervention works wonders, and it saves lives.

Wipeout Homophobia on facebook has a wonderful Suicide Support page

Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Knowing the signs of depression early on can be a very useful tool.

To the traumatized schoolmates and friends of Drew’s who witnessed this event, please seek help.  Sorting through this will be extremely difficult on your own.  To the family of this young man, we wish you our heartfelt condolences.  May you rest in Paradise, Drew Ferraro.