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Posts Tagged ‘teen suicide

Tyler Nichols, 13, Suicide at Southgate Middle School

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This is horrific news out of Detroit today:  13-year-old Tyler Nichols brought a gun to school this morning and shot himself in a school bathroom.  He died later in the day at a nearby hospital.Tyler NicholsObviously, it’s still much too early to know any of the details, or the “whys”, of why he ended his young life.  At this moment, bullying does not appear to be the factor.  What is known at this time is that Tyler secured a legally registered gun from an unidentified relative and brought it into the school today.  Somewhere around 8:00 this morning, he reportedly went to a bathroom on another floor and shot himself.  One of his schoolmates found him lying on the floor and notified school officials.  Soon after, the school was placed on lockdown as police investigated.Davidson-Middle-School-scene-aerials1-jpgAt the hospital, a suicide note was reportedly found somewhere on Tyler’s person.  Few details have been given, at this point, as to the contents of the note.  However, one thing that is being reported is that he did say that he was “…sick of all the drama…” in his life.  Again, only those closest to him will understand what that means, and we won’t speculate.  What’s important is that, for whatever reason, a 13-year-old felt so overwhelmed with whatever “drama” he had going on his life that he saw no way out but to simply end his life.  The enormity of this tragedy hasn’t even set in, yet.  As he was reportedly a very popular and intelligent students, his classmates…and teachers will be forever affected by what happened Thursday morning at Davidson Middle School.  But, it’s his family who will live the rest of their lives with the relentless grief of knowing that Tyler is gone for good.  It’s a pain no parent should ever, ever!, have to go through.

As the gun control debate continues to gather momentum across the country, one question that I’m sure will be raised is why was it so easy for him to get ahold of a loaded gun?  That’s not to point fingers at the relative who owns the gun.  I’m sure they’re beside themselves with grief right now.  Rather, it’s to ask the question:  “when do we start paying attention to gun safety and gun control in this country?”  Just how many lives must be lost to gun violence before we, as a people, finally say “Enough!!!  Something must be done!!!”?Southgate-vigil-1-jpgRallying swiftly to pay their respects to Tyler, the community gathered Thursday evening for a candlelight vigil in his memory.  Hundreds attended.  Undoubtedly, many of them are still trying to come to terms with what happened in their school, in their community, and in their lives today.  It will be a long time before they’re able to sort it all out.  However, unfortunately, right now, as I type this, the speculation machine is already in full-gear on one social media site with the standard cries about bullying.  Bullying is a horrible epidemic that we face today, but not every teen suicide is a result of bullying.  And, from the looks of things, at least here in the early stages, bullying was not a factor in Tyler Nichol’s suicide.

What we cannot lose track of is that Tyler left behind a family that, at this very moment, is stunned by today’s actions, absolutely overwhelmed by indescribable grief and sorrow.  Our focus needs to be on them, as we offer them all of the support, and condolences, we can possibly muster.  They’re going to need it.

What is also very apparent is that we, as a society, need to do a much, much better job at reaching out to these young people.  We’re failing miserably.  Every time I see another name attached to the word “suicide”, I’m reminded that we’re not doing enough to reach them.  We’re failing at making them understand that whatever pain they’re experiencing right now is temporary!  We’re failing at making them realize that their lives are worth living, that things will (honestly!) get better!  We’re failing at keeping them alive long enough to understand that they’re strong enough to make it through whatever it is they’re facing.  And, sadly, as we continue to fail, the number of teen suicides continues to rise.  Enough!

To the family of Tyler Nichols, I send my deepest sympathy.  I can’t even fathom what you’re going through right now.  Rest in peace, Tyler.

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Hailey Petee, 11: Bullying leads to suicide

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It’s really not getting any better.  This one is as painful as they come.  Hailey Petee was 11-years-old.  Eleven years old!  The preteen girl from London, Ohio ended her life over the weekend.  Her lifeless body was found by her mother very early Sunday morning.haley peteeI don’t even know where to start.

It is reported that the London, Ohio school district is very proactive when it comes to bullying.  In fact, officials as well as Hailey’s mother have said that the bullying she endured didn’t occur in school or on the school grounds.  Rather, she was apparently severely bullied by middle-schoolers while riding her school bus.  Her mother explains that Hailey was tormented by these middle-schoolers on the school bus as well as around town.  It became so bad, they had to change Hailey’s bus route to avoid them.  Further, she was also restricted on where she could go around town, and with whom.  “She couldn’t even go to the park anymore”, says her grieving mother.  Apparently, even that wasn’t enough.

One of the bullies was an adult, a “neighborhood woman who had a daughter Hailey’s age”:

A neighborhood woman who has a daughter Hailey’s age was charged in October with disorderly conduct and telephone harassment. According to the police report, she had been yelling and cursing at Hailey when she saw the girl outside, and she had been taunting the family on Facebook. (The Columbus Dispatch)Hailey_Petee_CLH

Hailey Petee reportedly hated to wear the thick-framed glasses she was forced to wear in order to see.  They were a source of her harassment.  She was a very pretty young lady, glasses or no.

So, now what?  Here’s a case where the parents were proactive and did what any good parent would do to protect the welfare of their child.  It wasn’t enough.  The school system at least appears to be one of the few proactive systems that actually takes bullying very seriously and takes action when they hear of incidences of bullying.  It wasn’t enough!

Increasingly, people seem to be coming to the realization that one step that has to be implemented is there absolutely has to be some sort accountability placed on these people who are determined to wreak havoc on other people’s lives.  hailey's motherThey know what they’re doing is wrong!  They know what they’re doing is malicious!  They know that bullying is leading some to suicide!  Yet, the continue to do it anyway!  Why?  Well, there’s no one right answer; however, there are a few that comes immediately to mind:

  • they know that there will be no consequences;
  • they just don’t care;
  • no one is taking the time to teach them any better;
  • their older role models (parents, older siblings, older friends) are showing them, by example, that it’s okay to be a bullying.  It doesn’t matter what you do or say to another human being, even if it mean they end up committing suicide.

Dispute any one of those, and I’ll tell you you’re not paying attention to what’s going on.  It’s really that simple.  We are a society in great turmoil.  It’s hard to convince young people that bullying is wrong when they continuously see adults in their lives do it.  Role models.  Parents.  Teachers, in some cases.  Politicians.  Religious leaders.  Look around you!!  There are great examples of “it’s okay to bully others” in our faces every single day…by adults!  I’ll continue to say this until I’m blue in the face that in order to address this epidemic, what must start with the adults.  Period.  There is just no other way out of this.

Even on the facebook blog page, a page that is dedicated to a.) this blog; and, b.) raising anti-bullying awareness, it’s split 60/40, with the 40% being of the “suck-it-up-and-grow-a-backbone” mentality.  That gives you a snapshot of how deep-rooted this problem is.  How can we begin to work on teaching these young people that bullying is just plain wrong, how can we think about saving these young people from ending their lives, if we can’t come together, ourselvesas adults, on finding a solution?  Meanwhile, the young people are watching…and, listening.  And, we’re continuing to see the sad results of our indecisiveness.  WE need to figure this out!

I often get the argument “I was bullied when I was in school, but I didn’t kill myself!  There’s always been bullying.  These kids today are just soft.”  Someone posted a similar comment last night.  My response is worth repeating here:

Yes, make no mistake: bullying has ALWAYS been around…in one form or another. Here’s the difference with today’s kids, and bullying. You and I couldn’t send texts; you and I couldn’t tweet; you and I didn’t have facebook; there was no Ask.fm. WE DIDN’T HAVE THE INTERNET! The Internet has changed EVERYTHING!!! For starters, yes, today’s youth’s coping skills aren’t what ours were back then. You know why? Because they don’t get enough opportunity to interact, read: cope, in REAL LIFE!!!! Everything is OMG!!!, LOL!!!!, etc. These kids live their lives in the cyber-world. So, naturally, their coping skills are lagging from when you and I were in school. (thank GOD there was no Internet back then!!!!) Secondly, and this is important to understand, bullying in our day had a whole different face than bullying does today. I dealt with the schoolyard bullies, push you around, call you names, take your lunch money…the typical stuff back then. Big deal. Once the last bell rang for the day, WE WERE FREE!!!! We went home, we did our homework (maybe), then we were outside playing with our friends. That was then. Once again, today’s youth are cyber-kids. Therefore, bullying has the potential of being a 24/7 ordeal. Texts don’t end at the last bell of the day; tweets don’t stop just because they’re no longer in school; facebook status updates and comments proliferate after school for these kids. The bullying has the potential of NEVER ending!! We absolutely must stop comparing their world to ours if we’re ever going to figure this out. Two completely different worlds! These kids are in serious trouble unless, and until, we adults figure something out.Story haley

We, the adults, are failing these young people miserably.  They looking to us to lead them out of this disaster, and we’re dropping the ball.  Again, and again, and again.  In young Hailey’s case, it seems that everyone actually did do everything they could to prevent it from coming to this.  It just didn’t work out that way.  Now, they must go that next step and identify these youngsters who mercilessly bullied Hailey and make certain that they are held accountable for their actions.  There’s no other way.  As long as they realize that nothing is going to happen to them, they will continue doing what they’re doing.  And, we’ll continue losing one young life after another.  We can do better.  We owe it to this generation to do better.

Rest in peace, Hailey

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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.

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David Q. Phan, 14, Death by Suicide

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Thursday, November 29th, 14-year-old David Phan had a meeting, along with his mother, with the school principal.  They left school together around 1:30 p.m.  Around 3:00, David returned to a skybridge near Bennion Junior High School, where he was a 9th grader, and committed suicide in front of schoolmates and a few parents.david phanAs police and school officials are, once again, downplaying to allegations that David had been bullied, students who went to school with him and knew him offer a completely different story:

“He was nice to everyone, even if sometimes people weren’t nice to him,” says a fellow ninth-grader.

“I just don’t understand why people can bully him and be OK with it,” said another student. “He was a really sweet kid and didn’t hurt anybody. He didn’t do anything wrong”

“They were just mean to him for no reason,” said yet another.

So, it’s apparent that those around him on a daily basis understood that David was, indeed, being bullied.  For what reason remains a mystery at the point.  What’s also apparent is that, once again, the police and school officials are, at least at this early stage, letting another teen suicide with bullying implications slip through the cracks.

“He was one of the sweetest guys I’ve ever known,” said yet another fellow ninth-grader.

He remembered when the teen had bought him a drink and never expected to be paid back for it.  But other students picked on him, this student went on to say. His classmates and friends said he was bullied and called names at school.phan2These are real-life people, schoolmates and parents, sharing real-life unimaginable grief because some people still find it okay to be abusive, be insulting, be exclusionary, to…bully.  They have no regard for the pain and destruction that they know they’re causing.  They don’t give a good damn that some of these young people are ending their own lives behind the senselessness of bullying.  They flat-out do.  not.  care.  One reason for the nonchalance is they aren’t seeing any sort of consequences for this behavior anywhere!!!phanAnd, because there are no consequences anywhere, ever, for these cases of bullying that lead to suicide, scenes like this are being played out every single day somewhere around the world.

“Our investigation hasn’t found any indication of bullying….”  Sound familiar?

Because no one is ever held accountable, not ever, in these cases, the young people who do the bullying have become emboldened in their actions.  Emboldened, their troubling behavior continues even as it continues to contribute to the growing number of teen suicides.  You don’t think the number is growing (over last year)?  So far this school year, I’ve personally reported on now-40 teen suicides.  That’s just since the end of August.  But, wait.  That number doesn’t account for the additional 5-6 that I know occurred but was never able to gather any information.  That includes two right here in my own backyard.  Worst still, that 40 only represents the ones that I’ve reported on.  Make no mistake:  there have been at least that many more that we haven’t heard about.  And still, with all of the statistical data right there for us all to review, with the hundreds, perhaps thousands!, of family members and friends who are left to grieve and struggle and wonder every single day for the rest of their own lives because our society still condones the actions that lead these teens to commit suicide.  Condones?  Yes, condones.  By remaining silent, or sweeping it under the proverbial rug, or simply turning a blind eye, you are condoning the behavior.  

Something, obviously, was going terribly wrong with David Phan.  His mother and he met with the principal, in a closed-door meeting, the day of his suicide.  Upon leaving the meeting to go home with his mother, David was checked for weapons.  Something, obviously, was going terribly wrong with David Phan.

Of course, the police and school administrators report “no sign of bullying”.

Are you getting angry, yet?  You should be.

So, once again I say, to you David Phan, I’m sorry that we, as a society, let you down.  You should be enjoying those friends who loved you so much and getting ready for Christmas.  Rest in peace.

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More of Jordan Halmich: A Word from a Parent

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We all know by now that bullying has played a role, big and small, in many teen suicides.  You’ve read about some of them here.  If you’ve been a regular follower of this blog, or if you’re a member of the facebook blog page, you’ve also read many times where I’ve said that “…not all teens who commit suicide are LGBT teens, and not all teen suicides are in response to being bullied”.  Over the past year, I’ve watched, both on some of my own blog posts and on other articles, as well, as people would a.) read about another teen suicide and instantly respond “Bullying has to end!!” and/or b.) make a statement that goes like this:  “it’s a shame that these teens are killing themselves for being bullied just because they’re gay.”

NOT EVERY TEEN WHO COMMITS SUICIDE IS LGBT; NOT EVERY TEEN WHO COMMITS SUICIDE WAS BULLIED; EVERY SINGLE TEEN SUICIDE IS TRAGIC!  

The mother of Jordan Halmich, one of the three teens who committed suicide in a seven-week period, left a comment on the blog that prompted me to respond to her via email as opposed to simply replying to the comment:

I am the mother of Jordan Halmich, and just to make this all clear, Jordan was not bullied  He didn’t take his own life because of being bullied.  He had been depressed.  He came to me. and I took him the assistant principal and called in the alt ED counselor and had them evaluate him.  At that point, he was given a therapist, which he was seeing as well as had the assistant principal and alt ED teacher whom he trusted.  He talked with Jordan, and I talked as well.  His problem was not being ignored.  I was so upset to see all this published and people just jumping on the bandwagon of what people were saying, that the three suicides were caused from bullying.  Well, I am here to tell you get off that bandwagon and get the story straight:  Jordan Halmich, 16, of St. Clair, took his own life on Sept. 28 due to severe depression that his family and many others were trying to help him with and that we don’t know and never will know the true state of where his mind was that dreadful day that he saw no other way to end his depression that day than to take his own life.   As a parent, to face life everyday without him here, and for his father, his brothers, his other family, and many friends, is the most empty, hurtful feeling to go through in life, so seeing all this online reporting of non-truth about Jordan is hurtful and all the pictures, comments that they dug up and found just goes to show that social media is out of control.  Nothing is private anymore, and that is where the problem truly lies this day and age.

I don’t agree with bullying, and I am not saying it isn’t a problem and that, if it is happening, that it doesn’t need to be addressed or dealt with.  It does.  I always taught my kids that “no one is better than you”, not to ever let anyone make you feel that way and, by all means, you stand up for yourself and don’t let anyone treat you as if you don’t matter.  My kids didn’t let that happen and still don’t.  Jordan was only 5ft 3in and would stand up to someone 6ft tall without fear.  So, believe me, he was not bullied.  I, as a parent, would not let someone bully my children for more than 1 day without me taking care of it, anyway I could, to make it stop.  If we don’t fight for our children, then who will?  It’s our job to love and protect our children, and I take that very seriously.In the blog post, itself, I specified that “It is alleged that he’d been bullied.”  Now, we know for sure that he wasn’t

Last year’s suicide death of Jamie Hubley was similar in that people were, and still are, beating the “bully drum” when, in fact, it wasn’t bullying at all.  The role that bullying played in Jamie’s suicide was miniscule in comparison to the level of depression he was locked in to.  Had he been bullied?  There were a couple of instances.  But, it wasn’t why he ended his life.  Same is true with Jordan Halmich.  Was he bullied?  His mother says a definitive and emphatic “no”.  Jordan suffered from a deep depression that, much like Jamie, no one could save him from despite the efforts of his loved ones.

Following Jamie Hubley’s suicide, I had the honor of meeting several of members of his family.  As was the case with Jordan’s family, they were keenly aware that Jamie wasn’t dealing with severe depression, and they were doing everything humanly possible to help him see his way through it.  What Jordan’s mother said to me was almost identical, nearly verbatim!, to what one of Jamie’s family members told me about his suicide last year:

I just want people to know he was not bullied and I did not turn a blind eye to him or his depression. I was on top of it and got him help from staff, therapists, doctors, his family and friends.  He was not alone.  We were all here and trying to help.  He was an energetic, fun, had a huge heart and was loved by many.  His smile and outgoing attitude made him several friends, and that is way I want him remembered. I don’t want anyone thinking I am, or anyone else is, trying to point fingers and place blame for what he did, and I definitely don’t want it being believed that he was bullied when he wasn’t.

That’s a simple and reasonable request.  Teen suicide is tragic, regardless of the reasoning behind it.  Sure, the pain and even anger are both magnified when bullying is involved; however, the fact of the matter is not every teen suicide is the result of bullying.  In our hard-fought efforts to get both the bullying epidemic and explosion of teen suicides under control, it’s important to the families of those lost to suicide to understand that simple fact.

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UNDERSTANDING TEEN DEPRESSION

SUICIDE PREVENTION TOOLKIT (pdf)

SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE

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Courtney Walker, 14, Bullying-related Suicide

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It won’t be a Happy Thanksgiving in the Walker home this year and, quite possibly, for years to come.  Instead, the Thanksgiving holidays will always be attached to memories of 14-year-old Courtney Walker ending her life on Tuesday, November 13th, reportedly because of being bullied.Courtney’s mother says that she “…saw the warning signs, but she didn’t think they would result in suicide.”  Apparently, Courtney had spoken with her mother “…about a couple of “run-ins” she’d had with a couple of girls at school, but she didn’t say that she was being bullied.”  Describing her daughter as “funny and smart”, Shawn Walker added:

“I talked to her about it and she just laughed like it was a joke,” Walker said. “So we thought she was doing it for attention.”

And, of course, the local law enforcement agency says their investigation, so far, has not found any evidence of bullying.

No evidence of bullying.  That’s beginning to sound like a sick punchline to a morbid, grotesque joke.  The problem, of course, is this is no laughing matter.  A 14-year-old girl is dead.  Her mother says it was brought on from being bullied!  What more evidence do you need?  Once again, the question is what exactly constitutes “evidence of bullying”?  What are they looking for, exactly?  From talking to several family members of young people who have committed suicide already due to being bullied, I can tell you that question is worn thin.  The fact that no one in “official” positions seem capable, or even willing, to do something meaningful that would start making a difference has also played out.  It’s time for answers and results.  Nothing short of that will do.

What, exactly, IS bullying?  How do we define it in terms that would disallow these school and police officials to hide behind the wall of “…no evidence of bullying was found”?  Perhaps being able to answer those two questions would pave the way to stemming this tide of bullying and teen suicides.  Does there need to be physical evidence of bullying?  Would that make their jobs easier?  Does teasing, name-calling, harassing, excluding, or taunting not count as bullying?  Of course it does.  How do you find evidence of that?  And, since it is nearly impossible to find evidence of that, why isn’t the word-of-mouth of people who are or were close to the situation sufficient enough “evidence” for these “officials” to act?  There are just far too many families left with these, and more!, unanswered questions.  Another name is added to the ever-growing list every single day.

My own question to these “officials” would be “do you have children?  And, if yes, how would you expect your child’s situation to be handled if (s)he were being bullied?”  I’ll tell you what you would expect.  You would expect swift and decisive action.  You’d want to make sure that the person(s) doing the bullying was held accountable for their actions.  You’d demand that the school administrators did every single thing in their power to assure your child’s safety and well-being while they were at school.  Most of all, you’d want to make sure that your child was no longer at risk of ending his/her life because of unanswered cries for help from being bullied.  That’s what you’d want.  Why you can’t grasp that that’s what every parent wants is beyond me.  You “officials” aren’t reacting the way you’d expect your own child’s situation to be reacted to.  And, because of that, the cycle continues.  It’s preventable.  One-hundred percent preventable.  What’s needed in order to prevent this from continuing to happen is to become much more proactive rather than reactive.  We can stop this heartbreaking trend.  We can…and, we must.Courtney Walker was a beautiful, “funny and smart” 14-year-old girl.  She should be gearing up for the holiday season with her family right now.  How we, as a society, are continuing to let this happen is mind-boggling to me.

Rest in peace, Courtney.

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SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE

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TEEN SUICIDE PREVENTION IN THE U.K.

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High School Horror: THREE Students Commit Suicide in Seven Weeks

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We’ve got a problem.  And, it’s a huge problem.  It’s common knowledge to anyone with a pulse, by now, that there’s a problem with teen suicide and bullying.  So, I’m not breaking any news there.  The problem we’re facing runs deeper, if that’s possible, than the issues of bullying and teen suicide.  We’re suffering from a paralysis on how to effectively deal with both issues.  And, that’s allowing the issue to continue to spiral out-of-control.

I received notification this morning of three suicides at one school within a seven-week period, ages 14, 16, and 16:  a freshman; a sophomore; and, a junior.  And, where did I get the information from?  A United Kingdom publication!  See, in our country, those who should be sounding the alarm, standing on the tallest buildings and highest mountains screaming through the most powerful sound systems at the top of their lungs that we’ve got ourselves a major problem in this country with bullying and teen suicides are doing their best to sidestep the whole situation.  They sweep it under the proverbial carpet in hopes that it will magically disappear.  They deny the reality that this is happening in our school, in our country, with and to our younger generation.  The problem is that the problem isn’t magically going away.  It’s continuing to worsen.Jordan Halmich ended his life September 28th, one month shy of his 17th birthday.  It is alleged that he’d been bullied. Donna Cooley was found by her father on November 2nd after scrawling words on a mirror indicating that she’d been bullied.Destiny Pearson ended her life just this past Monday, November 12th.  She was a former cheerleader.  Destiny was a very well-rounded 16 year old, enjoying riding horses, karate, sewing, reading and writing.  Her friends deny any allegations that she had been bullied, citing that she was always the one who would stick up for those being bullied.

These three teens were all students at St. Clair High School in St. Clair, Missouri.  As is the norm in cases of teen suicide, the chief of police in St. Clair issued a statement that, of course, “there was no evidence of bullying.”  And, again, I’m at a loss as to where to even start trying to figure this out.  The first question that comes to mind is “what, exactly, is it that they’re looking for as “evidence” of bullying?  Are these bullied teens supposed to be documenting every instance of bullying?  Should they get the documents notarized?  Should they get videos of each instance of bullying?  Or, should they wait until the bullying becomes physical attack, then take pictures of their bruised bodies?  Preposterous questions, all.  Or…are they? Apparently, word-of-mouth accounts from the people who spent time with them day-in and day-out accounts for nil.  Zip.  Nada.  Imagine that!  You go to school with these people everyday.  You are often their close friends.  And, in some cases, you actually witness the bullying with your own eyes.  Other times, they confide in you what’s going on.  YET, when you report that they were being bullied, it falls on deaf ears.  Sound familiar?  That’s never going to solve anything.  Rather, the continuing tendency to sweep this under the carpet is a leading reason why we’re not seeing any progress being made in these instances of bullying and bully-related suicides.

Rather than acknowledge that there is a problem with bullying, this police chief instead attempted to push the focus elsewhere.

Obviously there are a lot of emotional problems with these individuals,’ St Clair police chief Bill Hammack told MailOnline. ‘But each case has specific identifiers.

‘They are dealing with a lot of emotional and mental issues and there’s not one reason connecting three different suicides of three different teenagers across three different jurisdictions.

And, he added:

One common thread that I would see that is occurring is that there is social media involved.

Of course, it’s highly possible that all of the above played a role in the suicides.  In fact, in at least one of the cases, it is documented that there were problems at home as well as at school leading up to the suicide.  And, yes indeed, there is a major issue with teens and social media today.  That goes without saying.  In fact, it is this author’s opinion that today’s young people have entirely too much free reign on the Internet and that, in itself, is only exacerbating an already troubling situation.  But, that’s neither here nor there.  That said, the issue here is neither of those things.

The issue here is bullying amongst teens, and preteens, in the schools.  The issue is bullying and the reluctance to do anything to intervene and/or prevent it.  Oh, of course, many school districts now have anti-bullying policies in place.  Some have very strict “zero tolerance” policies on record.  And, they are very effective.  On paper.  In the real world, in the schools, in the classrooms, they are grossly ineffective.  In the real world, in the schools and classrooms, they may as well be nonexistent.  That’s a problem.

Young people are told to report all bullying incidents “to a trusted adult…teacher…counselor…other school administrator.”  And, they do.  To no avail.  On the facebook blog page, I very often get reports of people who say they reported their bullying only to be blamed for bringing it on themselves!  In other cases, the reports of bullying fall on deaf ears.  Eventually, the victim(s) reach their limit and take matters into their own hand.  The result is rarely ever good.  From being suspended, or expelled!!themselves for being a bully, to going to school armed and prepared to do serious harm to the perpetrator(s), to taking their own life, the result is very rarely good.  The tragedy in that, of course, is that it never has to get to that point.  If these officials would stop sweeping this issue under the carpet and start dealing with it for what it is, an epidemic that costing lives needlessly, we wouldn’t see these things continue to occur.

And, finally, there’s nothing shameful about suicide.  The veil of secrecy must be removed.  Continuing to keep these tragic events secret does much more harm than good.  The belief that making them more public is nonsensical, at best.  The belief that it would cause more, “copycat”, suicides is equally foolish.  In my opinion.  They’re kept under wraps now and, for the most part, they’ve been kept hush-hush for as long as I can remember.  Guess what?  With the cloak of secrecy, suicide has surged to become the #1 cause of injury death, surpassing homicide and car accidents.  As long as there’s this avoidance, this reluctance to put this problem in the spotlight where it belongs, we’re going to continue to see the numbers rise.  A problem can’t be addressed and properly solved if we don’t know what the problem is.  Keeping suicides secret is allowing them to continue to climb in numbers.  That’s not acceptable.

The community of St. Clair, Missouri has a long road of healing ahead of them.  The families and friends of the three suicide victim, a lifetime of grieving.  And, unanswered questions.  My heart goes out to all of them.  In memory of the Jordan Halmich, Destiny Pearson, and Donna Cooley, and all the teen suicide victims before them, and all of the ones who continue to endure bullying, both in school and online, may we never, ever lose the fire that burns within each of us to bring this devastating epidemic to an end.

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