Kids killing themselves: How Teenagers are putting a permanent solution to a temporary problem
One sunny afternoon in May, my daughter looks up from her bed where she's sprawled with her best friend, their laptops open in front of them. I know they've been checking out who's doing what, with whom, on Facebook. I've been hearing the stifled giggles in the background as I clean and tidy the Princess's room. For the last two minutes, though, they've gone ominously quiet. "My generation commits suicide. That's what we do," my 15-year-old announces. They've found a report of yet another teen they knew, or a friend knew, or a friend of a friend knew, who's succumbed to suicide.
Why is that? Since 2008 there has been a rash of suicides in the Bay Area, many of them linked to online cruelty. 15-year-old Audrie Pott of Saratoga High committed suicide eight days after police say she was assaulted by 3 boys, who were arrested in April for alleged distribution of electronic images in a case that has sparked national outrage; a 17-year-old Fremont girl, reportedly of Indian heritage, committed suicide last month, but further details are unknown; Jill Naber, a Los Gatos High School freshman committed suicide in an apparent cyberbullying incident over a personal photo Jill had sent a boy that reportedly contributed to her suicide; and the attempted suicide of Amanda Brownell, who suffered severe brain damage when she hanged herself in a restroom at San Jose's Del Mar High School after learning she had been sexually assaulted when she passed out a party, and a photo of the attack was posted online.
Fifteen percent of teens using social media and surveyed in 2011 reported they had been targets of online cruelty in the past 12 months; and 88 percent had seen it, according to a report by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project. Although a new state law requires schools to investigate victims' complaints, it doesn't require informing parents or the authorities, as they must for certain kinds of abuse.
"Suicide is such a hush-hush topic," says Polly Naber, who lost her 15-year-old daughter, Jillian Naber to suicide. (ref: Los Gatos Patch, July 8, 2009) "Maybe if people talked about it, more, you might be able to save lives."
A bereaved Sacramento-area mother is lobbying to make California require schools to alert parents. Lisa Ford-Berry testified in May, before the State Senate Education Committee on a bill she co-authored to create the California Bullying Hotline. She founded the B.R.A.V.E. Society anti-cyberbullying campaign after her son killed himself on his 17th birthday at his Sacramento-area high school in 2008.
His sexual orientation was the subject of online rumors spread by a student, but each time he told the school, he was told to ignore it. The school never told her, Ford-Berry said. "I had no idea until Michael died," she said. (Excerpted from an article on cyberbullying, Tri-Valley Times, dted May 3, 2013.)