In 2007, suicide was one of the top ten causes of death in America. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 34,598 people died from suicide this year alone.
According to the National Crime Prevention Council, about 160,000 kids will not attend school today for fear of being bullied. In the past few weeks, seven teens have committed suicide: 13-year old Seth Walsh, 13-year old Asher Brown, 15-year old Billy Lucas, 15-year old Justin Aaberg, 19-year old Raymond Chase, 19-year old Zach Harrington, and 19-year old Tyler Clementi. Five of the victims of suicide were openly gay. 14 students have committed suicide for being allegedly bullied at school this year.
Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers University, jumped off the George Washington Bridge after being taped having sex with his partner, in his dorm room, by his roommate.
Two students responsible for the live streaming of Clementi and his partner having sex, Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei, have been charged with two counts each of invasion of privacy after placing the camera in Clementi’s room.
Harrington, an openly gay student in Oklahoma, committed suicide after attending his local City Council meeting. At the meeting, it was debated whether or not the city would celebrate LGBT history month. The “toxic” comments from city officials and citizens made Harrington feel as if he was not accepted, and ultimately not allowed, in the community.
Chase, an openly gay sophomore attending Johnson and Wales College as a Culinary Arts Major, committed suicide by hanging himself in his dorm room.
Campus Pride, a national online community resource center for campuses across the country, released a public statement after Chase’s death, “…the recent pattern of LGBT youth suicides is cause for grave concern. Campus Pride demands national action be taken to address youth bullying, harassment and the need for safety and inclusion for LGBT youth at colleges and universities across the country.”
The sudden increase in suicide is clearly a national call to action, “We must not let these tragic deaths go unnoticed. Together we must act decisively to curb anti-LGBT bias incidents, harassment and acts of violence.”
After extensive media coverage of these deaths; politicians, community members, and celebrities have been promoting hope. A Fort Worth, Texas City Councilman Joel Burns gave a personal speech in response to these antigay-bullying deaths. Burns who is openly gay promises that, “It gets better.” This speech was put onto YouTube and received more than 600,000 views in one day.
Even President Obama spoke to a room full of students about the dangers of peer pressure and bullying on Oct. 13. After hearing the stories of recent suicides, Obama spoke to raise awareness and to share his thoughts on harassment.
“Our heart breaks when we read about what happened at Rutgers, when we read about some of these other young people who are doing nothing to deserve the kind of harassment and bullying that just completely gets out of hand,” said Obama.
He also mentioned there are laws addressing harassment but to remember, “the law doesn’t always change what’s in people’s hearts.”
He explained to students how peer pressure can work both ways: people can give in and bully, or use their powers to end bullying.
On Oct. 10, Bellevue College celebrated “National Coming Out Day,” a day aimed at celebrating coming out as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender person.
Everyone is encouraged to wear purple on Oct. 20 to show the world people are concerned in memory of the seven young men who died.