A Birmingham family has been mourning their nine-year-old girl who took her own life after being a victim of bullying.
Eugenia Williams, the mother of the deceased found her daughter, Maddison “Maddie” Whittsett in her closet after intentionally hanging herself, AL.com reports.
Williams had planned to go on a mother-daughter bonding trip to Chick-fil-A (Whittsett’s favourite restaurant) when she found her body. She quickly started performing CPR, and Whittsett was rushed to the hospital where she was placed on life support but she died on Monday.
Whittsett, according to the parents, had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and was occasionally bullied at school, with friends calling her “stupid” and “dumb.”
She received special help at school and the parents even mentioned that they met with the principal who indicated that her troubles had been solved. But the victim’s family said their daughter recently had a particularly bad day at school, which they feel might have caused her to take her own life.
“We talked to one of her friends and Maddie had apparently had a bad day. The friend said Maddie was bullied and she looked sad while she was being bullied,” Whittsett’s stepfather, Jimmie Williams said.
“It must have really worn her out that day.”
“She just wanted to be your friend. She wanted to be everybody’s friend and wanted everyone to be happy,’’ he said. “We saw that in everything she did.”
The parents are optimistic that their story can alert people about the hazardous effects of bullying and for other parents to check out for the warning signs in their children.
“Maybe you can see if anything is going on. Look for changes in attitude. Changes in behaviour. Support them and be there for them,” Jimmie said.
Meanwhile, Whittsett’s school released a statement saying: “Our school community is deeply saddened by the recent passing of a student.”
“The death of any young person is a tragic loss that impacts the whole school community, and we send our deepest condolences to the family.”
This is one of the many incidents of black children taking their own lives due to factors such as bullying. In January, 9-year-old A’layah Weatherspoon was found hanging from her brand new bunk-bed with a leather belt around her neck. She died two days later.
A’layah was a third grader at Cooley Elementary School in Waterford, where her parents said she experienced intense bullying which they believed contributed to her suicide.
An 8-year-old Imani McCray also hanged herself in her New Jersey home and weeks before that, an 11-year-old Rylan Thai Hagan hanged himself from the bunk bed in his family’s Washington, D.C., home.
The names of black girls and boys who have taken their own lives have made headlines in recent years. Suicide rates for children ages 5 to 12 are roughly twice as high for black children as for white children, according to new data.
Reported suicide rates tend to be higher for white Americans, particularly among white males, than they are for black Americans. But the numbers are different when it comes to black children. The suicide rate for black youths is almost double what it was in the early 1990s, according to the American Medical Association.
Suicide rates for black boys increased 95 per cent over a two-decade span, according to the study. In 2016 alone, at least 48 black children between the ages of 6 and 14 took their own lives.
Factors such as bullying or family instability can contribute to mental health challenges in children, as well as other biological issues such as a family history of mental health disorders. But for black children, studies say that race-based harassment also had a negative impact on the mental wellbeing of Black children and should not be overlooked.
The American Psychological Association (APA) advises parents to look for warning signs such as changes in behaviour or personality, communication of an eagerness for death, changes in sleep patterns and eating habits, fear of losing control, among others.