Wednesday, May 9, 2012

His Friends Called Him Corey: Jay'Corey Jones, 17, Death by Suicide

Sunday night, 17-year-old, Jay'Corey Jones, "Corey" to his friends, ended his life in Rochester, MN.  According to his father, he had been bullied for a very long time because of his sexual orientation.  That bullying lead to depression.  And, like many before him, that combination proved to be deadly.
According to the news report, in which Corey's father, JayBocka Strader was very candid and forthcoming about the life of his son, everything that could be done was being done.  His single-parent father was very supportive of his son.  Corey had friends who loved him.  He was even briefly involved with his school's Gay/Straight Alliance.  He was out and proud.  He wanted to make a stand for gay rights.  Unfortunately, that put him in the cross hairs for bullies.  And, once again, rather than seeing all of the positives going on in his life, the negative of being bullied proved too much for him to handle.

Still reeling from the report of a 16-year-old girl who ended her life just a few hours ago right here in Maryland (much too early for any details), I'm left to wonder "what are we not doing enough of!?"  We're very obviously missing a beat somewhere, somehow.  Yes, we know about the problem with bullying and how it needs to be dealt with on a much different level than it is today.  Yes, we have an idea of the mental health issues involved with many of the teen suicides.  Whether they're being properly addressed, however, is a question mark.

Somehow, these teens who give up on their young lives are seeing a world that's so dark, so bleak for them, they see no point in going on.  And, that's an issue that we, as adults, must find a way to figure out so that we can deal with it.

In a case of an LGBT teen, as Corey was, it's really not too hard to see where their vision of a too-bleak world comes from.  The bullying they endure from their peers at school and in cyberspace is only exacerbated by the bullying they see from adults in the news and on the Internet.  Bullying directed specifically at the LGBT community.  They're hearing the message from politicians and so-called religious leaders that their lives are invalid.  That their feelings are moot.  They're seeing and hearing, as hate-filled, intolerant politician after hate-filled, intolerant politician attempt to legislate their own bigotry, that the bullies they deal with in school are only a mirror-image of what they perceive as the real world.  As states like North Carolina legislates hate and discrimination, the message is driven home that they are second-class citizens, that their lives will always be inconsequential, that there are people in power who don't care a bit if they end their life.  They hear that.  They see that.  And, guess what?  So do the ones who do the bullying.  They feel vindicated in their actions because they, too, see and hear that same message.

Make no mistake:  no one should ever allow someone else define who they are.  It doesn't matter if "they" hate you.  That's their burden to carry.  What's important is loving yourself, first and foremost.  However, that is also a very difficult message to get across to an already fragile teen.  Jamie Hubley had an amazing, very loving and supportive family.  He had incredible friends who still adore him.  Yet, he couldn't see past the negatives of life long enough to wrap that warm blanket of support around himself.  Smart money says that that is the issue in many of these tragic events.  That was the issue with Corey Jones.

So, sadly, we say goodbye to yet another young person.  A young person who will never get to know just how good life could've been.  Corey, I wish things could've been different for you.  And, to his friends and family, I wish you love and support during this incredibly trying time.

Setting the Record Straight

After writing a blog post about one of the recent suicide victims, I received an email:
Why did you post a facebook page suggesting [the suicide victim] was gay?  Take is down...his parents don't need that sh*t.
Alarmed, I rushed to reread what I had written.  There was absolutely nothing in that article to suggest that he that he was gay, so I responded accordingly.
There is absolutely nothing in my article to suggest that he was gay. I made it a point to make sure that there was nothing that would even remotely suggest that he was. People make assumptions, and I can't control that. It's unfortunate, and I often warn against that. Yet, they continue to do it. I tried my very best to be as honest and objective is the article as I possibly could, hence the opening paragraph clearly setting aside the earlier rumor of there being bullying
It raises an important issue:  far too often, people see the words "teen" and "suicide", and there's an automatic rush-to-judgment that said teen was a.) gay, and b.) bullied.  Whereas that is an issue, and a very serious one at that, it's obviously not always the case.  Because of that rising issue, the issue of rushing to judgment, I even started that particular article off with the disclaimer that the person had not been bullied.  And, I took special care to make sure that nowhere in the article would I even allude to the notion that he was an LGBT teen.  Still, with all the precautions, some of the comments responded as if he were both LGBT and bullied.  He was a teenager who ended his life far, far too soon, and that's really all we need to know.  At least in this particular case.

I woke up this morning to an email response from the person who had initially emailed me about this.
I don't Facebook, my business is nobody else's business.  Your facebook page is misleading even if unintentional, just look at the comments.  I have a son, 15, just like [the suicide victim], a jock, in fact, playing [the suicide victim's] team tonite (probably will be cancelled).  This Facebook page is hurtful to his parents and should be taken are far, far removed from this event.
I also believe all this glamorizing of the death...tributes, tee shirts, facebook pages, tweets ("look **** you're famous" said one girl) will encourage the next depressed kid to go out in a blaze of glory.
Now,  that's a horse of a different color.  Now, I'm under attack for the integrity of the work I'm attempting to do.  Look, I get the part about glamorization of teen suicides.  I, too, am concerned that perhaps the Internet is helping to propel the acceleration of these events.  And, make no mistake:  we are seeing an acceleration.  To wit, from perusing another facebook page honoring those young people who are gone too soon, I was able to see a disturbing reality:  for every suicide that I write about, there's at least one that I didn't know about.  That's not a brush fire.  That's a firestorm.  That said, and armed with that knowledge, I do my best to stay away from glamorizing a very solemn event.  What's needed is awareness.  And, more of it.  For far too long, these devastating events have gone unreported, and under-reported.  Because of that, this has been going on in relative silence.  And, because of that, no one except for the families and friends of the victims had knowledge of this problem.  This is a cancer to the body of our society.  Early detection saves lives.  Left undetected and untreated, it kills.

The facebook blog page was created in December to support the blog, itself.  In truth, I was having issues with facebook and the posting of the blog's link.  It has grown into a sizable, interactive community of awareness and support.  Its message is clear:  love and acceptance.  People there help one another, talk to each other, support those who need support.  Lives are being saved through the blog and the blog page:
I wanted to contact you to say, simply, thank you.

I was considering suicide tonight, but decided against it, and your blog Enough is Enough was a major reason why I didn't. I am a 19 year old closeted bisexual male. Thank you for everything you are doing for not only the LGBT community, but for humanity as a whole. Your blog brought me to tears.

Again, thank you. I owe you big time.
It's because of this email, and others like it, that I will continue pressing forward.  As for the recent emails complaining about what I do, I offer this:  a look at some of the comments will show you that some of his friends have read the article and left their heartfelt comments.  Follow their lead.