Warning: Contains Content Some Readers May Find Distressing
A grieving mother has shared a photograph of her son’s body in a coffin, after cruel bullies drove him to suicide.
12-year-old Andy Leach from Southaven, Mississippi, had been reportedly bullied throughout most of the school year. The abuse began with name calling before escalating to threats of violence.
Southaven Middle School student Andy died on March 6 after leaving a note for his family. His body was found by his older brother.
The bullies in question are reportedly now being questioned by police officers.
Andy’s mother Cheryl Hudson believes more could have been done to help her son and is now dedicated to preventing other families from suffering the same loss.
Cheryl is now sharing a photograph of her beloved son as he lies in a coffin, hoping to drive home the true devastation brought about by bullying.
Although this tragic image is extremely upsetting to see, Cheryl hopes it will encourage people to take incidents of bullying more seriously before it is too late.
A study by bullying prevention charity Beatbullying discovered how up to 44 per cent of suicides among 10 to 14-year-olds in the UK are related to bullying.
A Yale University study found how those who are bullied are two to nine times likelier to consider suicide than those who have not.
Despite these shocking statistics, bullying is often, very wrongly, regarded to be a ‘normal’ part of growing up, or even ‘character building.’
Speaking as somebody who was badly bullied at school, I can relate to the severe impact this can have on your sense of self worth long into adulthood.
— StopBullying.Gov (@StopBullyingGov) March 9, 2018
Founder and CEO of anti-bullying organisation BulliesOut, Linda James MBE, told UNILAD:
Once again, we hear of another young life tragically taken as a result of bullying. Things must change. People need to understand that words matter. Cruel words, nasty comments and messages – they’re all weapons and weapons can kill.
No one wants to admit the possibility that their child is a bully and most parents will think ‘no way, not my child’. But every child is capable of bullying and if you find out your child has been bullying others, you should confront it.
Sit down with your child Help your child understand that they are accountable for their actions. Bullying is unacceptable behaviour and it is important your child understands this.
Schools play an important role in developing the skills young people need to develop, cope and thrive in today’s world.
They are a constant in young peoples’ lives and should be a safe, consistent place for them to flourish.
But, with so many young people reporting they have been bullied, there is a crisis in many schools which cannot continue.
Young people need to feel safe at school and need to have confidence that when reported, all incidents of bullying will be dealt with appropriately and they will be supported’.
We know #bullying & #cyberbullying is painful. It's important to remember that you can get through this! #STOMPOutBullying #HelpChat is here to help with these issues: https://t.co/4k4MsLIRUu pic.twitter.com/4tbO9zmq8A
— STOMP Out Bullying™ (@STOMPOutBullyng) March 10, 2018
Andy’s father Matthew told Local Memphis how Andy had begun to have questions over his identity:
He began to question his faith, he began to question sexual orientation, he just had a lot of questions and confusion about things.
All too often, bullies will sense a person’s insecurities and will target them for it.
Cheryl believes the abuse began once the bullies realised he was struggling to understand these personal aspects of himself.
Going forward, Andy’s parents now intend to speak with lawmakers, and are embarking on a ‘crusade’ to enforce harsher punishment for bullies.
Cheryl told Metro US:
Andy was a very fun-loving, outgoing very smart kid. He was funny, he was sarcastic, he was compassionate.
He was my pride and joy, he was a momma’s boy, and he was proud to admit that.
He was a boy scout, and he was just your typical kid that liked to have fun.
I’m heartbroken, I’m heartbroken. My ex-husband, my friends and I are not going to stop with the anti-bullying.
We are going to make sure that Andy’s voice is heard, and his death is not in vain.
Cheryl has described how there is an 'abundance of bullying' at the school where Andy attended, with many children being reportedly too frightened to use the bathroom facilities.
DeSoto County Schools have given the following statement:
All bullying reports are treated with the utmost importance.
Students and parents are encouraged to contact school officials anytime there are bullying concerns, and they can use a link on the DeSoto County Schools website if they would prefer to report bullying incidents anonymously.
All claims are investigated thoroughly, and school counselors are trained to help students and intervene when they are aware of a situation. Our hearts go out to this young student's friends and family.
Founder of National Bullying Helpline, Christine Pratt, told UNILAD:
The National Bullying Helpline is so very saddened to hear about Andy’s case and the lengths his mother, Cheryl, has gone to in order to get her message out to the public. Who can blame her.
We completely understand why she feels a need to communicate how a young life can end so drastically and so suddenly, so needlessly.
On a daily basis we hear horror stories at The National Bullying Helpline. Parents call us in sheer anger, often after they have spoken to the School. They struggle with children who come home battered and bruised.
It is heart-breaking when a child refuses to go to school through sheer fear. These parents are besides themselves with worry.
The Police will not get involved unless a life is at risk and the School’s Anti-Bullying Policy is seldom backed with a set of procedures or a guide to follow.
A teacher is trained to teach, not mediate between conflicting children and parents and so a parent is left believing no one cares and no one is listening.
The schools themselves, we are told, are more concerned about protecting their Ofsted status and preserving their reputation, than properly investigating a complaint made by ‘yet another irate parent’.
if you know someone who is being bullied, stand the hell up and defend them. you never know what someone is going through so don’t hop on the band wagon of bullying someone or singling them out. be a decent human and lend a helping hand. thank you.
— Mark Thomas (@duhitzmark) March 14, 2018
CEO of Kidscape, Lauren Seager-Smith told UNILAD:
We urge children and teens impacted by bullying to get help. Talk to a friend, family member or teacher and if you are in the UK you can contact Childline 0800 1111.
You can donate to Andy's funeral fund here.
Our thoughts are with Andy's family at this difficult time, as well as with all children who are currently suffering at the hands of bullies.
If you’ve been affected by bullying, and want to speak to someone in confidence, contact Bullying UK (Part of Family Lives) on 0808 800 2222. The helpline service is open 9am–9pm, Monday to Friday and 10am–3pm Saturday and Sunday.