JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There are local children who are considering suicide. And, there are others who are actually taking a dangerous next step and carrying out a plan to take their own lives.
Suicide is a sensitive topic, but one that children are discussing openly. In some cases they’re even suggesting it to each other as a way to solve life’s challenges.
Trinity Taylor was 12 years old when she swallowed a bottle of pills in the homes of killing herself. She is now 13, and is stepping forward to tell her story of how bullying made her want to die.
“I opened my phone and there were 1 million texts there; like you should kill yourself you're a whore,” said Trinity.
Some of the text messages -- suggesting she end her life -- came from her so-called friends. Other text messages she received came from people she didn't even know.
“I have a gun under my mattress and its bullets missed your head,” Trinity read to us -- a text from a complete stranger. “I just said at that point, maybe they're right maybe there's no point.”
Pain was something Trinity expressed in her personal drawings, but said she never considered suicide until people started suggesting it.
When Trinity took the pills, she hallucinated. She spent a week in the hospital recovering from nearly dying.
At the time she took those pills in an attempt to end her life, she was a cheerleader, an artist, and a writer. She has loving parents and 5 brothers and sisters. She still executed her plan to die.
“I was such a happy person most of my life,” said Trinity.
It was the bullying that changed her. It first started while cheerleading, not realizing it was taking her to a very dark place.
“It was irritating because it was like if everybody else was happy. I just had to fake it at the same level as them because honestly, I wasn't that happy.”
While Trinity left a smile on her face, she kept her pain and helplessness locked inside.
“I was like, there's no way that a lot of kids just sit here and cry and cry,” she said.
It was when her personal journal was stolen from her locker and read out loud in gym class, Trinity said she was done.
“That was my final straw. I didn't go back to school after that. I was like over my dead body, I cannot," she said. "I destroyed my room. I took all the pictures off my wall of me and family.”
It was pain Trinity believed no one could understand. In her mind, death was the only way out.
She thought to herself, “I don't know what needed to change, but I can't keep living. I can't keep going to the school and looking at people that I know don't like me."
Her mother, Rashidah, had no clue her middle daughter had fallen so deep.
“She would tell me things that happened at school just 'somebody said this' and you think it's middle school. Nit-picking and I would tell her say this or do this and just kind of blow it off because I just didn't think it was that serious,” Rashidah said.
“It just got to the point where I was like, ok, it's time to pop the bubble. I'm ok now,” she added.
Trinity got a second chance and now, she chooses life every single time. Through counseling, open conversations, coping skills and a lot of love from her family, she's left the bubble and she wants to take other teens by the hand and help them find the same peace and strength she did.
“Normally, I feel like I couldn't contribute anything to the world, but now I feel like I can contribute something. I can actually help other people, that's what I plan to do in my life,” Trinity said.
Missing the signs
Trinity's mom said she thought the sadness her daughter was suffering was normal for a 12-year-old. And she admits, there were signs she missed.
Duval County Public Schools Behavioral Health Director Katrina Taylor said subtle signs are often overlooked by parents.
“What those students are trying to see is that, 'Is someone paying attention to me? Am I visible? Or am I invisible? Will they notice if I'm gone or not?' So the students are making little signs and symptoms along the way that may help parents to see that something is going on with my child,” explained Taylor.
Suicidal signs to watch for:
- *Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
- *Looking for a way to kill oneself
- *Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
- *Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain
- *Talking about being a burden to others
- *Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- *Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless
- *Sleeping too little or too much
- *Withdrawing or feeling isolated
- *Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- *Displaying extreme mood swings
Taylor said students these days are also talking with their peers openly about suicide and parents need to have those same conversations.
“Ask your child, 'Have you thought about killing yourself?' And say it just like that. Not, 'Have you um thought about um not being here anymore?' Be blunt. You know, be blunt and say, 'Have you thought about killing yourself because killing yourself is kill. There's no way around that.' Hurt is subjective, but when you say 'kill,' it means that,” said Taylor.
Training educators to spot signs
Duval County Public Schools is training educators to not only spot the signs, but also how to respond to kids when there’s a concern.
Heather Watson is a DCPS school psychologist, with a focus on bullying prevention. She’s educating 40 Duval County teachers who voluntarily signed up for a two-day Youth Mental First Aid Training. She is helping teachers recognize the signs.
“Really identifying signs and symptoms, kind of erasing the stigma that goes along with mental health so they feel more comfortable approaching students, and then guiding them towards some appropriate help if needed,” said Watson.
Counselors say if everyone plays a role, fewer children take their own lives.
“Research shows that those students who have contemplated suicide, once they're connected with the right resources and that they have a caring adult that will guide them in the right direction and if they are receiving services, it can turn around,” explained DCPS Behavioral Health Director Katrina Taylor.
The week before school starts in the fall, all Duval County teachers will go through a shorter training session to learn how to identify a crisis, child abuse, neglect, and bullying. The hope is to arm as many people as possible to save lives.
There is help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for anyone who needs it. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number is 800-273-8255 (TALK) or United Way can be reached by dialing 211 and pressing 2. By calling, you will be connected to a live person who can offer assistance.
Students admit to thinking of suicide
According to a survey of Duval County Public School students, a large number, ranging from middle school to high school, said they have seriously considered killing themselves -- with some actually attempting suicide at some point.
Middle School students
- 27% have seriously considered attempting suicide
- 18% have made a plan to commit suicide
- 11% have attempted suicide
High School students
- 20% have seriously considered attempting suicide
- 19% have made a plan to commit suicide
- 19% have attempted suicide