The bullying seemed inescapable.
His family and friends say it followed Iain Steele from junior high to high school -- from hallways, where one tormentor shoved him into lockers, to cyberspace, where another posted a video on Facebook making fun of his taste for heavy metal music.
"At one point, [a bully] had told [Iain] he wished he would kill himself," said Matt Sikora, Iain's close friend.
Iain's parents know their son had other problems, but they believe the harassment contributed to a deepening depression that hospitalized the 15-year-old twice this year. On June 3, while his classmates were taking final exams, he went to the basement of his Western Springs home and hanged himself with a belt.
His death stunned the quiet suburb west of Chicago and unleashed an outpouring of support for his parents, William and Liz, who say greater attention should be paid to bullying and its connection to mental health.
"No kid should be afraid for himself to go to school," his father said. "It should be a safe environment where they can intellectually thrive. And he was, literally, just frightened to go to school, fearing what he would have to deal with on that day. And it was day after day."
A school spokeswoman said she did not believe Iain was bullied. Police are investigating the allegations.
Nearly 30 percent of American children are bullied or are bullies themselves, according to the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center. Bullying can be physical, verbal or psychological and is repetitive, intentional and creates a perceived imbalance of power, said Dr. Joseph Wright, senior vice president at Children's National Medical Center in Washington.
This month, the American Academy of Pediatrics will for the first time include a section on bullying in its official policy statement on the pediatrician's role in preventing youth violence.
Wright, a lead author of the statement, said the decision to address the issue was due to a growing body of research over the last decade linking bullying to youth violence, depression and suicidal thoughts.
Last year, the Yale School of Medicine analyzed the link between childhood bullying and suicide in 37 studies from 13 countries, finding that both bullies and their victims were at high risk of contemplating suicide.
In March, the parents of a 17-year-old Ohio boy who committed suicide sued his school alleging their son was bullied. Instead of seeking compensation, they are asking the school to put in place an anti-bullying program and to recognize their son's death as a "bullicide."
'An easy target'
Iain Steele enjoyed riding his skateboard, his father said, but after hip surgery in 8th grade limited his mobility, he picked up the guitar and impressed an instructor with his musical talent.
He was revered by younger kids in the neighborhood, often fixing their skateboards, settling their disputes and including them in games. "He was a very gentle, kind kid, compassionate to a fault," his father said.
But Iain's embrace of heavy metal set him apart from classmates. He let his hair grow to shoulder-length and wore mostly black clothing, including jeans with chains and T-shirts of heavy metal bands with dark, sometimes morbid lyrics.
For this, his classmates at McClure Junior High School in Western Springs often called him "emo" -- a slang term for angst-ridden followers of a style of punk music, said Sikora, 15. The bullying could also be physical, Iain's friends and parents said. In 8th grade at McClure, one bully pushed Iain into a locker while he was on crutches and accused him of faking an injury to get out of gym class. But Iain rarely shied away from his tormentors, his father said, and in this case, Iain punched the bully in the jaw.
"He was mainly bullied," Sikora said, "only because he was different, or hurt or stupid things like that. He never bothered anybody. ... It was all just because he was different and an easy target."...
Iain's parents and friends say they do not know of any incidents that might have triggered what happened June 3, when his father found him in the basement. His death was ruled a suicide by hanging, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office. He did not leave a note.
Looking back, Iain's parents wonder what factors besides bullying may have contributed to their son's depression.
Iain's favorite heavy metal bands, such as Lamb of God, Children of Bodom and Bullet for My Valentine, often have lyrics with dark messages. One Bullet for My Valentine song is about being bullied, and another song contains the refrain: "The only way out is to die."
Also, Iain was deeply hurt this spring after a brief relationship with a girl he met in his outpatient program. The two exchanged text messages, but her parents and therapists advised against them dating and about two months ago barred her from having communication with him.
Still, Iain's parents remain convinced bullying played a significant role in their son's depression. As Iain's story spread through the community, many people approached Liz Steele to describe their own experiences with bullying, depression or suicide, she said.
"A lot of people don't want to talk about mental health or bullying because it's a difficult thing to talk about, but we need to talk about it," she said. "It shouldn't be a stigma."
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Glasgow never gets bored of moving its alternative teens around:
Some of the comments on the article make interesting reading:
YOUTHS loitering in large groups at Glasgow's Central station have been warned they will be forcibly removed by police.
Network Rail and British Transport Police are launching a crackdown at Scotland's busiest railway station after a spate of incidents of serious anti-social behaviour at weekends - including attacks on staff.
Police warned that any groups caught loitering on the station concourse will be broken up and moved on using legal dispersal powers.
The station has become a meeting point for groups of up to 250 young people, mostly black-clad goth teenagers, throughout Saturdays and Sundays.
Police say the problem has led to several incidents of staff being verbal and physically abused and damage to station property.
Rail bosses say the crowds are also intimidating passengers and causing congestion in the concourse at exits and entrances.
Under railway bylaws, Network Rail and police have the power to disperse any group loitering on station property without an intention to travel or use the shops.
David Simpson, Network Rail's route director for Scotland, said: "The safety and well-being of station users is our paramount consideration.
"We will remove any group whose behaviour or presence is deemed inappropriate to the station environment or a risk to the travelling public.
"While we would prefer not to have to use our legal powers, we have been left with little option but to do so, due to the increasing numbers of people and their bad behaviour.
"We are not targeting any one age group, or social group, and will apply our legal rights to anyone loitering without a proper purpose or acting in an intimidating or inappropriate manner."
Yes, the concourse gets packed with kids at the weekend, with lots of Goths/emo types, but I always found them to be the complete opposite of neds.
Sure it gets crowded and its clear its a meeting point for them, but they aren't the least bit intimidating and I've never seen any anti-social behaviour.
I doubt that it's this group that are responsible for the anti-social behaviour and crime and its a shame that they get tarred with this brush through a blanket ban.
Even though I often had to swerve round them and their gawkiness, skin conditions, rather unflattering cut of their trousers and exaggerated show-off cameraderie makes me glad my teenage years are behind me, I shall miss them.
It's mainly adults, often middle aged, that I see weaving around, arguing with each other and completely drunk.