(NBC News) A 10-year-old Kentucky boy who killed himself was a victim of bullying, officials and loved ones said Wednesday.
Seven Bridges, a 5th-grader who had to wear a colostomy bag due to a birth defect was found by his mother hanging in his closet Saturday, she said. CPR to revive him was not successful.
“My son took his life due to bullying, it has been probably ongoing for about seven months, horribly,” the mother, Tami Charles, told reporters Wednesday. “He would have little things as he went through school, but nothing as bad as this year.”
Jefferson County Public Schools spokeswoman Renee Murphy said on Wednesday that Seven’s death marked that eighth student suicide this school year.
There were three suicides in 2017-18 among students in Jefferson County Public Schools, which has more than 95,000 kindergarten through 12th graders in what is the nation’s 28th largest school system, according to Murphy.
“That is definitely an alarming number. We’re seeing several younger students getting into 10, 11, 12 years old that see that as an option for whatever issues they’re facing,” said Patti Clark, who manages suicide prevention efforts for the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. “That’s very alarming to us to think that’s where we’re going.”
However, Clark said it isn’t clear that Louisville or surrounding Jefferson County has a problem with youth suicide.
“We have not determined that this is a cluster because we’re not finding a connection other than they were in the same school district,” she told NBC News. “I would probably not say this is a district issue, it’s a much broader issue.”
The boy’s mom, Charles, said she made numerous complaints to her son’s school about bullying. Jefferson County Public Schools confirmed the family had raised concerns about bullying before — but said they believed they had been resolved.
“We can’t get into student discipline at this time, and again, we’re going to be reviewing everything to see how we handled things on our end,” Murphy told NBC affiliate WAVE.
The boy suffered from a birth defect where the opening to his anus was blocked, so he needed to use a colostomy bag to relief himself, according to Charles
“But he would still leak little fecal matter, and of course it would smell, so he was bullied for that,” Charles said.
Charles theorized that her son believed suicide was his only way to “have some control over his own peace.”
“I’m actually proud of him to finally say, `I won’t live in this torment anymore,’ ” she said. “We taught him there’s nothing you could ever do that could make God love you less, nothing that could tear you away from the love of God.”
Dr. Allison Yoder, who practices and teaches pediatric psychiatry at the University of Louisville’s School of Medicine, said suicides by preteens can often be traced to bullying or ongoing, physical health issues of the victim.
“It’s rare but it’s becoming more common,” Yoder said. “It’s kind of scary how the numbers are going up every year.”