Gay Buffalo Teen Commits Suicide on Eve of National Bullying Summit


Jamey's school counselors had advised him not to go on social media sites to talk about his sexuality, according to the Buffalo News.

Some parents urge others to monitor their children's social networking accounts. And school principals such as Anthony Orsi of Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Ridgewood, N.J., have urged middle-school parents to outright ban the use of social networking to prevent cyberbullying.

Social media sites such as YouTube and Facebook have made it easier for bullies to target their victims, but at the same time they are sometimes the only venue for talking about their pain.

"It's a very challenging time for parents and for youth," Presgraves of GLSEN said. "You have a scenario where for a lot of youth, it's the only support to go online and seek peers to give them support and to feel connected to a community. At the same time, they expose themselves to negative cyberbullying."

Jamey's mother told the Buffalo News, "He touched so many hearts, so many people. I didn't realize how many people he touched. He was the sweetest, kindest kid you'd ever know. He would give all his heart to you before he gave any to himself."

For months, the teen, who idolized pop singer Lady Gaga, had blogged about being bullied and thoughts of suicide.

Jamey posted on his Facebook page, "I always say how bullied I am, but no one listens. ... What do I have to do so people will listen to me?

"No one in my school cares about preventing suicide, while you're the ones calling me [gay slur] and tearing me down," he wrote.

But on Sept. 8 be posted lyrics to a song by Hollywood Undead that included the line, "I just wanna say good bye, disappear with no one knowing. ... I don't wanna live this lie, smiling to the world unknowing."

He posted a lyric this weekend from Lady Gaga's song "The Queen" on his Facebook page: "Don't forget me when I come crying to heaven's door."

His final message appeared on his Tumblr blog expressing a desire to see his great-grandmother, who had recently died, according to the local newspaper.

His mother said his tears and anger had recently dissipated. "Lately, he's been blowing them off, or at least we thought he was," she told the Buffalo News.

Lady Gaga weighed in on the situation via twitter: "Bullying must become be illegal. It is a hate crime," she tweeted.

"I am meeting with our President. I will not stop fighting. This must end. Our generation has the power to end it. Trend it #MakeALawForJamey," the singer posted to twitter tonight.

Teens in Crisis

When the family went camping last weekend, he seemed happy.

Suicide prevention experts say they are grateful that the media has played down the details about how he killed himself.

"The risk, especially in this case, is potentially causing other young people in their direct vicinity to take their own lives," said Laura McGinnis, a spokeswoman for the Trevor Project, which runs a national lifeline for people younger than 24, especially LGBT and questioning youth. "The risk for contagion is too high when we share the means and method and how he did it can actually increase the likelihood that others will do it, too."

Few statistics exist on young children such as Jamey, who kill themselves. But overall rates among those aged 10 to 24 declined from 9.24 suicides per 100,000 in 1991 to 7.01 suicides per 100,000 in 2006, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Suicide never has one cause, that is something really important to recognize," McGinnis said. "But [Jamey] had the support of parents and friends and he was planning on going to a homecoming dance and dress like Lady Gaga. How do you know as a parent what signs to looks for? And, sometimes, it's really difficult to know."

In her work with teens in crisis, McGinnis does not recommend covertly monitoring a child's social networking accounts, but instead establishing trust and open lines of communication to gain a welcome invitation.

"Parents should pay attention to what's going on a their kids' lives and what is important to them," she said. "They should maybe structure a day to ask detailed questions of the child: What is going, what are they excited about and what are they afraid about. 'Who is bugging you and who did you tell?' Establish trust, listening, accepting everything they say and not judging them. Let them share their story."

For help, go to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call 800-273-TALK.

Also call the Trevor Project Lifeline at 866-488-7386.

ABC producer Jack Cloherty contributed to this report.

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