"Do You Want To Know What It's Like To Be Dead While Still Alive? Lose A Child."
Jamel Myles was just nine years old when he took his own life last week.
Leia Pierce said she blamed herself for her son's death, in an emotional interview with the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme.
"I feel responsible because as a mother, I should have felt his pain, I should have knew he was hurt, and I didn't," she said.
"I feel responisble because I didn't see the pain in my baby's eyes."
She also told other parents to "teach your kids love" and to teach them everyone is different, so other children aren't bullied like Jamel.
"My son came home and told her (Jamel's older sister) that kids at school were telling him to kill himself," she said
"I'm pretty sure he told someone who got that whole persona of 'Oh that's not okay', and decided to pick on him."
Since losing Jamel, Pierce has taken to Facebook to remember her son.
“I lost a reason to breathe… my heart, my sunshine, my son… he was being bullied and i didn't know. Not till it was to late,” Leia Pierce wrote on Facebook on Friday.
Jamel was reportedly bullied after coming out to his classmates that he was gay.
“… i wish i knew everything so i could’ve stopped this… i shouldn’t be having to bury my son he is only 9,” Pierce wrote. “…stop bullying… i lost my baby cause of it and its not fair not fair not fair… i just want my son back.”
“he was 9…. he didn't deserve to feel like this was his option,” Pierce wrote.
Pierce’s Facebook feed is full of photos and videos of Jamel during happier times.
“My baby. Ill never get to watch him grow into the handsome man he was gonna be.. he is my sunshine my only sunshine he makes me happy when skies are grey you’ll never know dear how much i love you cause the world took my sunshine away… its ok son they told me in my dreams ill walk with u again soon.. i cant wait to see you and hug u,” Pierce wrote with the following video.
“He is a beautiful soul, he so kind and wanted everyone to be happy even if he was hurt,” Pierce wrote on Monday.
“i dont know what to do without my son i love him.. i cant even sleep he always sleeps next to me,” Pierce wrote on Facebook.
“Thank you to everyone who has said inspiring things to me… thank you for helping me spread [the] word to stop bullying,” wrote Pierce. Lets all love each other.. we are all different and thats what makes us equal… so stop bullying.”
Now a Colorado lawmaker and mental health advocates are joining Pierce in urging parents to talk to their children — early.
“The recent suicide of a 9-year-old boy in Denver reinforces the need to talk to kids early about understanding their differences and how every child is unique,” State Representative Leslie Herod, (D) stated. “The boy was bullied after coming out to classmates that he was gay.”
“As a member of the LGBT community that came out later on in life, I can only imagine the pain and fear that this young boy felt,” Rep. Herod stated. “We can and we must act now to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. We must celebrate everyone’s uniqueness. Bullying is unacceptable. We must stand up for each other.”
Mental Health Colorado issued a statement that read, in part: “It’s important to start teaching kids in elementary school about social and emotional learning. This helps kids cope and teaches resiliency.”
Mental Health Colorado is working towards getting more resources inside of schools and is also discussing the idea of universal mental health screenings.
“We think every kid auto be screened for mental health every year. We screen kids for hearing loss and vision loss every year because we recognize that there is a connection between whether or not a child can hear or see and how a child does in a classroom. We think there’s just as powerful of a connection between a kid’s mental health and a child’s performance but we don’t screen for that,” said Andrew Romanoff, President and CEO of Mental Health Colorado.
Getting the resources in schools, additional mental health counselors and universal screenings, isn’t easy. It requires funding and time.
“We short change mental health care because it’s not a required part of the budget,” he said.
Several districts, have taken the issue to the voters; for instance, voters in Colorado Springs approved funding for school-based mental health initiatives. Four more districts will be doing the same this year, Larimar, Summit, San Miguel and Denver.
“The red light is blinking,” Romanoff continued, “at the same time we ought to be aware that every single kids like 100 percent would benefit from social and emotional learning…”
Romanoff’s team has built a website with a guide for schools, “It lays out 10 evidence based strategies that schools can pursue along these lines to help build more healthy mentally resilient kids.”
He hopes, eventually, the statistics for Colorado make a major shift.
“There’s no reason by the way that Colorado couldn’t be number one in mental health instead of number 43 we live in a very educated affluent state we could lead the nation, we’re not, we’re lagging it that’s unacceptable.”
Suicide is the leading cause of death in Colorado among children and adolescents 10 to 24 according to Colorado Health Institute.
If you need help in a crisis, call the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondBlue on 1300 22 4636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.
Featured Image: Leia Pierce/ Facebook