I have been writing about the topic of bullying. In my last post, I wrote about Bullycide. This phenomenon describes incidents in which someone who is bullied commits suicide. Unfortunately, just as I was writing about bullycide, Brandon Bitner, another teenager committed suicide. His family, friends and most of the information surrounding his life point to the reason for his suicide as bullying. It happened right on our own state of Pennsylvania.
What is known is that Brandon was bullied in middle school. He complained of being teased and called names. This year, as he would be attending Midd-West High School in Middleburg, PA, he had decided to keep the impact of bullying to himself so he would avoid further ridicule by his peers.
Brandon’s mother described him as a soft-spoken youth who wanted to be a classical violinist and had many female friends. According to The Patriot-News, Harrisburg, his note said he was tired of being called names like faggot and sissy.
The culmination for Brandon occurred while in the school cafeteria when he was hugged by another student who was wearing the school’s mascot costume. Brandon thought incident meant he was being ridiculed and he wrote that this was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
Four days later, Brandon walked several miles to Liverpool, PA where he then ran into the path of tractor-trailer, committing suicide. His note cited that he wanted to draw attention to the issue of bullying.
A ripple of grief
Family, friends and an entire rural community in Pennsylvania is suffering disillusionment and shock at this tragedy that left a wake of grief and loss. While questions have arisen as to how this could have prevented, Brandon’s mother sadly says that he “was the most wonderful child anyone could ask for.”
This is a typical situation where what could be labeled as adolescent cruelty turned into tragedy. This young man felt like he could not escape the labeling, and in his desperation ended what he felt was an intolerable level of humiliation. It is yet another reason why bullying needs to be taken seriously by all of us who care for our teenagers. We need to be proactive and intentional about stopping any bullying that we may hear about in our teenage community. It may save a life like Brandon’s.
Gerry Vassar, President and CEO, Lakeside Educational Network