May 10, 2012

Two Minnesota Teen Tragedies: They Took Their Own Lives

Rachel Ehmke, 13, from Mantorville, Minnesota

Bullying Alleged To Play A Role In Both Deaths


Two Minnesota teenagers committed suicide over the last 10 days. Rachel Ehmke, 13, of Mantorville, and Jay “Corey” Jones, 17, of Rochester, were subjected to harassment and bullying at school.

According to Minnesota Public Radio:
Two southeastern Minnesota teenagers have killed themselves in the past two weeks. While the cases are very different, the suicides prompt an outpouring of grief and discussion about bullying. 
Thirteen-year-old Rachel Ehmke of Mantorville committed suicide April 29 after she faced bullying at school. Earlier this week, 17-year-old Jay “Corey” Jones jumped off a bridge in Rochester and died. Jones was openly-gay and family and friends say bullying played a role in his death. 
School officials, community activists and students are grappling with how to prevent the bullying that played a role in the deaths of Jones and Ehmke. 
Harassment and bullying were likely factors in Ehmke’s death, said officials at the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office, however no one will face charges in her death. 
Officials say there is no direct evidence that bullying played a role in Jones’ death, according to Rochester Police spokesman Brian Winters. However, Rochester Public Schools Superintendent Michael Munoz acknowledges Jones had been working with a school counselor and administrators to address bullying at Century High School. 
“There was some form of bullying going on, but the school was on top of it and working with him on this and working with those who were involved in the situation,” Munoz said.
This is a very stark reminder of how much work we still have to do. It’s terrific that President Obama expressed his support for marriage equality, but that doesn’t give hope to a queer 13 year old girl, or a gay 15 year old boy, as they are grappling with the challenges that teens face every day.

Joshua Street (left) and Corey Jones (right) from Rochester, Minnesota
I don’t know the circumstances and challenges that these two kids were confronting every day. Adolescent students don’t fully understand the mental and physiological changes that are triggered by puberty. When kids are confused, and they don’t have information, it creates stress which can manifest itself as anger and/or a major depressive disorder. If you add bullying to the equation, on top of the confusion around  discovering their sexual orientation, the likelihood that they might try to take their own lives increases exponentially.

Anti-gay bullying is connected to teen depression and suicide. Did that play a factor here? I have no idea.

We all must do more to help these kids. Parents need to exert pressure on their local school boards, and talk with their kids, to ensure that they feel protected and safe when they go to school every day. Parents and teachers both should watch for the signs of teen depression.

I’m going to keep writing about these tragedies as I learn about them. The efforts to date have obviously had little impact on real world situations.

We have to do better, and we have to do more.

RIP Rachel and Jay.



Suicide prevention resources


If you are in suicidal crisis or emotional distress, use the contact information below to get help.
  • United States: Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (the Lifeline) at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Crisis workers are available for free 24 hours a day, and the call is confidential.
  • Other countries: Visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention site to find a crisis center in your area.

Help someone else


If you believe that someone else is in danger of suicide (and you have contact information for this user), contact your local law enforcement for immediate help.

You can also encourage the person to contact a suicide prevention hotline using the information above.

Learn how to help someone who is talking about suicide:



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