The number of teens driven to suicide because of bullying has reached epidemic proportions. In Houston this week, 13-year-old Asher Brown took his own life after being bullied. This while the community of Tehachapi lost 13-year-old Seth Walsh.Grief counselors have been sent to Tehachapi to talk to students who are having a hard time dealing with Walsh's death; but parents who met last night say not enough is being done to prevent teen suicides at our local schools.Parents of Walsh's friends say he was bullied for being openly gay, and hanged himself 10 days ago because of it. He died in the hospital on Tuesday. On Wednesday night, those parents held a meeting to find more proactive ways to fight teen bullying, because they say the school board didn't do enough for him.
"For a school district that has a no bully policy, no tolerance, zero tolerance for bullying; it's failed, it has failed," said Cathleen Ryan, the mother of one of Walsh's friends.Dr. Richard Swanson, the superintendent of the Tehachapi Unified School District, said there have been more than a dozen training programs against bullying offered to both educators and students for several years. He said the school district is now working with the Tehachapi Police Department to hold an assembly on tolerance after the students have had some time to grieve and remember Walsh."Seth was a boy that was sweet, kind, loving. He was talented, he was very bright, he loved to read," said his grandmother, Judy Walsh. "He was a delightful boy who didn't always get to have the best out of life because he was bullied and not feeling safe in his school or in his community."A memorial service for Walsh will be held Friday afternoon at the First Baptist Church in Tehachapi.As rates of teen suicide rise across the country, local experts say these deaths can be avoided."Suicides are preventable," said Ellen Eggers Hallgren, who works with both the Kern County Mental Health Department and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. "I'm not saying Seth's could have been or would have been; but the more aware of it, the more the word gets out there, the less afraid of it we are, we can get out there and we can prevent it."There are several resources available for people who are having suicidal thoughts or tendencies. The Kern County Mental Health Crisis Hotline has crisis counselors available 24 hours a day at 800-991-5272.There are suicide prevention Web sites like Out of The Darkness, a group affiliated with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.For specifically for teens suffering from bullying because of their sexual orientation, visit The Trevor Project.