“Speak, even if your voice shakes.”
This was the message that was written above a painting that Amy “Dolly” Everett had created of a thin figure bending over backward that her father, Tick Everett chose to share with the world after Dolly tragically took her life at the beginning of this year.
When Dolly was 6 years old, she got offered a modeling contract and was photographed wearing an iconic Australian Akubra hat, a style of hat that’s best known for its symbolism of unspoiled country wilderness. Dolly’s darling smile became the face of the company and the photo was spread all throughout the country.
Though her photogenic fame brought a lot of fortune into the lives of Dolly and her family, over the following 8 years of her young life, Dolly’s parents watched as she shifted from a funny, outgoing girl to an anxious, reserved pre-teen who no longer wanted to go to school or talk to anyone.
As it turns out, the driving force behind Dolly’s gradual withdrawal from the bright young spirit she used to be was the brutal bullying she was subjected to that seemed to grow in intensity along with the fame of her photo.
Though her parents picked up on some of the bullyings that were being directed towards her, the degree of bullying Dolly was receiving on social media wasn’t clear to them until far too late.
On January 3, 2018, Dolly committed suicide and her parents spent what they refer to as the “longest night” of their lives waiting on their farm for medical help to arrive and help them with their lifeless child.
After the tragic and traumatic event, Dolly’s father, Tick posted an image of that bent figure painting along with a message of his own, saying, “This powerful message tells us about the dark, scary place our beautiful angel had traveled to.”
With his words, he took the opportunity to not only mourn the loss of his daughter but to also shed light on the drastic issue that plagues the lives of so many others worldwide: bullying.
“This week has been an example of how social media should be used, it has also been an example of how it shouldn’t be,” he wrote. “If we can help other precious lives from being lost and the suffering of so many, then Doll’s life will not be wasted.”
From there, he went on to directly address those who caused the wildfire of bullying waged on his sweet daughter:
“If by some chance the people who thought this was a joke and made themselves feel superior by the constant bullying and harassment see this post, please come to our service and witness the complete devastation you have created.”
Since Dolly’s death, the family has stood strong and began a new campaign known as “Dolly’s Dream” to help raise awareness about bullying and suicide and to spread messages of hope to those who may also be struggling with the same fight.
The world lost a “caring, beautiful soul” as she is referred to by her parents when Dolly felt that taking her own life would be better than enduring even another day with the darkness and isolation she was beaten down by. She is not the only one who has left this world under such circumstances, nor has she been the last.
Thousands of teens have committed suicide over the years and the numbers have only risen over time. Suicide now stands as the SECOND leading cause of death among teens and young adults and takes more young lives than cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease combined – COMBINED. Every day, over 3,000 teens and young adults attempt suicide and many more ponder upon it if not seriously consider it.
The ideation of suicide has grown like a silent plague throughout the world, wiping out sweet child after a sweet child with little remorse. It’s a fire that’s growing wild right before our eyes and is fed by aggressive issues such as bullying and is something that no one should be ignored anymore.
Suicide is not a case of charity to help promote a social platform, it is not a modern cause to manipulate and greedily milk funds from, it is not something that should be glorified or even vaguely portrayed as an option to make a mark on the world, it is a literal life-threatening issue that young people are using as a lethal weapon against each other and themselves on a daily basis.
Phrases like “you should go kill yourself” or “how do you live with yourself” or “they’d be better off without you” or even more personally directed phrases like “someone kill me now” or “I’d rather be dead” are thrown around as flippantly and frequently as the next popular cuss phrase. Words like these and more are used on the daily as forms of bullying and abuse. People will even wish death upon those they feel a strong dislike towards.
These deeply hurtful tendencies to use death and suicide like some trendy analogies or weaponized words are only normalizing the issue further and need to come to a stop.
As mentioned, bullying is one prominent influence behind what drives young people to suicide. Approximately one out of every five students report that they’ve experienced being bullied, with more that never mention it. Bullying is a two-way street of pain and pent-up emotions that often get channeled in horrible, cruel, and oftentimes violent ways from the bully to the victim. Bullying preys on the still-developing mental and emotional health of young people and breaks spirits on even deeper levels than most can see.
There’s the face to face bullying that happens in school hallways and playgrounds, but then there’s also the faceless sort of bullying that happens on social media that tends to gain the most ground since it’s easier to hide and keep identities masked. Yes, there are positive uses for social media, but it must also be acknowledged that there are horrible uses for it as well, especially when it comes to young people and bullying.
Willfully ignoring or turning a blind eye to these issues doesn’t help anyone, in fact, it only adds to the fire. Turning a blind eye and even avoiding the discussion of the issue feeds the stigma that suicide shouldn’t be talked about and that there even might be some shame to even remotely feeling like it’s the better option, driving young people especially to feel that they need to keep it to themselves if those thoughts ever arise in their minds. There is a terrible disconnect between the reality of what suicide is and how society treats it that are literally damaging the lives of thousands and that pain is crying for change to be made. It’s about time we all listen to that cry and do something about it.
What can we do? People often ask. There’s no single, resolute answer, but everyone can start by using their voice.
Don’t keep silent about an issue that’s ending lives more rapidly than most illnesses and disease. If you have a child or friend that comes to you and tells you they literally can’t breathe due to asthma, are you going to brush it aside and hope the problem resolves itself, or help them get the inhaler they need? Mental illness and depression are no different. They dramatically impact health and need the same care and attention as any other ailment.
Things that can drive young people into detrimental states of mental health and dark and isolated places emotionally need to also be addressed. Treating issues like bullying as though they are simply a part of growing up that needs to be endured through does more harm than good and dismisses the fact that children are acting out in horrible ways towards each other and need help, just as much as the children who are receiving the bullying need it.
If keeping silent about issues like these were helping, the statistics of teens lost to suicide due to bullying wouldn’t be drastically increasing.
Keeping the discussion open and making things like suicide, bullying and mental health into things that are safe to talk about in your own family and social circles goes a long way, especially for children who are listening in. Talking about the realities of suicide doesn’t cause it any more than mentioning the word cancer causes cancer. In reality, talking about it helps not only inform others about the realities of the issue but also creates a space where people feel they can admit to being one of the many who personally struggles with it. Talking about it helps undo the shame many feel when they find themselves in the dark. Talking about it helps create hope and awareness for those who don’t know if they can make it another day. Talking about it helps people understand just how serious of an issue it is and also what causes it.
Talking about it helps bring the issue out of the dark to face change, rather than keeping it stuffed away like some taboo in the shadows. Talking creates change.
So use your voice to help create this change. Open the discussion. Teach and inform others of the realities of these issues and don’t let them get taken lightly through jokes or flippant or hurtful comments. Create a space that’s welcome and loving for those around you. If you’re someone who’s struggling, talk to someone you trust about what you’re going through. Provide help and kindness to those that need it, and even those you may think don’t need it. Help raise the rising generations of children in a way that will bring those horrible statistics down and build up a beacon of hope.
As Dolly said with her painting at the beginning, “talk, even if your voice shakes.”
As a reference, if you or someone you know is dealing with bullying and/or suicide, there are also always numbers you can call or even text with people who want to help:
Suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Crisis Text Line: text HOME to 741741
StopBullying: resource information