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Teenager struggled with bullying before taking his life; Boy talked of suicide multiple times online

Jamey Rodemeyer needed help. At 14, he was grappling with adolescent demons that could torment grown men.

And when he was online, he wrote about it.

"I always say how bullied I am, but no one listens," he wrote Sept. 9. "What do I have to do so people will listen to me?"

Just over one week later, Jamey was found dead outside his home of an apparent suicide.

In the months prior, he routinely blogged about school bullying and thoughts of suicide in between upbeat posts about his pop star idol Lady Gaga and the ordinary types of teen rants typical for kids his age.

On Sept. 8, he wrote: "No one in my school cares about preventing suicide, while you're the ones calling me [gay slur] and tearing me down."

He put up a separate post that day letting everyone know it was National Suicide Prevention Week.

On Saturday night, he posted a lyric from Lady Gaga's song "The Queen" on his Facebook page: "Don't forget me when I come crying to heaven's door."

Then around 1:30 a.m. Sunday, Jamey posted two final messages to his main public Tumblr blog. One said he really wanted to see his great-grandmother, who had recently died, and one offered thanks to Lady Gaga.

That was his last entry.

"He touched so many hearts, so many people," said his mother, Tracy Rodemeyer, who met with some of his grief-stricken friends at Williamsville North on Monday. "I didn't realize how many people he touched. He was the sweetest, kindest kid you'd ever know. He would give all his heart to you before he gave any to himself."

Olivia Rinaldo, an eighth-grader at Heim Middle School, said she was drawn to his outwardly upbeat and extroverted personality. He made friends of the friendless, she said.

"He was always putting people first," she said. "He always wanted other people to smile, even on the worst of his days."

Jamey did have bad days. Issues of bullying and even suicide talk were not new to many of Jamey's family or friends. They were common topics for him and seemed to ramp up to an extreme level when other students started making taunts with gay references to Jamey about 12 months ago.

"JAMIE IS STUPID, GAY, FAT ANND UGLY. HE MUST DIE!" read one post.

Another read: "I wouldn't care if you died. No one would. So just do it šŸ™‚ It would make everyone WAY more happier!"

Other posts were similar, but friends also came to his defense.

"Don't listen to cowards on here Jamey," one friend responded.

Rodemeyer said her son had questioned his sexuality for the last year or so, and some of his classmates used those issues as an excuse to say horrible and malicious things about him.

Even before then, she said, Jamey was emotionally troubled.

"He was totally against bullying," she said. "He has had issues since fifth grade. He had suicidal tendences back then."

He also had friends. Olivia said she thought even the male bullies at Heim Middle School became more accepting over time.

But high school meant facing off against a new set of peers.

"We sat him down multiple times and said, 'What's going on?' " his mother recalled.

Jamey denied that anything was amiss, she said. In fact, when the family went to its usual camping spot this past weekend, Jamey seemed happy. Even taunts from peers didn't seem to phase him.

"He used to cry about it, be sad and angry," Rodemeyer said. "But lately, he's been blowing them off, or at least we thought he was."

Given Jamey's prolific writings and raw commentaries online, could someone have intervened sooner and saved him?

"Of course, I'm not going to say enough was done," said Jamey's mother.

But he was seeing a social worker and therapist, she said.

Williamsville North Principal Petrina Neureuter sent a letter home with all students Monday informing them that Jamey had died. Members of the district's crisis team from both North High and Heim Middle School were also at the school.

"We make it apparent to the kids that there's help all day long and in the days to come," said Dale Bauer, a licensed school social worker and clinical social worker at North.

Jamey is the second Williamsville North High School student to die since 2010. Joe Chearmonte, a junior honor student, died in February of last year.

When a new school year starts, Bauer said, the high school counseling staff meets with the middle school counselors from North's two feeder middle schools to discuss the needs of incoming ninth-graders.

There are limits to what a school can do, she said. Despite the extensive counseling staff at North, she said, no one routinely checks the online posts of troubled students.

"We really encourage kids not to use those sites if they're having a hard time because it just aggravates the situation," she said.

This year, Williamsville has partnered with other districts to offer a depression and suicide awareness program out of Williamsville South High. A panel presentation will be offered to all parents Oct. 25, she said.

On a larger scale, adults worldwide have recognized the crisis facing adolescents and teenagers struggling with sexuality.

Last September, the "It Gets Better Project" was launched online as a place for adults -- including high-profile celebrities -- to reassure troubled and potentially suicidal lesbian, gay and bisexual youth that despite the taunting, bullying and physical abuse they face as adolescents and teens, life improves after high school.

That project has since grown by leaps and bounds. It offers numerous resources and a pledge that others can sign promising to "provide hope to lesbian, gay, bi, trans and other bullied teens." The homepage is www.itgetsbetter.org

email: stan@buffnews.com