Marshall Co. teen's suicide raises questions of bullying - WSMV Channel 4

Marshall Co. teen's suicide raises questions of bullying

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Gabe Saffer Gabe Saffer
CHAPEL HILL, TN (WSMV) -

As friends and classmates say goodbye to a Middle Tennessee teenager who took his own life, his death has raised new questions about bullying after some say he was tormented at school.

Gabe Saffer, 15, died Sept. 5 by suicide, and a lot of people are convinced bullying is to blame for the young man's death. Officials at Forrest School in Chapel Hill are adamant that's not the case, but one thing most can agree on is something has to be done to stop the epidemic.

About 110 children die each year by suicide in Tennessee, and the issue hits far too close to home for parents like Paula Cox.

Her daughter and Gabe were good friends, and she says her daughter has attempted suicide more than once.

"Our kids are being bullied. We need to do something about this," Cox said.

The director of Marshall County Schools says there was no evidence of bullying in Gabe's case, but Cox and others aren't buying it.

"When I went to the school, they were saying, 'Oh, well, she's liked. She's social. She's not by herself all the time.' But those are the kids that we're forgetting about that are being hurt in all this," Cox said.

Dr. Theresa Boyd sees both suicidal teen patients that are bullied and those that are not.

"It's easy just to say, 'It's bullying.' We don't know probably until after it's investigated, but even if a child has a past history, might have a family history of suicide, might have a family history of psychological issues," Boyd said.

What she knows for sure is suicide is the third-leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 24.

The misconceptions are out there, but so are the signs.

"From depression, to hostility, to a loss of a loved one, fear, feeling hopeless. It could be that all of a sudden your child has changed behavior," Boyd said.

Parents and teachers need to ask questions, especially now - especially at this grieving school, where students need help perhaps more than ever.

"Not only did they lose somebody, but then if somebody was bullying, talk to your kids about it," Boyd said.

The director of schools said they have counselors on hand for the students at Forrest School and their teachers and counselors have received intensive suicide training over the last two years. If you go to the district's website, you'll find information about bullying front and center, and the director says they posted that on the website two days before Gabe took his own life.

September is National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month, and there are plenty of resources online about how and where to get help, or what to do if you think your kid is being bullying.

For more information, visit http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org or http://tspn.org.

If you would like to contribute to Gabe's family's expenses, visit https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/jc13/gabrielle-david-saffer-memorial.

A memorial page has also been established at https://www.facebook.com/inlovingmemoryofgabesaffer.

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