On Feb. 6, John Halligan shared “Ryan’s Story,” a powerful and moving presentation about the death by suicide of his son Ryan, with the Herkimer school community.
Mr. Halligan spoke with Jr./Sr. High School students during the day at two separate assemblies, and gave a presentation for families and community members in the evening. He told the story of how his son faced bullying for several years before he died by suicide at age 13.
The theme of both presentations was the same: that small actions can make a big difference to stop bullying before it’s too late.
“You own it,” Halligan told students during his assembly. “One of the most powerful things you can do is decide to be respectful.”
Halligan urged students to think of the feelings of others, and to speak up when their friends do or say something inappropriate. For students who might be struggling, he reminded them that “all of you are loved beyond belief,” adding, “There are people in your life who care about you — don’t ever believe for a second that you don’t matter.”
For parents, Halligan offered several tips to help protect children from harming themselves:
WAIT UNTIL 8TH
Mr. Halligan supports the Wait Until 8th pledge, which encourages parents to delay giving kids a smartphone until at least eighth grade.
“Let them get through middle school before they have to worry about social media.” — John Halligan
When your child does get a smartphone, let them know that you expect to have access to their social media — including user names and passwords. (Read Mr. Halligan’s Parenting Suggestions Regarding Technology and Cyberbullying for more recommendations.)
BULLYING OR A BAD DAY?
Recognize bullying for what it is — a deliberate pattern of behavior targeting one or more people. A single conflict or comment might just mean someone’s having a bad day — it doesn’t mean they’re a bully. Help your child see these incidents in perspective.
PLAY IT SAFE
Take mental health as seriously as you do physical health. If you believe your child might be dealing with anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts, talk to a health professional right away — don’t wait.
Anyone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 or visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ for resources and online chat services.
The Herkimer Central School District takes bullying seriously, and documents and reports any instance of bullying or harassment. Any instance of bullying should be reported to a DASA coordinator or by filling out this online form.