GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) — A Facebook post about how cyberbullying led to a San Antonio teenager’s suicide is hitting close to home for parents here in Austin.
The victim’s brother says there needs to be more accountability for people who bully others.
One Georgetown woman knows exactly how the family is feeling.
“It breaks my heart,” said Jacki James. “Because I know what that mother is going through. And she’s never going to be the same, her life will never be the same.”
In October 2014, James lost her 13-year-old son Peyton to suicide, after years of bullying.
“I think the only thing he wanted in the world was for people to like him, and to have a happy life, and he really struggled with that,” said Jacki. “He was funny, he was sweet, kind of quirky and just a different kid. He loved anime and Dr. Who.”
Now Jacki shares Peyton’s story throughout schools in Texas. Her campaign, Kindness Matters, aims to change the way people interact each other. “Showing these kids how powerful their words are. Because they don’t have any idea the power of their words.”
This week she spoke to her 23rd school.
Dr. Stephen Kolar, a clinical psychologist, and Coordinator for Center-Based Services at Austin Child Guidance Center, says teen suicide is a problem more people need to be aware of.
“Bullying used to be pretty much about aggression at schools, pushing kids into lockers, writing on their books,” said Kolar. “Now with the Internet, bullying follows kids from schools to their home. And any kid that has a cellphone can be bullied, pretty much all the time, any time.”
He says it’s important for parents to monitor their children’s phone use and social media.
“A lot of times parents think they can monitor their students for safety, but if there’s a risk of suicide, they really need to take their teen to a professional who can assess them.”
Also a teacher, Jacki knows how important it is for educators to understand the power of social media.
For the first time this year, new legislation required public school teachers to get two hours of suicide-prevention training, which she says is a step in the right direction.
New Braunfels Republican Sen. Donna Campbell sponsored the bill and says it’s an issue close to her heart. She says suicide is a preventable tragedy and hopes the training will save lives.
Jacki says the new law is a step in the right direction. “[It] makes us more aware,” she said. “Even as a teacher, I didn’t know what do I do if a kid comes to me and tells me they want to harm themselves.”
So far she’s only spoken at Texas schools, but says she’s willing to travel.
“Every day that you can wake up and talk about your child, say his name all the time, is teaching the world about him.”
Dr. Kolar says the number of teenage suicides in Travis County is higher compared to most other counties in Texas.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)