September 18, 2012: Joshuah Delos Santos, 13, Death by Suicide
We have failed yet another one. On Tuesday, September 18th, 13-year-old Joshuah Delos Santos took his own life. Martha Angelica Gonzales wrote this about her cousin, Joshuah:
Imagine being 13 and thinking about ending your life because you are being bullied… No one to turn to because you feel like speaking out will fuel the fire. So you hide from everyone and mask it with a smile because you don’t want to make it a big deal. Then, the day comes where you can’t take anymore and have that moment’s courage to end all the pain and suffering inside of you.
That day came. The morning of September 18, 2012, my cousin Joshuah Allen Delos Santos decided to end his life because he was being bullied.
Please have a heart and make a difference by raising awareness about Bullying before it’s too late. Josh did now show signs of being bullied. Dont wait for the next victim to end their life because of bullies. Stand up. Speak out!
Joshuah must have endured some intense bullying, and probably for quite a while, to be pushed to the point of ending his life. Several things really stand out, for me at least, about this tragedy:
1.Once again, the authorities swept the bullying element right off the table and under the carpet: ”…police have not been able to find any evidence to corroborate those claims.
“There’s nothing in our investigation at this point in time that he was bullied at all,” said Nanticoke police Chief Bill Shulz in a phone interview Wednesday.” As is the case far too often, there seems to be a rush-to-judgement to take the bullying element out of the picture.
2.According to everything I’ve read, Joshuah dealt with this all on his own. He kept it in. No one knew what he was going through. That is, until Tuesday.
I don’t know what it’s going to take to compel the authorities, from the school administrators to the law enforcement agencies, to stop running from the reality of the menace of bullying. Far too often I’ve reported cases of teen suicides where everyone close to the situation acknowledged that bullying was the culprit only to have the school officials and law enforcement agency in place at the time completely dismiss it. Many schools, including Joshuah’s, now have zero-tolerance bullying policies on the books. Yet, when we lose another teenager to suicide, and everyone close to the victim screams to the top of their lungs BULLYING, the authorities tuck their tails and run, quick to release “official” statements that bullying wasn’t involved. Like Bill Shulz did in this case.
Zero tolerance is the perfect answer, and it looks great on paper. It’s sounds even better to be able to tell the parents at the beginning of the new school year that, “yes, we have a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy on bullying.” But, what does that mean? What good is “zero-tolerance” when kids are still being bullied to the point of wanting to end their lives? ”Zero-tolerance” is a great policy. It looks and sounds great; however, this is real life. And, in the real world, words without action are meaningless. ”Zero-tolerance” could’ve, and probably would’ve, saved Joshuah Delos Santos’ life had it been enforced rather than just in theory.
Like many young suicide victims before him, Joshuah kept all of the torment in. His sister, Nicole, said: ”He was really good at hiding his feelings”. Part of the pain that his family and friends will have to cope with for a long time to come is the fact that no one knew of his inner struggles. But, in order for anyone to know, it is imperative for youngsters everywhere to understand that it is completely okay, even expected!, for them to speak up and speak out. This has to be instilled at a very early age. Speak up. And, don’t stop speaking up until someone hears you! I’m 100% convinced that it works. It may not work 100% of the time. However, if it works only 85% of the time, imagine the dramatic drop in bully-related suicides.
We must create a culture in where young people, like Joshuah, know in their heart of hearts that they can speak up and out, and there will be someone, anyone!, who will indeed listen and try to help. In the homes. In the schools. Everywhere. It’s has to happen if we’re ever going to see this devastating trend begin to reverse. Indeed, the policy in place where Joshuah went to school can be very good:
The Greater Nanticoke Area School District, where Joshuah attended eighth grade, has a “zero tolerance” bullying policy and an anonymous “bullying report form” on the district website.
They have to have the confidence that talking about it, speaking up, speaking out will make a difference. Too many of them are afraid that speaking up will only make things worse. And, that’s our fault as adults. We, as a society, are failing these young people miserably. These suicides are very much preventable. It’s imperative that we stop shaking our collective head, complaining about how bad this has gotten (which it has), and start taking strong, positive action to make this go away. It’s not going to go away on its own. It’s not going to go away with concerted effort.
Joshuah, rest in peace. You can’t be tormented now.
- Doris Shinn