Utah family mourns 12-year-old boy who died and wonders if more could be done to prevent youth suicide

Editor’s observe and content material warning • This text discusses suicide. When you or individuals you already know are liable to self-harm, the Nationwide Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers 24-hour assist at 1-800-273-8255. A photograph displayed on the finish exhibits Drayke’s profile, at a distance, in his casket.

After they discovered their 12-year-old son was being bullied, Samie and Andy Hardman stated, they did all the things they might consider to intervene.

They talked to him about how he was feeling. They bought him into counseling. And so they advised college directors, who at one level suspended the bully.

However nonetheless the harassment continued, they are saying, till Drayke died by suicide this month.

Now Drayke’s mother and father are grappling with what extra may have been carried out and whether or not specialists know sufficient about how greatest to stop youth suicide in a state with one of many highest charges within the nation.

“The issues that have been occurring ran deep in his coronary heart,” stated his mother, Samie Hardman. “I don’t know that we knew simply how deep. For him to suppose he needed to finish his life … I simply … I can’t. All of us cherished him a lot, and now he’s gone. We’d carried out all the things, however he’s gone.”

Drayke, who was in seventh grade at a Tooele constitution and whom his mother affectionately referred to as her “little blue-eyed love,” had a ardour for magic methods and a dream of turning into the shortest ever NBA star. He died on Feb. 10, and his mother and father at the moment are talking out concerning the tragedy.

His loss of life is the second youngster suicide to rock Utah within the final three months, with each children startlingly younger.

In November, 10-year-old Izzy Tichenor died. Izzy’s mother has stated that her daughter was bullied by classmates for being Black and autistic. She says she reported her issues to Davis College District and was repeatedly disregarded. The district had, simply weeks earlier than, been referred to as out by federal investigators for ignoring critical experiences of racism from its college students.

(Rick Bowmer | AP) Brittany Tichenor-Cox, holds a photograph of her daughter, Isabella “Izzy” Tichenor, throughout an interview Monday, Nov. 29, 2021, in Draper, Utah.

Many have seen Izzy’s suicide as half of a bigger sample of an issue within the state with discrimination. The 2 deaths have been met by communitywide mourning but in addition calls for for extra psychological well being assets for Utah faculties.

Samie Hardman stated she’s apprehensive about what children are going through and fears extra may very well be struggling. She knew her son was being bullied, she stated, and she or he and her husband tried to step in and assist him.

When it first began, Drayke would divulge heart’s contents to them and his two older sisters a bit about what was occurring. However, because it continued, Hardman stated, he stopped speaking.

He got here dwelling from college sooner or later just lately with a blue and purple bruise taking form round his eye. When she requested how he bought it, Hardman stated, Drayke shrugged. “Snitches get stitches,” she remembers him saying.

(Hardman household) Pictured is 12-year-old Drayke Hardman, who died on Feb. 10, 2022.

Bullying in school

The bullying began a few 12 months in the past, Hardman stated, and it was bodily and psychological and emotional.

She and her husband have been proactive, she added, calling the varsity as quickly as they discovered about it from Drayke. Hardman stated the directors there stepped in instantly.

They investigated and took motion. The bully was quickly suspended from class. And his mother and father have been knowledgeable.

Hardman stated she appreciates the varsity’s response and isn’t positive how they might have dealt with the scenario in a different way. She doesn’t blame the employees there.

The truth is, Drayke cherished the varsity and the workers. Hardman stated he used to stroll into the entrance workplace most mornings, throwing his elbow on the counter in a suave transfer, and declare, “I hope you all have an excellent day.”

The varsity put out an announcement final week, saying it’s “enormously saddened” by Drayke’s loss of life. The principal famous: “As a college we take bullying very critically and our objective is at all times to guard our college students and supply a protected college setting.”

Even with the varsity getting concerned, although, the bullying didn’t finish. Hardman believes the bully retaliated after his suspension.

There have been mornings when Drayke refused to go to highschool as a result of he stated he was afraid. He would keep cuddled up within the blankets on his mother and father’ mattress — the place he normally demanded to be tickled, his mother recalled with a smile — and skip first interval. Typically, after that, he may very well be satisfied to go in and end out the remainder of his courses. Typically not.

Hardman stated she requested Drayke each day when he bought dwelling whether or not it was an excellent day or a foul day and inspired him to speak as a lot as she may. They spoke brazenly about suicide, she stated, as specialists say to do. And she or he stated Drayke advised her that he was not excited about it.

She additionally signed him as much as see a therapist on the college to assist, too.

However there have been different indicators that he was withdrawing, she stated, and she or he believes now that because the bullying bought worse, Drayke hid loads of it.

She questions what else she may have carried out to step in, feeling like she did what docs suggest. Ought to she have pressed Drayke extra? Or do specialists want to review extra methods to stop suicide in children? Are there different interventions that may very well be thought-about?

Presently in Utah, suicide is the main reason for loss of life for teens ages 10 to 17. Hardman doesn’t need her monster-truck-loving, superhero-obsessed son to develop into only a statistic.

A unique response

It’s unusual for youths to die by suicide earlier than the teenager years, and due to that, it’s usually not studied as a lot.

However the American Psychological Affiliation stated in a current report that roughly 30 suicides between the ages of 5 to 11 happen per 12 months in america. And there’s concern it may very well be turning into extra prevalent, too, together with amongst 12- and 13-year-olds.

Consultants usually warning in opposition to drawing a direct conclusion about what induced a toddler to die by suicide, together with bullying. However the American Psychological Affiliation does acknowledge that, greater than adults, these type of circumstantial components can usually have a better affect.

Hardman believes that’s why her son took his life. And now she and her household are pushing to stop different children from dying by suicide.

She stated it’s the one manner she’s in a position to transfer ahead proper now and never be swallowed by her ache.

Her focus is on a shortcoming in present approaches to addressing bullying and suicide that don’t have any significant method to have interaction with the bully — not simply the bullied.

In her case, she watched for all of the indicators in her son, and tried to assist Drayke.

However so far as she is conscious, she stated, the bully wasn’t coached on methods to be type and cease his hurtful conduct. Even in her grief, Hardman stated, she’s apprehensive about her son’s bully now and if he’s getting the assist he wants.

She desires these whom a college finds to have instigated bullying to be required to speak to a counselor as a part of their self-discipline, as a substitute of simply being suspended. She thinks that may higher serve the bully and have an even bigger affect on ending the harassment. Hardman stated the prevention can’t all be carried out on the aspect of the sufferer.

Amy Steele-Smith, a bullying prevention specialist with the Utah State Board of Schooling, stated the thought may work. She stated all college students want connections and relationships in school.

“Not simply the sufferer of bullying must have somebody to speak to and join with, however a person who’s engaged in bullying as effectively,” Steele-Smith stated.

The state board just lately up to date its guidelines to enhance how bullying is investigated in faculties. Each district and constitution is now required to have a chosen employees member to guide investigations and talk with mother and father all through the method.

“We’re at all times trying to enhance and do higher at this,” Steele-Smith stated. “We’ve bought to for our children.”

Hardman and her household are calling for extra schooling funding from the state to go towards psychological well being in faculties, together with hiring extra therapists. They’ve began a marketing campaign with #DoItForDrayke, which Drayke’s sisters got here up with. It has trended nationally, been picked up by Utah Jazz gamers and had tens of millions of shares from the unique submit.

(Courtesy Utah Jazz) Heart Rudy Gobert receives his All-Star ring from the household of Drayke Hardman earlier than the Feb. 14 sport in opposition to the Houston Rockets.

Remembering Drayke

Drayke was the type of child with no sense of stranger-danger, Hardman recalled with amusing. It made her nervous as a mother, however it was additionally a part of her son’s appeal.

She stated he’d go as much as anybody and do a magic trick or strike up a dialog about Spider-man and the Flash, his favourite superheroes, or spout out a enjoyable reality about basketball. Drayke was obsessive about Muggsy Bogues, the shortest participant to ever to compete within the NBA. He was 5 ft, 3 inches tall. Drayke joked that he would have the file beat, standing at 4 ft, 9 inches.

Whereas some children hope to develop tall, he didn’t need to acquire any greater than 5 inches, Hardman stated.

Drayke performed for a Junior Jazz workforce and was teased by his coach when he congratulated the opposite workforce with high-fives for his or her three-point photographs. He dreamed of enjoying alongside Utah Jazz participant Donovan Mitchell.

His mother had dreamed of cheering him on.

They cherished getting ice cream collectively. Drayke’s favourite taste was Play Dough. They used to observe the “Harry Potter” films collectively. They hadn’t gotten to the final one but. However they’d costume up the Dobby statue on the entrance porch of their Tooele dwelling in a sock to match each vacation. When Drayke died, the sock had Valentine hearts on it.

He relished tormenting his older sisters and using within the automobile with them, belting out “Child” by Justin Bieber. “He didn’t like anything Justin Bieber, simply that tune,” his mother clarified, understanding Drayke could be embarrassed with out that observe.

And along with his dad, he’d do something outdoor, searching, fishing and rockhounding.

At Drayke’s funeral, the partitions have been full of foolish photos of the boy, protruding his tongue, making the duck face, hugging his canine, Halo. In a single, he squinted within the brilliant gentle of the solar. In one other, he clung tight to his backpack, along with his blonde hair completely gelled again the best way he favored, smiling on the primary day of faculty.

The household shared a photograph taken at his service, hoping to lift consciousness of suicide and present the affect on the individuals who cherished him.

Most of the pictures displayed there had been included in Hardman’s first social media submit about Drayke’s loss of life. She had debated whether or not she needed to publicly share what occurred. At 3 a.m., hours after leaving the hospital, she determined she needed to.

“Quite a lot of instances, as a father or mother, you need to hold it hush-hush with suicide,” she stated. “However that simply performs into the stigma round this. We’ve to speak about it. We should discuss bullying and suicide.”

She desires individuals to see Drayke’s face and what was misplaced.

(Rachel Amy Images) Pictured is the funeral for Drayke Hardman, who died at age 12 on Feb. 10, 2022.

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