People Are Awesome: Strangers Send Suicidal Teen 17,000 Encouraging Letters
Last fall Do Something's Bully Report found that over one-fourth of students see bullying happening on a daily basis—and not just in school hallways, either. Half revealed they see intimidation, violence, and name-calling going on in class when teachers are present. It's no surprise then that roughly 160,000 kids a day miss school specifically so they can avoid being bullied. But too many students, like seventh-grader Noah Brocklebank, start seeing suicide as the way to make the hurt and pain stop.
Noah's mom, Karen Brocklebank, told ABCNews.com that her son has been in therapy for depression and anxiety due to bullying at his Columbia, Maryland middle school. But things came to a head at the end of January when Noah's friends alerted her that "he had posted this picture of his arm all cut up and was talking about suicide." And his note revealed that he planned to take his life on his 13th birthday in February.
Karen checked Noah into a hospital and reflected, she says, on "how lonely he was, the pain that he was in and that he had put this proverbial cry for help out to his peers. That this was his way of screaming at this peers, 'I'm in pain. Look at me. Pay attention to me,' and I just wanted to take that away from him."
She decided to use Facebook to reach out to their friends and family, asking them to send Noah a special sort of birthday wish: letters or messages of encouragement. She never expected Noah's story to spread through social media, but overnight the notes and messages started pouring in. Karen ended up setting up a special Facebook page, Letters for Noah, and got a post office box.
So far, thanks to the flat out awesomeness of people, Noah's received about 7,000 letters and 10,000 Facebook messages from caring people on every continent, including Antartica. The letters, says Karen, have "really empowered him and given him a voice."
Indeed, Noah decided to return to his school, because "He’s really getting the message through these letters, I think, and also through his therapy, that he has to rise above it. And that this is a temporary thing; we have to take the high road," Karen added. As Noah says in the CBS News video above, the letters and messages helped him see, "that there are caring people out there that could be my friends."
Now Noah and his family are paying the kindness they received forward and taking action to end bullying. The Letters for Noah Facebook page has become an active hub of information-sharing about bullying and anti-bullying activities.
Still, Noah's challenges aren't over, so c'mon, GOOD, let's keep the messages of support flowing. You can send him a note here:
Letters for Noah
P.O. Box 444
Simpsonville, Maryland 21150
And because we all know there are too many other Noahs out there who are hurting, let a kid in your life know they matter and encourage educators in your community to take action and implement an anti-bullying curriculum in their schools.
Click here to add taking a stand against bullying to your GOOD "to-do" list.
Click here to add sending Noah a note to your GOOD "to-do" list.