On January 2, 1999 Marie Bentham became another statistic for how many kids commit suicide because of bullying.
Marie had been fighting a bout of whooping cough and her mother, Debbie, had gone upstairs to give her some medicine. She then went back up a little while later and found her hanging. According to her aunt, Karen Bentham, her mom “found her with the skipping rope around her neck and tied to a door handle. Debbie did everything she could. She cut the skipping rope from round her neck.” Her mother dialed 999 and was given instructions on how to resuscitate Marie. Marie was only 8 years old and was due to go back to school after her Christmas break.
Marie attended school in Irlam, Greater Manchester, United Kingdom. Her mother had expressed concerns about the bullying that was taking place at her daughters school and the police believed that there was a link between those incidents and Marie’s death.
The director of education for Salford had indicated that the family had raised some concerns and that the staff dealt with them. He stated that, “These were concerns that the school took very seriously indeed and dealt with promptly and appropriately. In each case, the concerns were fully investigated and the local authority anti-bullying policy was followed to the letter. Senior staff dealt with the events which were properly logged. Indeed, none of these incidents involved anything out of the ordinary. They reflect the kind of concerns which many parents raise during the course of the school year.” The bullying involved two groups of girls at Marie’s school who had had a falling out. Marie’s aunt did say that, “Marie said that she was being bullied at school and did not want to go back.”
A special assembly was held at the school where the head teacher, John Walsh, paid honor to Marie. He said that, “this is a terrible tragedy and everyone at the school is deeply upset. She was such a popular pupil.”
Marie Bentham’s story is just one of many bullycide stories. According to the CDC suicide is the third leading cause of death. The statistic for how many people commit suicide because of bullying is about 4,400 people yearly. The CDC also states that for every successful suicide there are at least 100 suicide attempts. About 14 percent of high school age students have thought about suicide and 7 percent have tried it.
A study done in Britain found that half of the suicides among young people are related to bullying. And that 10 to 14 year old girls have a higher risk.
ABC News reported that 30 percent of students are either bullycide victims or bullies themselves. And about 160,000 children stay home from school daily because of bullying related fears.
In order to honor suicide victims the suicide memorial wall was created. The wall was started on April 15, 2001 to help people remember those from all over the world whose death were the result of suicide.
Marie Bentham is one of the youngest recorded suicides that are connected to bullying. If her concerns about bullying had been listened to and taken more seriously she would probably still be here today and not another child to add to the how many kids die from bullying statistic. Her next door neighbor said this about the family, “They were a lovely pair of kids, both of them were always in and out of the house and garden, we knew them very well and it’s been a terrible shock. Debbie was a brilliant mum, she looked after the kids very well and there was never any trouble. She came round to see me last night and was in quite a state.”
Another neighbor, Peter Foxley, said, “We knew the family quite well and everyone round here is really shocked. ”We all look out for each other and it’s difficult to believe something like this can happen. ”We last saw them last Monday night when Debbie brought her kids round and babysat ours while me and the wife had a night out.” He also stated that he had not heard that Marie had been bullied at school. ”She seemed to be happy at school. My little lad is in the same class as her sister and all the mothers have been talking and none of them knows of anything being wrong at school,”
This story shouldn’t have to be added to the many other stories of the number of people that have been bullied. The sad fact is that, according to the national school safety center, 90% of fourth through eighth graders have reported being bullying victims.
Many experts say that suicide in Marie’s age groups is low. “They are much more likely to become ill with psychosomatic ailments like tummy aches. It is extremely unusual to come across of suicide. They have limited sense of cause and effect. It is hard for them to compute that ‘if I kill myself now then I will not have to go to school’.” Dr. Guinever Tufnell a psychiatrist in East London said.
She also said that parents need to be alert about bullying when it involves children in Marie Bentham’s age group. “They may find it harder to articulate what is happening. In the few cases I have seen like this of children under 12, the parents have all said that they were quite unaware of the level of distress their child was experiencing.”
The most important thing to do to insure that a tragedy like this never happens again is to just listen to the children. Children at this young age do not have the vocabulary they need to really explain what is going on. So parents, teachers, and other trusted adults really need to take the time to listen to the concerns that these young ones present.