‘You are loved beyond belief': Guest speaker addresses teen suicide at Elkhart Community Schools
Anti-bullying efforts have been a big focus among Elkhart families this year after North Side middle schooler, Rio Allred died by suicide in March. She endured harsh bullying because of her alopecia, an auto-immune condition that causes hair loss.
Allred was just 12 years old when she took her life. John Halligan also lost his son, Ryan, when he was just thirteen. Now, Halligan travels the country, sharing his son’s story to students and parents to prevent another tragedy.
“I want to give them information that I wish I had before my son passed away,” Halligan said.
His presentation, “Ryan’s Story,” was given to all middle-school-aged students in Elkhart schools both Thursday and Friday. He said he teaches students about apologizing, forgiveness, and being an active bystander.
“I gave them a very strong suicide prevention message,” Halligan said. “I basically told them that they’re loved beyond belief. Don’t ever lose sight of that, don’t ever take that for granted. And if you need help, you have to ask for it.”
Thursday evening at Elkhart High School, a similar version of his presentation was offered for parents, catering to them by giving them steps to monitor their child’s wellbeing.
Bobbi Johnson is the legal guardian to her two grandchildren— and brought them to Thursday’s presentation.
“The bullying is outrageous,” she said.
After sharing the heart-wrenching personal story, where Halligan learned of his son’s incessant bullying leading up to his suicide, he shared some lessons learned for parents.
These include knowing your children’s social media account passwords and making sure children have a trusted adult to confide in outside of parental figures.
“The one thing that I hear over and over again [from parent’s who lost children to suicide] is that their child was very, very sensitive. Perhaps overly sensitive,” Halligan said. “And it’s the sensitive souls that are having a really difficult time in today’s world, especially with social media. So my message to them is if you have a very sweet, sensitive child, you gotta pay extra attention to them in that regard. And i would pull out all the stops on resiliency, coping strategies, having very frank conversations about how the world really is.”
“Ryan’s Story,” plus all of John Halligan’s resources, can be found here.