Bullying is a topic that's been on the minds of Land O' Lakes students, parents, school administrators and others for a while.
A recent Pasco student suicide has further spurred discussion about suicide and bullying. Now, the Pasco County Sheriff, state lawmakers and mental health professionals want to talk about the issues.
The public is invited to the Stop the Pain cyber bullying and suicide forum Saturday night, Jan. 19, at Redeemer Community Church at 9230 Ridge Road, New Port Richey.The forum starts at 7 p.m.
Panelists will include Florida State Sen. John Legg, State Reps. Mike Fasano and Richard Corcoran, Sheriff Chris Nocco and mental health specialist Rick Kay. Hernando High senior Sarah Bell, who leads an initiative to stop cyber bullying called Unbreakable, will also be present.
The forum is sponsored by Recover Pasco, crazy8freedom.org, Staywell Kids, the Pasco Sheriff's Office and Redeemer Community Church.
A flier says the forum is an opportunity to discuss suicide and cyber bullying and “help us map the road to recovering our children’s safety and sanity.”
Fasano is participating because "he recognizes that cyber bullying and teen suicide are very real threats to the young people of our community," said Greg Giordano, Fasano's chief aide. "Hopefully, by bringing together policymakers, law enforcement, the faith community and medical professionals, a path can be sketched out for local leaders and families to deal with these extremely important issues."
In December, Jessica Laney, a Fivay High student, committed suicide. Her friends claimed she had been the victim of bullying online.
However, the sheriff’s office never received any formal complaints about Jessica being bullied. Investigation revealed no signs she was bullied at the school.
The tragedy still provoked concerns in the community.
"Jessica Laney's suicide was the final straw in an already malignant teen societal issue that must be addressed today," said Chris Mahan, Public relations drector for Redeemer Community Church.
Mahan said that "according to The Florida Council for Community Mental Health, Pasco County is ranked fourth in state suicide statistics, these statistics include youth up to age 21. According to Florida Suicide Prevention, our state lost a staggering 245 youths aged 10-24 in 2011."
In addition, "the Caring for our Children Foundation states that in 2012, Pasco County lost six teens to suicide," Mahan said. "One child or teen suicide is too many but six in one year is beyond tragic because these deaths are not accidents or murders but deliberate attempts to escape the harsh realities our children and teens face daily."
Redeemer plans on holding quarterly "Stop the Pain" forums and is also open to assisting other organizations with hosting these forums.
"Pasco County leaders have expressed publicly the need for more community involvement in preventing social ills," Mahan said. "Redeemer Community Church and Pastor Bill Gunter hear the cry of the community, and believe their work may help pave the way to mapping solutions on the epidemic problem of teen suicide and bullying. It is only through community partnerships and steadfast work that we can develop a clear vision and solid foundation to take the necessary steps to providing a safe, emotionally, and physically healthy community."