Hawkesbury student who took her own life was target of bullying, friends say

Friends of a 16-year-old eastern Ontario girl who took her own life yesterday mourned her outside her school Friday.

Teenager posted video online to say she was going to kill herself

Students lit candles and held signs outside a Hawkesbury high school to mourn the death of a teenage girl who took her own life. (CBC)

Students in the eastern Ontario communities of Casselman and Hawkesbury are mourning the death of a 16-year-old girl who took her own life Thursday.

The teenager had posted an online video saying she was going to kill herself, citing a number of issues, including what she described as ongoing bullying both at and outside of school.

The girl attended public and Catholic schools in Casselman, before transferring to a Catholic high school in Hawkesbury this year. On Friday, students left flowers and made tributes outside the Hawkesbury school.

Tiffany Beckford, 17, and Jean-Guy Cummings, 26, both from Hawkesbury, had been friends with the teen for years.

Tiffany Beckford said she had witnessed her friend being bullied in the community. (CBC)
Beckford says she was speechless after she saw the video and heard the news.

"I still don't have words to say. I can't string a sentence together properly anymore because of it. It hits hard. It hits home. That's because of Hawkesbury's bullies and Casselman's. It's just all of Ontario that needs to stop the bullying."

They said they both witnessed their friend being taunted or bullied, and say they couldn't understand why she was a target.

"I was walking on the street with her once with my boyfriend and a car passed by and they started calling her names, all kinds of really, really, really rude names," said Beckford.

'I wish she would've messaged me'

"She was there for me every day that I needed her. I just wish she would've messaged me or I could've seen that video faster and I could've got there," said Beckford.

Cummings noted that in the video the girl wanted her friends to know it wasn't their fault.

"But it's still hurts... Sixteen years-old. Leaving young, you know?" he said.

Friends gathered in Hawkesbury, Ont., to mourn the death of a 16-year-old girl who took her own life on Thursday. (CBC)

The school board issued a notice to parents and staff on Friday saying supports were being made available and encouraging parents to talk to their children about their concerns.

The school board said the incident did not happen on school grounds and confirmed Ontario Provincial Police was investigating.

Matthieu Vachon, a superintendent with a separate school board, the Conseil des écoles publiques de l'Est de l'Ontario (CEPEO), said the signs that a teen is in trouble are often hidden, and that the schools must be vigilant and develop relationships with students so they are more comfortable in approaching them for help.

1 in 5 kids contemplate suicide, report says

A study published Thursday by Kids Help Phone found that 22 per cent of more than 1,300 respondents thought about taking their own life.

Alisa Simon, the vice-president of the national help line's counselling services, called the results of the survey concerning.

She said a key step would seem to be "breaking down the stigma, breaking down the barriers" to seeking help, noted Simon, adding that the survey did not delve into why kids had considered suicide.

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With files from The Canadian Press