Content warning: This post deals with suicide.
The body of an eight-year-old boy is in the ground.
Before he died, Gabriel Taye was in grade three and had a smile consisting of nothing but baby teeth and cheeky dimples. He had beautiful fuzzy hair and big brown eyes and perfect skin. He loved reading and making friends. He was gorgeous; like all little children are.
But on the 26th of January, hours after dumping his heavy school bag on his bedroom floor, Gabriel suicided on his bunk bed.
“I was in the living room at the kitchen table, and I went back to check on my son and I found him,” Gabriel’s mother Cornelia Reynolds told Ohio media in the days following her tiny son’s death.
“I guess he didn’t know how to tell me stuff was happening.”
On Thursday it was revealed what was happening is bullying – vicious bullying – carried out by children at Gabriel’s Cincinnati primary school. CCTV footage shows that in the week he died, Gabriel was hurled against a bathroom wall and knocked unconscious for seven minutes before an assistant principal and school nurse came to his aid.
The school didn’t tell Gabriel’s mum about the physical assault; instead, they told her he simply fainted.
Cornelia had no idea her boy was being bullied. He took his life two days later.
“He probably didn’t want to say, ‘Ma, somebody’s bullying or picking on me,’ you know?,” Cornelia said. “He just didn’t know how to tell me.”
Every time these horrific stories pierce our attention they strangle us with fear and grief despite happening thousands of kilometres away, in foreign places and to people we do not know.
But when it comes to suicide, matters of location and distance are irrelevant.
Why? Because Gabriel was a child. A child who shouldn’t have been concerned with anything more serious than losing his left shoe, forgetting his school lunch, or not liking the contents of the dinner plate in front of him.
He was a child so silently traumatised he ended his life. And that stifling silence? That feeling of not knowing where to find help? Or not even knowing how to? That doesn’t discriminate.
According to Kristen Douglas, the National Manager of Headspace School Support, the way Gabriel was feeling is something countless Australian children suffer with every day.
“We’re at the highest rate of suicide we’ve been at for 10 years," Kristen told me over the phone. "[And the people dying by suicide] are getting younger.
"We respond to the suicides of 10, 11 and 12-year-olds. I genuinely think life for kids is too stressful, and I don’t know if we’ve given them the tools to cope with all the information that’s bombarding them all the time."