Family mourns teenager lost to suicide

Justin Dye (left) was a Richlands High School student who died of suicide Monday. (Santana Strong/Contributed)

A Southwest Virginia community is in mourning after a 15-year-old Richlands High School student took his own life. His family said it was because of bullying.

Justin Dye’s sister, Santana Strong said he was a happy kid, always smiling, always joking, always thinking of others.

"Justin was one of the kindest kids you could ever ask for,” she said. “It was pretty sad. He even tried to be friends with the people who did bully him."

Strong said Dye's mother went to Richlands High School at least twice with concerns about bullying, but it continued.

School officials said they were too busy to talk with us. They’re still in “crisis mode.” Students and teachers are still grieving.

"When you get a text from your little brother that says, 'I can't take the pain and agony inside of me anymore.' That really pulls on your heart,” Strong said.

Youth suicide doesn’t just affect Richlands. The statistics are striking.

A Centers for Disease Control survey of middle and high schoolers last year found that 1 out of 6 of them had thought about suicide in the past year. One out of 14 had actually tried it.

Bullying is the No. 1 cause of youth suicide.

Experts recommend watching out for changes in behavior: irritability, isolation and even sudden happiness.

Laurin Maddux, Vice President for Clinical Services at Strategic Behavioral Health, recommends asking the person.

"Asking the question, 'Have you had thoughts of wanting to hurt yourself?' Straight out,” she said. “'Have you had thoughts of suicide?' And really addressing that head on."

Mental health professionals said if you see the signs, be proactive to remove ways a person could hurt themselves. Try to comfort and instill hope, without seeking simple answers, and go with them to get professional help. Many people won’t go alone.

"Do not hesitate,” Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network regional chair Heatherly Sifford said. “Don't sit back and wait on somebody else to get involved."

As the Dye family mourns, they hope their loss can save other kids from bullying.

"To have to bury one (a sibling) is one of the awfulest things,” Strong said.

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