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HS East Students Moved by 'Ryan's Story' Presentation on Bullying, Suicide Prevention

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Students at High School East heard an emotional and important message on Friday morning.

John Halligan, who lost his 13-year-old son Ryan to suicide in 2003, spoke with ninth and 10th graders about bullying, cyberbullying and teen suicide in a presentation sponsored by the PTSA and SADD.

At the time of his death, Ryan was a middle school student in Essex Junction, Vermont. It was revealed in detail after Ryan’s death that he was ridiculed and humiliated by peers at school and online.

“You are about to hear a sad story, but my intention is not to make you sad,” Halligan said. “I intend to get you to think, perhaps differently, about bullying.”

Halligan’s message: There is no simple cause and effect when it comes to bullying and suicide. But you never know how much someone is already hurting, especially from an underlying mental health issue, and you would never want to be the one who might push them over the edge.

Halligan spoke about the forgiveness he gave his son’s primary tormentors after they ultimately were confronted by him and showed remorse.

He also noted to the students, “You are loved beyond belief. Don't ever believe that you don't matter and that no one would miss you if you were gone.”

He asked students not to be ashamed to ask for help, and not to hesitate to seek help for a friend who has confided in you that they are suicidal.

He also asked bystanders who are friends with people who bully to get their friends to stop.

“Stand up to a friend who is bullying other people,” Halligan said, noting the difficulty.

Halligan closed his presentation by acknowledging that he may not have touched everyone in the respectful audience. Still, he knows someone’s life will be altered by his presentation.

“I’ve been out there long enough to know that at least one person in this room is going to take my son’s story to heart,” Halligan said. “Go up to somebody and simply say, ‘I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the way I treated you.' That apology — that real, sincere, heartfelt apology — will be lifechanging.”

Date Added: 1/14/2022