Utah family mourns 12-year-old boy who died and wonders if more could be done to prevent youth suicide


Editor’s be aware and content material warning • This text discusses suicide. In case you or individuals you understand are vulnerable to self-harm, the Nationwide Suicide Prevention Lifeline supplies 24-hour assist at 1-800-273-8255. A photograph displayed on the finish exhibits Drayke’s profile, at a distance, in his casket.

After they came upon their 12-year-old son was being bullied, Samie and Andy Hardman mentioned, they did every little thing they might consider to intervene.

They talked to him about how he was feeling. They bought him into counseling. They usually informed faculty directors, who at one level suspended the bully.

However nonetheless the harassment continued, they are saying, till Drayke died by suicide this month.

Now Drayke’s dad and mom are grappling with what extra may have been executed and whether or not consultants know sufficient about how finest to stop youth suicide in a state with one of many highest charges within the nation.

“The issues that have been taking place ran deep in his coronary heart,” mentioned his mother, Samie Hardman. “I don’t know that we knew simply how deep. For him to assume he needed to finish his life … I simply … I can’t. All of us beloved him a lot, and now he’s gone. We’d executed every little thing, however he’s gone.”

Drayke, who was in seventh grade at a Tooele constitution and whom his mother affectionately referred to as her “little blue-eyed love,” had a ardour for magic tips and a dream of turning into the shortest ever NBA star. He died on Feb. 10, and his dad and mom are actually talking out in regards to the tragedy.

His loss of life is the second baby suicide to rock Utah within the final three months, with each children startlingly younger.

In November, 10-year-old Izzy Tichenor died. Izzy’s mother has mentioned that her daughter was bullied by classmates for being Black and autistic. She says she reported her considerations to Davis College District and was repeatedly dismissed. The district had, simply weeks earlier than, been referred to as out by federal investigators for ignoring critical stories of racism from its college students.

(Rick Bowmer | AP) Brittany Tichenor-Cox, holds a photograph of her daughter, Isabella “Izzy” Tichenor, throughout an interview Monday, Nov. 29, 2021, in Draper, Utah.

Many have seen Izzy’s suicide as half of a bigger sample of an issue within the state with discrimination. The 2 deaths have been met by communitywide mourning but additionally calls for for extra psychological well being sources for Utah faculties.

Samie Hardman mentioned she’s nervous about what children are going through and fears extra could possibly be struggling. She knew her son was being bullied, she mentioned, and she or he and her husband tried to step in and assist him.

When it first began, Drayke would divulge heart’s contents to them and his two older sisters a bit about what was taking place. However, because it continued, Hardman mentioned, he stopped speaking.

He got here dwelling from faculty someday just lately with a blue and purple bruise taking form round his eye. When she requested how he bought it, Hardman mentioned, Drayke shrugged. “Snitches get stitches,” she remembers him saying.

(Hardman household) Pictured is 12-year-old Drayke Hardman, who died on Feb. 10, 2022.

Bullying at college

The bullying began a couple of 12 months in the past, Hardman mentioned, and it was bodily and psychological and emotional.

She and her husband have been proactive, she added, calling the varsity as quickly as they came upon about it from Drayke. Hardman mentioned the directors there stepped in instantly.

They investigated and took motion. The bully was briefly suspended from class. And his dad and mom have been knowledgeable.

Hardman mentioned she appreciates the varsity’s response and isn’t positive how they might have dealt with the state of affairs in another way. She doesn’t blame the workers there.

The truth is, Drayke beloved the varsity and the staff. Hardman mentioned he used to stroll into the entrance workplace most mornings, throwing his elbow on the counter in a suave transfer, and declare, “I hope you all have a very good day.”

The college put out an announcement final week, saying it’s “enormously saddened” by Drayke’s loss of life. The principal famous: “As a college we take bullying very critically and our objective is at all times to guard our college students and supply a protected faculty atmosphere.”

Even with the varsity getting concerned, although, the bullying didn’t finish. Hardman believes the bully retaliated after his suspension.

There have been mornings when Drayke refused to go to highschool as a result of he mentioned he was afraid. He would keep cuddled up within the blankets on his dad and mom’ mattress — the place he often demanded to be tickled, his mother recalled with a smile — and skip first interval. Generally, after that, he could possibly be satisfied to go in and end out the remainder of his lessons. Generally not.

Hardman mentioned she requested Drayke each day when he bought dwelling whether or not it was a very good day or a nasty day and inspired him to speak as a lot as she may. They spoke brazenly about suicide, she mentioned, as consultants say to do. And he or she mentioned Drayke informed her that he was not eager about it.

She additionally signed him as much as see a therapist on the faculty to assist, too.

However there have been different indicators that he was withdrawing, she mentioned, and she or he believes now that because the bullying bought worse, Drayke hid lots of it.

She questions what else she may have executed to step in, feeling like she did what medical doctors suggest. Ought to she have pressed Drayke extra? Or do consultants want to review extra methods to stop suicide in children? Are there different interventions that could possibly be thought-about?

Presently in Utah, suicide is the main explanation for loss of life for teens ages 10 to 17. Hardman doesn’t need her monster-truck-loving, superhero-obsessed son to turn into only a statistic.

A special response

It’s unusual for teenagers to die by suicide earlier than the teenager years, and due to that, it’s typically not studied as a lot.

However the American Psychological Affiliation mentioned in a latest report that roughly 30 suicides between the ages of 5 to 11 happen per 12 months in the USA. And there may be concern it could possibly be turning into extra prevalent, too, together with amongst 12- and 13-year-olds.

Consultants typically warning towards drawing a direct conclusion about what brought about a baby to die by suicide, together with bullying. However the American Psychological Affiliation does acknowledge that, greater than adults, these sort of circumstantial components can typically have the next affect.

Hardman believes that’s why her son took his life. And now she and her household are pushing to stop different children from dying by suicide.

She mentioned it’s the one manner she’s in a position to transfer ahead proper now and never be swallowed by her ache.

Her focus is on a shortcoming in present approaches to addressing bullying and suicide that haven’t any significant strategy to interact with the bully — not simply the bullied.

In her case, she watched for all of the indicators in her son, and tried to assist Drayke.

However so far as she is conscious, she mentioned, the bully wasn’t coached on the best way to be sort and cease his hurtful conduct. Even in her grief, Hardman mentioned, she’s nervous about her son’s bully now and if he’s getting the assist he wants.

She needs these whom a college finds to have instigated bullying to be required to speak to a counselor as a part of their self-discipline, as an alternative of simply being suspended. She thinks that will higher serve the bully and have a much bigger affect on ending the harassment. Hardman mentioned the prevention can’t all be executed on the aspect of the sufferer.

Amy Steele-Smith, a bullying prevention specialist with the Utah State Board of Schooling, mentioned the concept may work. She mentioned all college students want connections and relationships at college.

“Not simply the sufferer of bullying must have somebody to speak to and join with, however a person who’s engaged in bullying as properly,” Steele-Smith mentioned.

The state board just lately up to date its guidelines to enhance how bullying is investigated in faculties. Each district and constitution is now required to have a chosen workers member to guide investigations and talk with dad and mom all through the method.

“We’re at all times trying to enhance and do higher at this,” Steele-Smith mentioned. “We’ve bought to for our youngsters.”

Hardman and her household are calling for extra training funding from the state to go towards psychological well being in faculties, together with hiring extra therapists. They’ve began a marketing campaign with #DoItForDrayke, which Drayke’s sisters got here up with. It has trended nationally, been picked up by Utah Jazz gamers and had hundreds of thousands of shares from the unique publish.

(Courtesy Utah Jazz) Heart Rudy Gobert receives his All-Star ring from the household of Drayke Hardman earlier than the Feb. 14 sport towards the Houston Rockets.

Remembering Drayke

Drayke was the sort of child with no sense of stranger-danger, Hardman recalled with amusing. It made her nervous as a mother, but it surely was additionally a part of her son’s appeal.

She mentioned he’d go as much as anybody and do a magic trick or strike up a dialog about Spider-man and the Flash, his favourite superheroes, or spout out a enjoyable reality about basketball. Drayke was obsessive about Muggsy Bogues, the shortest participant to ever to compete within the NBA. He was 5 toes, 3 inches tall. Drayke joked that he would have the document beat, standing at 4 toes, 9 inches.

Whereas some children hope to develop tall, he didn’t wish to acquire any greater than 5 inches, Hardman mentioned.

Drayke performed for a Junior Jazz workforce and was teased by his coach when he congratulated the opposite workforce with high-fives for his or her three-point photographs. He dreamed of enjoying alongside Utah Jazz participant Donovan Mitchell.

His mother had dreamed of cheering him on.

They beloved getting ice cream collectively. Drayke’s favourite taste was Play Dough. They used to look at the “Harry Potter” motion pictures collectively. They hadn’t gotten to the final one but. However they’d gown up the Dobby statue on the entrance porch of their Tooele dwelling in a sock to match each vacation. When Drayke died, the sock had Valentine hearts on it.

He relished tormenting his older sisters and driving within the automotive with them, belting out “Child” by Justin Bieber. “He didn’t like the rest Justin Bieber, simply that music,” his mother clarified, figuring out Drayke can be embarrassed with out that be aware.

And together with his dad, he’d do something outside, looking, fishing and rockhounding.

At Drayke’s funeral, the partitions have been stuffed with foolish photos of the boy, protruding his tongue, making the duck face, hugging his canine, Halo. In a single, he squinted within the brilliant mild of the solar. In one other, he clung tight to his backpack, together with his blonde hair completely gelled again the best way he favored, smiling on the primary day of college.

The household shared a photograph taken at his service, hoping to boost consciousness of suicide and present the affect on the individuals who beloved him.

Lots of the images displayed there had been included in Hardman’s first social media publish about Drayke’s loss of life. She had debated whether or not she needed to publicly share what occurred. At 3 a.m., hours after leaving the hospital, she determined she needed to.

“A variety of instances, as a dad or mum, you wish to hold it hush-hush with suicide,” she mentioned. “However that simply performs into the stigma round this. We now have to speak about it. We should speak about bullying and suicide.”

She needs individuals to see Drayke’s face and what was misplaced.

(Rachel Amy Images) Pictured is the funeral for Drayke Hardman, who died at age 12 on Feb. 10, 2022.