LINDEN — Word spread quickly late last month when news of a 15-year-old middle school student died of an apparent suicide.
The community rallied around his family, doing all they could to help during this emotionally time. The National Police Defense Foundation even set up a memorial fund to help the family of Quadrique Pretlow pay for this teen’s funeral expenses. Initially no one understood why a 15-year-old would take his own life until claims of bullying surfaced.
Pretlow was a talented eighth-grader who loved people, the arts and to sing, dance and perform in plays. In fact, his mother said he sang Beyonce songs as he got ready for school in the morning. This teen even looked forward to performing someday in a Broadway musical. The question that hangs heavily in the air and unanswered is why Pretlow took his own life.
Teens who knew Pretlow eventually came forward to say he was bullied on social media and by other students. This news stunned his family, community and school officials alike but did little to answer the question of why a 15-year-old would end their life. Even the school district had no answers.
Saying the Linden school community was “deeply saddened” by the tragic death of the McManus Middle School eighth-grade student,” the district extended its heartfelt condolences to the teenager’s family, noting counseling support had been set up for students, staff and families at the school.
The school does have an Alliance Club open to all students striving to create an environment where teens can thrive regardless their race, ethnic background, sexual orientation or gender.
Meanwhile, Linden police and the Union County Prosecutor’s Office stepped in to investigate allegations of bullying while his mother, Quanesha, set up a fund to raise awareness about the bullying her son experienced. She wrote about this on her GoFundME page on the Internet.
“Qua was a gifted soul who loved to express himself through the arts. To know Qua was to love Qua. There will never be any answers or understanding as to why his life is over and I’m personally saddened and disappointed with myself. For all the good deeds I’ve done I let my most precious gift slip through my fingers as evident in the loss of my first born. May he rest in peace,” his mother wrote, adding she is hopeful that through donations she will be able to raise awareness and help teens who may be experiencing the same struggle as her son.
The tragedy of a young person dying because of overwhelming hopelessness or frustration is devastating to family, friends and community. Everyone is left wondering if they could have done something to prevent that young person from turning to suicide.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds, after accidents and homicides. It is also thought that at least 25 attempts are made for every completed teen suicide. Although suicide is rare among children, the rate of suicides and suicide attempts increase tremendously during adolescence.
The CDC noted that suicide rates differ between boys and girls, with girls thinking about and attempting suicide twice as often as boys and tend to attempt suicide by overdosing on drugs or cutting themselves. Boys, on the other hand, die by suicide about four times as often as girls, perhaps because they tend to use more lethal methods, such as firearms or hanging.
According to the CDC, it can be hard to remember how it felt to be a teenager, caught in the gray area between childhood and adulthood. There is pressure to fit in socially, academically and to act responsibility. Adolescence is also a time of sexual identity and relationships and a need for independence that often conflicts with the rules and expectations set by others.
Being aware of the warning signs that a teenager might be contemplating suicide is important. Some of the warning signs include talking about death or suicide, hinting they might not be around anymore, talking about feelings of guilt or hopelessness, pulling away from friends, giving away possessions to siblings or friends, changes in eating or sleeping habits and losing interest in school or sports.
Parents can keep a close eye on a teen that is depressed and withdrawn. Understanding depression in teens is very important since it can look different from commonly held beliefs about depression. In fact it my take the form of problems with friends, grades, sleep or being cranky and irritable rather than crying or chronic sadness.
It is important to keep the lines of communication open, the CDC explained, noting that parents should express concern, support and love.
“If your teen confides in you, show that you take those concerns seriously. A fight with a friend might not seem like a big deal to you in the larger scheme of things, but for a teen it can feel immense and consuming. It is important not to minimize or discount what your teen is going through,” the CDC advised.