Seven years ago on my early visits to India I learned about the spirit of suicide. It was never something I thought of as being a spirit until my experience there. I certainly never imagined I would be praying against a spirit of suicide in our own communities here in the USA.
I took this photo at the Community Prayer Vigil for teenager Jennifer Peralta, a 7th grade student at Avalon Middle School in our Community in East Orlando, Florida who committed suicide this weekend.
This is the second teen suicide in our community in recent months. The silhouette of mourning which I encountered when I arrived was a heart breaking gathering of very young teens, dressed in black, holding candles which outlined their shocked and tear streaked faces. They gathered on the steps and the stage of our local park ampi-theatre, in memory of Jennifer. In the dusk, the sound of children sobbing was painful.
This, in a community which appears so perfect. A mom standing next to me commented “so much plastic, hiding so much pain!” I could not have expressed it better.
Next to me a young twelve year old girl sobbed in the arms of a class mate. I touched her shoulder, she turned and clung to me – a stranger – her whole body sobbing against me in grief. She was one of Jennifer’s best friends.
Jennifer’s Pastor addressed the crowd and then prayed.
Jennifer’s aunt spoke on behalf of the family. She thanked the children who had been a friend to Jennifer, she asked all children to talk to someone if they are being bullied or intimidated on the internet or at school, then spoke out strongly to bullies. “Let this be enough” she pleaded.
Last week, I met with a seventh grader from Avalon Middle School who was contemplating suicide. Tonight I shuddered thinking she could have been a third. The day we met she was wearing “orange” for National Bullying Prevention Day – Wednesday October 22nd. She had experienced bullying in the short months since attending the middle school. She told me, on Orange Day almost everyone at school was wearing orange, except a few bullies who wore black. I was amazed at their audacity.
My young friend has experienced rejection, abandonment and bullying in recent months. She left our meeting wearing a Butterfly pendant and a smile. She told me she was no longer going to believe she was a caterpillar, but that God had made her a beautiful butterfly and that was how she would live. I pray the Holy Spirit will guard her heart and mind from the lies and pain of her circumstances and restore her hope in life with Jesus! I am now anxious to see her again this week!
Yesterday another young teen told me about the pressure she is under to buy drugs from girl peers at our local High School, which she joined in August. If she says no to the drugs, she risks bullying and pressure. She has stepped down from band activities to avoid the bullies. The teachers have no other solution.
My own niece experienced severe bullying at school. It was a deeply painful time for her, and for our family. My heart goes out to teenagers who are suffering silently from internet or school bullying. I wonder how many children are being harassed and bullied that we don’t know about?.
Wearing Orange is a good statement, but it did not prevent Jennifer taking her life.
We need prayer. We want to provide a place at Love UnVeiled where teens can talk and be safe. We need to address the” identity” issues and insecurities among our teenagers which Hollywood magazines, movies and the internet are feeding through “dark side” propaganda. And most of all we need to pray against the spirit of suicide which is taking over our country.