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Amanda Todd Suicide: Jonah Mowry, U.S. Bullying Victim, Speechless After B.C. Teen's Death

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AMANDA TODD
Amanda Todd, 15, of Port Coquitlam, B.C., and Jonah Mowry, now 15, of Lake Forest, Calif., may have never met but both lived lives of torment at the hands of bullies. Both recounted their suffering through hand-written notes, flashed before video cameras and published online. | Myspace

VANCOUVER - Their pleas for help were strikingly similar but ended with tragically different results.

Amanda Todd, 15, of Port Coquitlam, B.C., and Jonah Mowry, now 15, of Lake Forest, Calif., may have never met but both lived lives of torment at the hands of bullies. Both recounted their suffering through hand-written notes, flashed before video cameras and published online.

They wrote about their loneliness, lack of friends and thoughts of suicide, yet only one remains alive.

The BC Coroners Service has said preliminary indications suggest Todd took her own life last Wednesday.

"I was kind of speechless," said Mowry, when he learned of Todd's death. "I kept thinking I wish I could have known her, I wish I could have talked to her, I wish I could have done something."

In the wake of Todd's death, victims of bullying across North America like Mowry and his parents and their friends are reliving their own experiences and offering advice on how to survive the torment and end the harassment.

The reactions come while RCMP investigators conduct interviews and review the factors that led to the death of the B.C. teen.

The tragedy also follows a ruling last month by the Supreme Court of Canada, which granted a Nova Scotia teenager, identified only as A.B., anonymity so she can pursue a lawsuit over a fake Facebook page that she alleges defamed her.

Only weeks before that ruling, Todd posted her nine-minute video on YouTube, in which she explained through hand-written notes how she exposed her breasts on a webcam to an unidentified man, and how those images ended up being sent to family and friends.

She described how she suffered anxiety, major depression and turned to drugs and alcohol and even tried to kill herself twice. The video ends with her note: "I have nobody. I need someone."

The video is eerily similar to one shot by Mowry almost a year earlier.

In his video shot before entering Grade 8, an often-tearful but silent Mowry describes through hand-written notes how he had been bullied since Grade 1 and how he had constant thoughts of suicide.

With only one friend left in his school because others were moving on to high school, Mowry describes the fear he felt of the approaching academic year, how people hated him and the names he was called.

Mowry, though, ends his video, which received national attention in the U.S., by saying he wasn't going anywhere and he has "a million reasons to be here."

"I learned not to care," said Mowry, reflecting on the experience. "I was probably made fun of on a daily occurrence but I just learned that it didn't matter to me."

He said he accepted himself for being gay, and is now involved in school activities like track and field.

Mowry said he was never successful with his suicide attempts because friends would sometimes text him and take his mind off the matter, and other times he would "get light headed."

"I just decided that I was going to try and make myself happier and killing myself wasn't the answer."

He said he then made the video, posting it first on a private YouTube channel, before placing it on Facebook.

Part of the problem, said Mowry, was he never felt like he could tell most of his teachers about the bullying, and the skills he was taught in school to deal with the bullies didn't work.

Facebook needs to monitor its site more effectively for issues like nudity, he added, and parents must watch for warning signs of depression and anti-social behaviour.

Therapy also helps, he said, because it gives children the chance to speak in a confidential environment.

"I think that putting your kid in therapy can be good for so many reasons," he said. "It takes away stress and it just gives them someone to talk to."

Parents can also plan family activities, like movie nights, to take their children's minds of the negativity at school, and they should also be monitoring their online activity.

Anna Mendez, a friend of the Mowrys who lost her 16-year-old son, Daniel, to suicide in May 2009 because of bullying, said the best way for the Todd family to function again is to do something that would make Amanda proud and try to further her cause.

"There is no healing," she said. "This is a wound that never heals."

Mendez, the president of the National Association of People Against Bullying, said children need more legal protection, noting adults are protected through harassment and abuse laws in the workplace, but those same protections aren't offered to children at school.

"If I were at work, nobody could pick me up and throw me into a trash can. I could sue them, and my manager couldn't say 'well, it happened in the hallway so I really didn't see it and I'm not responsible.'"

In Nova Scotia, meantime, Michelle Awad, who is the lawyer for A.B., said she was broken hearted when she heard of Todd's death, noting her client and Todd were both victims of cyberbullying.

According to court documents, A.B. was 15-years-old when she and her family tried to get Internet service provider Eastlink to reveal through a court order the identity of the person who allegedly set up the fake Facebook page.

The profile included a photo of A.B., a modified version of her name, and other identifying features, and an accompanying commentary included unflattering remarks about her appearance, as well as references that were sexually explicit.

Awad said A.B. is now 17, and she and the family have the customer information associated with the Internet account, which will, presumably, allow them to identify the bully.

"The law and the courts are protecting children as a class in our society," she said.

"So knowing that is the case should hopefully allow more people to take steps to unmask anonymous bullies and should deter anonymous bullies."

Are you in crisis? Need help? In Canada, find links and numbers to 24-hour suicide crisis lines in your province here.

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