Being a kid and learning how to interact with the world is a difficult path to navigate even when you’re perfectly healthy, let alone for the disabled.
That’s something that 10-year-old Kentucky student Seven Bridges knew all too well. He had endured 26 surgeries during his young lifetime, all in the name of keeping him alive and working towards a healthy future—and although he was a warrior and a fighter, it didn’t stop other kids from being mean to him.
I am a FULL TIME mom. I do EVERYTHING else on the side. I thought I would remind MYSELF & EVERYTHING on the side and…
Bridges was left home alone for just a short period of time one day in January when he decided to take his own life. And when his parents investigated the heartbreaking decision, they discovered that his fellow schoolmates had been far too cruel to someone pushing through adversity—and now they hope that his devastating story will teach other kids in the future to be a little bit nicer to one another.
Mom Tami Charles had gone on a quick run to the grocery store one day while her husband, Donnie Bridges, was at a church choir practice.
When the Fifth Grade pictures come back……. #SevenSTRONG
She had expected that their 10-year-old son would be safe to leave at home but discovered that it hadn’t taken much time alone for the distraught Seven to hang himself in his bedroom closet. His parents went on record after the incident, explaining that their fifth-grader had been subject to racial slurs and severe bullying while attending Kerrick Elementary School in their town of Louisville, Kentucky.
Seven had been born with a bowel condition, and the 26 subsequent surgeries that surgeons performed in an attempt to alleviate his affliction had been unsuccessful. He had spent years with a colostomy bag—and although he had the bag removed as he got older, his mother explained that he was still taunted for the smell that he sometimes emanated due to the condition.
“He just wanted to be normal, that’s all,” his mother told the news after his death.
In the months leading up to his death, Charles attempted to advocate for her son at school, explaining that he was gentle and wasn’t going to fight back when taunted. And although he complained to both of his parents that he’d been choked on the school bus and called racial slurs, the weeks leading up to his death didn’t seem to yield any improvement; if anything, Charles suggested, he was being taunted more for being “a snitch.”
Charles and her husband are profoundly heartbroken by what they’ve endured but do see a light at the end of the tunnel for themselves. According to WDRB, Charles sees herself getting involved in advocacy work in the future—looking to help other parents who have discovered that their children are the victims of bullying.
As for the schools, there’s still no clear outcome on what will happen to the Jefferson County Public School District as the Bridges parents consider filing against the district. But for Megan Barnett, who serves as the county chair of the Kentucky Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the biggest step towards making sure that no other students endure what Bridges did is to improve mental health access.
“While children who are involved in bullying, whether they are being bullied or bullying others, they are at an increased risk of suicide, and we need to get that population connected with mental health services,” Barnett explained. To her, there’s a lot that needs to be done to make things better—and hopefully, Bridges’s death will serve as a severe wakeup call in his home state.