Monday, December 18, 2017
Editorials

Teen's suicide puts focus on cyber-bullying

The suicide of 16-year-old high school sophomore from Hudson provides a tragic illustration of the emotional abuse too frequently heaped upon children by cyber bullies.

Jessica Laney, a student at Fivay High School, ignored her friends' advice to shut down her account at a social networking site that allows anonymous posting. Instead, she replied to the insults head on and appeared bubbly and happy to her friends. But, Sunday evening she hanged herself, becoming the sixth child to commit suicide in Pasco County this year. The Sheriff's Office is investigating her death, but said the teenager had not reported the Internet taunting to school authorities and there was no evidence she was bullied in school.

However, her on-line account at ask.fm showed messages that characterized the slender, popular soccer player as fat and friendless and urging her to die. A 15-year-old friend told Times staff writer Erin Sullivan that Laney had battled depression in the past.

Her death has renewed a call for victims to report cyber-bullying and for parents to be vigilant in monitoring their children's on-line activities. Mental health experts note easy access to social media can encourage children to act in isolation rather than having personal contact with others.

Awareness is the key. Troublesome signs that parents should look for include fatigue, anxiety, performing poorly in school, disinterest in favored hobbies or sports, and radical changes in eating or sleeping habits.

Suicide isn't just a problem among adolescents. To recognize suicide prevention month in September, law enforcement and mental health advocates released statistics showing Pasco County with a startling suicide rate of 19.8 per 100,000 people, or 50 percent higher than neighboring Hillsborough. The Pasco statistics reflected 256 self-inflicted deaths over a three-year period. Officials listed substance abuse and troubled combat military veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder as contributing factors.

Suicide is a communitywide issue that knows no socio-economic or demographic boundaries. Teenagers can lack the maturity and emotional development to make rational decisions. Adults in crisis may not recognize their own situations. If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, help is available. Take advantage of the assistance to prevent more grim statistics from compiling.

For help, call 911, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the National Alliance on Mental Illness Pasco information and referral line at (727) 992-9653 or Veterans Suicide Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255.

Comments
Looking back at 2017 through the eyes of editorial cartoonists

Looking back at 2017 through the eyes of editorial cartoonists

The annual Editorial Cartoon Round-Up is a thought-provoking recap of a momentous 2017. The gallery containing 32 cartoons from some of the best editorial cartoonists in the country is made available by the Washington Post News Service & Syndicat...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Editorial: Warren’s smart approach on guns, domestic violence

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren would make it safer for victims and police alike with his plan to remove firearms from defendants charged with domestic violence. These cases are toxic enough, and having guns at the ready only adds to a dang...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

The St. Petersburg City Council made the difficult but correct decision this week to reject the proposed sale of a local nonprofit’s minority stake in Bayfront hospital. Despite months of negotiations, there were too many questions, a few suspicions ...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Here’s a snapshot of misplaced priorities in Washington. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission foolishly rushed to scrap net neutrality rules and allow internet service providers to treat different content differently despite overwhelming ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

With misconduct allegations rippling through all levels of government, Gov. Rick Scott has taken the prudent step of ordering uniform sexual harassment policies throughout state agencies. The executive order strengthens protections for victims, which...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

For three years, the only news about finances at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry was bad news: "Struggling MOSI asks Hillsborough County for $400,000 loan," one headline read, "Audit sees MOSI finances slipping," read another, and "MOSI donor ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Published: 12/14/17

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17