NAPLES, Fla. - Suicide is third leading cause of death for young people, according to the American Psychological Association. It's a sobering statistic.
Every kid from every school will eventually be a witness or a victim to bullying. But, what happens in the hallways and playgrounds often pales in comparison to the viciousness of cyberbullying. Sometimes, the emotional scars don't heal and the consequences can be fatal.
18-year-old Nick Shriver was about to graduate from Lorrenzo Walker Institute of Technology. He'd earned a scholarship to the University of Nebraska. His mom knew he was bullied in school. But, what she didn't know was just how bad the bullying was on social media until Nick took his own life.
Visit Nick Shriver's Twitter account today and you'll read in the description, "Aspiring adventurer... Murdered by Cyberbullying."
"Now, the kids are so connected, Nick didn't have a chance," his mother Arlene Shriver said.
Three years ago, WINK News interviewed Nick and his "Big Brother" Bob Doher from the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. It was a bright spot in the teen's life, a teen who loved ROTC and and was proud to wear the uniform.
"I had a lot of anxieties," Nick Shriver said in June 2011. "I used to not be able to go up to a counter and ask for something, sweating bullets. Now, I am sitting here in front of a camera."
Fast forward to this year. Now 18-years old, Nick was motivated and worked out twice a day with dreams of a military career. Yet, he struggled with inner turmoil and cruel words posted to him on his social media pages:
"She will never want you."
"We'd be happier when you're gone."
"You're a fat, broke loser."
There were cries for help such as posts on twitter about bullying and even suicide. But, April 15th, the weight of the words finally became too much to handle. He wrote his mom a note and made his final call for help.
Operator: 911, what is your emergency?
Nick Shriver: I'd like to report a suicide.
Operator: Sir, are you the person who is thinking about this?
Nick Shriver: Yeah... I've just had a big problem for 9 years and i'm just tired. I tried to change myself but I just can't seem to do it."
Operator: You're still really young. You've got so much ahead of you.
Minutes later, Nick Shriver shot himself in his backyard.
Nick's mother Arlene read the note out loud: "I wanted to change so bad. But, I always couldn't no matter how I tried and I'm just tired now. I'm afraid i won't amount to anything."
She reads the note he left her when she wakes up, when she goes to bed, and when she needs strength. "I'm no longer just a mother," Arlene said in tears. "I am a mother of a boy who committed suicide. That's my new identity. I'm no longer the mother of Nicholas Shriver, who is going to college, who just got a scholarship."
How do hurtful words come to this? Child Psychiatrist Dr. Omar Rieche says it's a societal problem.
"Certainly there are many times in which a teenager may have future and may actually have a tremendous potential, but they're so caught in the moment and that's part of being a teenager," Rieche said. The Central Nervous System is still developing we know."
"It's not a matter of just the school," Rieche continued. "It's a matter of parents. In talking to parents everyday, I talk about having those boundaries, those guideposts, those controls to not have kids have full access to electronics and internet media sites that really cause them to have, with ease, a way of communication, whether it be good communication or really unhealthy bad communication."
"We lost a special man," Arlene Shriver said.
She hopes this is a wakeup call to parents, bullies, and those who are bullied themselves. "When Nick e-mailed his teachers and graduating class, his message was, 'do not be a bystander."
"Why don't we support each other and people who can't stand up for themselves. You see someone bullying somebody? Stand up."
Naples Police detectives interviewed students and checked Nick's social network activity but concluded there was no evidence that bullying directly led to his suicide.
We reached out to the Collier County School District. They said:
"We were deeply saddened to learn of Nick Shriver's passing. Immediately after hearing the news, the district office dispatched a Crisis Team to provide counseling and support to students and staff. Neither school (Naples or Lorenzo Walker Technical High School) has ever received a report about bullying that may have been experienced by the young man.
After his passing, it was brought to the attention of the principal of Lorenzo Walker that there were anonymous comments made via social media. We continue to educate students, parents, and the community as a whole regarding resources available to students who may be experiencing bullying or are aware of incidents of bullying.
Bullying resources are available on the district website. We encourage any student experiencing or witnessing such behavior to report the incident or incidents via the resources available. (Online resources may be found at www.collierschools.com/students/bullying/.)
While parents, teachers, and peers are usually the first to learn of alleged bullying, school counselors are the first point of intervention. When a counselor is made aware of a situation, the counselor responds. We want to, again, encourage any student to report any incidents of bullying.
If you're strugging with bullying, you can find additional help at:
You can also contact the Collier County Sheriff's Office anonymously to report bullying. Using the keywords DNTH8 (don't hate), you can text a tip to 274637 (c-r-i-m-e-s).