As this week comes to close and recapping some stories in the news, one of them that made national headlines was about a teenager who committed suicide, after nude photos of her leaked online. The incident sparked many open conversations and debates online about social media and the culture of it, bullying online and how to protect children/teenagers from it; and suicide as a whole.
Lets get to the story and then review some of the important highlights of these debates.
Referencing a published article on June 8th and updated on June 10th from WFLA,
Fifteeen year old Tovonna Holton (pictured below) went into her mother's purse, took her gun and killed herself. Tovanna's mother, Levon Holton-Teamer sent the teen to clean her room, for some reason she went looking for her daughter (intuition perhaps) and went to the bathrrom, only to find out her daughter killed herself.
Below is a statement Levon made to WFLA upon finding her daughter,
"I go to the bathroom; I couldn’t get in the bathroom. The bathroom light was off so I tried to get in and I looked down and I saw the puddle of blood. I tried to apply the pressure, the pressure to her head. I tried to save her."
Prior to Tovonna killing herself, she expressed to her mother about a nude picture of her that her friends took without her permission. Not going into details about the situation with her mother, this what Levon recalls about the conversation with her daughter below.
"Tovonna would say, ‘Mommy, I owe them; I owe them’. I said, ‘What do you mean you owe them?’ I couldn’t understand what was wrong."
The nude photo was posted on Snapchat. Tovonna Holton was freshman who attended Wiregrass Ranch High School in Wesley Chapel. After Tovonna's passing, her aunt, Angela Scott went on Facebook to try and figure out if anybody knew why her niece committed suicide and found out a nude picture of Tovanna surfaced online while she was in the shower.
“I just said, ‘If anybody knows anything, what happened? Have you heard of anything? Do you know who these kids are who have the pictures?’ I thought it was just pictures and then the kids started inboxing me."
Angela Scott also learned, that her niece Tovonna was being bullied online with name callings from her peers.
“Everybody was out there talking about her and calling her names and they said it went up on social media, Snapchat. I’d never heard of that before about 3 something that afternoon."
After the altercations of the name calling, Tovonna comitted suicide.
Since the incident, an investigation has begun by the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, after school officials heard about the bullying that took place prior to Tovanna killing herself. The school also provided counseling to any of its students that might of been affected by Tovanna's suicide. Also, an online campaign awareness about bullying launched to raise awareness about its issues with the hashtag #stopbullying.
Along with the investigation to try to piece together what led to Tovanna Holton committing suicide, many psychologist, psychiatricts, counselors, school teachers and others have shared their professional opinions about the matter. It has also sparked many debates as I stated at the beginning of this article. Bullying is something that has been around for awhile, the difference with it online is some people who wouldn't the guts to approach others in real life to bully them, can easily hide behind a computer or laptop and do it. Most bullies, if not all are really weak people who prey on others to feel empowered or feel better about themselves with issues they are affecting with within themselves (insecurity) and sometimes, issues in their environment or lacking something from within themselves or environment that causes them to take out on other people. This part of the debate I do agree with. In Tovanna's case, the bullying and the her nude pictures being posted online might have been the triggering factor of her committing suicide, however, she has been suicidal for awhile, or depressed or had some type of mental issues that went un-notice. The nude pictures is what sent her over the edge.
Mental health is a taboo subject in the Black community, nobody wants to talk about it. Some are very ashamed of it. And some of the reasons are Black people have to be strong because of the things they have dealth with and endure for example: oppression, racism, stereotype, trying to survive in a society that's built on a racist structure against them and etc. Even in the professional world of psychology, its taboo. A Black psychiatrist treating a Black mental health patient (as illustrated in the above picture) will tell them they have to be strong or stronger, instead of trying to find out the cause that's making this person depress, suicidal and etc. It's not so much sweeping it under the rug, it almost denial and putting a bandaid on it without treating the wound (maybe that is sweeping it under the rug). The therapy becomes ineffective for the patient and no form of rehabilitation to try to get them back on track.
It's really a sad case with happened to Tovonna Holton and hopefully, it opens the forum to find solutions about online bullying, to research more about suicide and signs that go undetected. Also, to break down the walls that prohibit mental health professionals from looking deeper into mental health issues, instead of prescribing medications as a form of treatment, which at times makes matter worst. As well as, open the forum of mental health in the Black community, researching the issues, causes and etc., instead of denying it.
Prayers and condolences to the family.
Article Reference: WFLA