BILLINGS, Mont. — A Vermont man was in Billings on Tuesday on a mission to educate others about the devastating consequences of bullying. It’s a message that comes from the heart because he’s a father who lost his teenage son, after bullies targeted him.
“Ryan was a typical 13-year-old, if you had met you would’ve never guessed that what happened to him would be his future,” John Halligan said. Ryan’s future would be a grim and sad one. On October 7th of 2003, 13-year-old Ryan Halligan took his life.
It started with a childhood bully, who wouldn’t leave him alone and at one point befriended him. “The kid shared something very personal that Ryan had told him and the kid used it against it and spread a rumor around school that my son was gay,” John said.
Ryan tried to manage situation on his own. He got online and thought a popular girlfriend would be his way out of the bullying and then a bombshell dropped on him. “It turned out that she had only been joking with him online, and she and her friends thought it would be funny to pretend to be his girlfriend.” Ryan then took his own life after being cyberbullied and it devastated his family.
“This is the worst thing that could ever happen to a parent. And when you get to that point of realizing the worst has happened, where do you go from here? And I saw this as an opportunity to make a huge difference in Ryan’s memory to honor his life.”
And he has, taking action to help pass the Vermont Bully Prevention Bill in 2004, pushing for mandatory suicide prevention education in public schools, and traveling across the country speaking to students. But he says at every school he goes to, there’s a Ryan in that audience. “I cant tell you how many times I’ve got an e-mail from a kid, who says I was thinking of suicide, but after I heard Ryan’s story I decided not to.” Full story.