This article is part of the Here. Now. essay series, which seeks to de-stigmatize mental health treatment, and improve accessibility to treatment and support for teens and parents in metropolitan New York.
Police are investigating whether cyberbullying played a role in the tragic suicide of a teen this week. 18-year-old Brandy Vela shot herself in the chest at her Texas City, Texas home on Tuesday.
That day, Brandy’s sister, Jacqueline, 22, said her family received a strange text message from her that read, “I love you so much just remember that please and I’m so sorry for everything.”
Jacqueline heard the whole thing occur in the family house–saying it happened too fast for her to stop it:
“I heard someone crying so I ran upstairs and I looked in her room and she’s against the wall and she has a gun pointed at her chest and she’s just crying and crying and I’m like, ‘Brandy please don’t, Brandy no.’
I was in my parents’ room and I just heard the shot and my dad just yelled, ‘Help me, help me, help me.’”
Their dad, Raul Vela, told the Galveston County Daily News that his daughter was struggling with cyberbullying so severe that her bullies created fake Facebook profiles and social media posts that advertised “illicit activities” using his daughter’s phone numbers–despite her changing it multiple times and reporting the incidents to the police. Sadly, nothing could be done, as the the people behind it were anonymous.
Jacqueline told CNN how awful the bullying was, stating:
“They would say really, really mean things like, ‘Why are you still here?’ They would call her fat and ugly. She was beautiful, absolutely beautiful; the only thing people could find to pick on her was her weight.”
The Texas City Independent School District wrote a statement about Vela, saying she “had a lot of friends and was thought of warmly by her peers and teachers.”
“We have and will always cooperate with the police. If anyone knows anyone suspected of harassing Brandy, we need that information on that shared with the school and police. We take cyberbullying seriously and would penalize to the full extent of the law for any violations.”
As of now, Texas City Police Detectives are currently investigating the case to find out what happened. What a truly terrible thing to happen–I sincerely hope this story serves as a lesson to others that bullying had devastating consequences.
This post is part of the Here.Now series, which seeks to destigmatize mental health,
and is made possible by UJA-Federation of New York and The Jewish Board.
You can find other educational mental health resources here.