Sunday, September 20, 2015

Who is Peyton James, and Why Should You Care?

Peyton Andrew James was born on June 16, 2001 at St. Joseph's Hospital in Houston, TX.  He was two months premature and weighed slightly more than two pounds.  His parents, David and Jacki James were both in their mid 30's when Peyton was born, and both were educated, middle class Americans.  Both worked as teachers and tried to instill their love of learning in Peyton.

Peyton spent his early years in a three bedroom house in Tomball, a suburban bedroom community north of Houston.  He had his fair share of childhood illnesses including but not limited to ear infections, strep throat, and the flu.  At the age of four, his parents divorced.  At five, he started school and earned good marks; he learned to read and write; he learned to add, subtract, multiply and divide; he learned to say the pledge of allegiance; he learned about mammals, reptiles and fish; he learned about pilgrims and Indians; he learned how cruel kids can be to a boy with red hair and glasses; he learned that differences cold set you apart for harassment and torment.

After fourth grade, Peyton and his mother moved to Round Rock, a suburb of Austin.  There Peyton learned to deal with seeing his father less; he learned to make new friends; he learned new places to play and ride his bike; he learned that despite having moved 160 miles away from his old school, problems such as bullying and name calling had managed to follow him.  

Peyton left behind elementary school for middle school.  Unfortunately, his problems followed.  In fact, they got worse.  As the students developed into cliques and groups, Peyton was left on the outide looking in.  He wasn't athletic, so sports were out.  He wasn't musically inclined, so band and choir were out.  He possessed no real artistic ability, so that wasn't really an option either.  Peyton had a flair for the dramatic, so he gave theater class a go, but found that it wasn't to his liking.

What Peyton found to his liking narrowed his social options considerably.  He discovered his fondness for anime, Dr. Who, My Little Pony, video games and role playing games.  He did make friends, but not many.  They were loyal to each other, defended each other, played with each other and supported each other.

Before he entered 8th grade, Peyton and his mother moved to Georgetown, Texas.  Once again, Peyton had a chance for a new start, and once again, the old problems followed him.  One day, while sitting in the cafteria before school, Peyton committed the heinous crime of reading for pleasure.  an observant student noticed this, and quickly confronted Peyton about his faux pas.  So intent was this child on showing Peyton the error of his ways that he expanded the discussion to ridicule Peyton for his belief in God.  A frustrated Peyton reported this harassment to school administration, but they were unable or unwilling to help him.  That afternoon, Peyton went home, took his belt, and hung himself from his ceiling fan.  Five days later, this action would claim his life.

That folks is Peyton James in a nutshell.  Now the question remains, "Why should you care?"
That's easy because he was a human being.  He was a relatively good kid that had his fair share of problems and bad breaks.  He ended his life without warning or explanation.  Most of all, because he could be anyone you know.

That's something I have learned over time.  Suicide is non-discriminatory.  The major cause of suicide is illness.  Mental illness to be exact.  Like most illnesses, It doesn't care about your age, your race, your gender, or your socioeconomic status.  You can be the apple of your parents' eye, or the bane of their existence.  You may be the captain of the football team, or the kid in all black that skulks through the hall.  You may have clawed your way to the top of the ladder, or dwell at the bottom.   You may even be the bully or the bullied.  Just like cancer hits all, so does mental illness. But unlike cancer, no one is going to hold a bake sale to support your mental illness.  You will be treated more like a leper than a victim.

So why should you care?  Because it could happen to your friend, your classmate, your neighbor, your brother, your sister, your husband, your wife, your daughter or your son.  If any of the above were to come to you and confide they had an illness that could be terminal, would you urge them to seek appropriate medical help?  I would hope so.  So if they confide to you that they were suffering from a form of mental illness, would you do the same?

Keep in mind that Peyton could be any one, any time, any place.  That, is why you should care.