A 12-year-old died by suicide, now his family is hoping to create change

Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 11:35 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 18, 2022 at 10:51 AM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Members of the St. Johnsbury community and surrounding areas are showing their support for a local family after their son died by suicide.

More than a thousand people in St. Johnsbury and the surrounding area have joined the Noah’s Act community on Facebook. Many people on it are posting pictures in pink to show support as well as push for legislative action.

It’s been less than one week since Tommy Stone and Desiree Hawkins’ son, Noah, died by suicide. He made the attempt on November 6th, eventually passing away in the hospital on November 12th. Now she’s already on a mission to make sure no one else has to endure the same pain “Noah is my 12-year-old son who was bright, smart, an honor roll student in school, caring, kind, and loved everyone to a fault,” Hawkins said.

Stone and Hawkins are hoping the Legislature will take up what she calls “Noah’s Act.” It includes a detailed plan of how schools should handle bullying. His parents say Noah was often the victim of bullying for a variety of reasons, but that the school never handled it. They say often times the bully in question was just spoken to, facing no real repercussions, which allowed it to continue during and outside of school hours.

The act would also include a requirement for basic first aid and CPR classes for students. “Also, suicide prevention in the school through all grades, teaching them the appropriate connection and outreaches to make that call if they’re struggling,” Hawkins said.

Representative Scott Beck, R-St. Johnsbury, says this is something he’d be happy to discuss with the family further, saying mental health resources in Vermont are still lacking. “Whether the root of it is school or the root is somewhere else, it comes through the schools at one point or another,” Beck said. “Many have hired mental health counselors and they’d probably like to hire more.”

After his attempt, Noah was found by a group of kids, including his lifelong best friend, Rhys Goshie. They performed CPR until police stepped in to help. “Noah that day was a little off, pushing everyone away,” Goshie said. “But I didn’t really realize it.”

While no one will ever know what was going through Noah’s head, Goshie says he expects the stigmas surrounding suicide and mental health kept him from reaching out for help. “We, our parents got mad at us quite a few times, got grounded from each other, but nothing could break us apart,” Goshie said. “I mean, nine years best friends. I wouldn’t take anyone over him.”

While Noah’s family and friends are hoping to see real change, right now they’re just grateful for the support. “Be a voice. Help put an end to this stigma and the bullying around,” Hawkins said. “I don’t want another parent to go through what we are.”

We spoke with members of the St. Johnsbury school community, who say the loss is unfathomable. The district is currently looking for a school psychologist, but officials say they’re having a hard time finding one. Channel 3 reached out about the bullying allegations and has yet to hear back.

Vermont Department of Health Injury Prevention Manager Stephani Busch says symptoms adolescents may be facing a crisis are similar to those in adults. She says things to watch for include mood swings, talking about wanting to die or feeling like a burden.

Busch says if that’s the case, ask them if they’re thinking about suicide. Despite popular belief asking will plant the idea, research says otherwise. “What research has shown is that if someone does ask if someone is thinking about suicide, that is an opportunity for that person to say yes and it can actually be really helpful,” Busch explained.

The next step would be connecting them to help. Busch suggests calling 988 with them to get started with resources.