There was an outpouring of condolences on social media following the suspected suicide of a British Columbia teenager who last month posted a gut-wrenching video to YouTube of her treatment at the hands of relentless bullies.
Coroner Barb McLintock said Thursday night that preliminary indications suggest Amanda Todd, 15, took her own life one day earlier.
Todd posted a haunting, black-and-white, nine-minute video on Sept. 7 in which she doesn’t speak, but holds up a series of white pieces of paper with brief sentences in black marker.
On the papers, the teen explains that as a Grade 7 student, she was lured by an unidentified male to expose her breasts via webcam.
One year later, Todd said she got a message from him on Facebook, though she didn’t know how he knew her name or where to find her.
Todd’s notes said the man ordered her to “put on a show for me,” or he would send around the webcam pictures. Todd said he knew her address, her school, her friends and her family.
She said she was later alerted by police that he had followed through with the threat.
“I then got really sick,” she wrote.
She noted she was plunged into anxiety, major depression, drugs and alcohol. But the bullying didn’t stop. She said the man created a Facebook page with a list of her friends and school.
“My boobs were his profile picture,” she wrote.
“I can never get that photo back. It’s out there forever.”
Todd wrote that she eventually changed schools and things were better for a while. But she said an encounter with another girl’s boyfriend started the bullying again, this time worse. It escalated into a physical attack in which she said she was beaten and left in a ditch until her father found her.
She said she tried to kill herself twice, including once by drinking bleach, and constantly cut herself.
The video ends with her note: “I have nobody. I need someone.”
Beneath the video, though, Todd posted a note saying she produced it not for attention, but “to be an inspiration and to show that I can be strong.”
“Everyone’s future will be bright one day, you just gotta pull through. I’m still here, aren’t I?”
Coquitlam RCMP would only confirm a teenager had died in her home and the circumstances were not suspicious.
McLintock said a field coroner was on the scene and had consulted with a child death coroner, and while foul play was ruled out by Thursday morning, the service isn’t releasing information on how Todd died.
She said once the coroner’s report is written, the case will go to a child-death review, which is a second layer of review and is mandated by provincial legislation.
After that, it could be referred to a third level of review, run by a multi-disciplinary team that includes experts from the Ministry of Children and Family Development, the education system, public health as well as pediatrics.
It’s too early to say, though, if that will happen, she said.
McLintock said the corners service will try to look at any reasonable and practical recommendations that can be made to prevent future deaths in similar circumstances.
“This … case will involve probably quite a detailed look at this poor child and the background surrounding the potential, the alleged, possible bullying, and other things, too, I mean, her school, mental health, family friends, you know, all that stuff can be looked at,” she said.
There was no doubt in her mind, said McLintock, that the investigation will be “big” and “complex” all the way through.
McLintock said she watched the video, describing it as “very powerful,” and noting it speaks to the merging issues of cyber bullying and social media bullying.
Getting all the answers will take time, she reminded the public.
“I know people always want instant answers, but … this is a case very much where we want to be really thorough and make sure we get the right answers and the best recommendations even if it takes a bit longer,” said McLintock.
Meantime, Premier Christy Clark posted her video Thursday. In the grainy production, Clark said she had just heard about the death and wanted to pass on condolences.
“No one deserves to be bullied. No one earns it, no one asks for it, it isn’t a right of passage. Bullying has to stop. Every child, everyone needs to be able to feel safe at school.
“When we send our kids to school we need to know that they’re going to come home safe.”
Shock and sadness, but also anger, poured out on a Facebook page devoted to Todd.
“This is really sad,” read one post written by someone identified as Taylor Sjostrand.
“It was painful to see the kids who made fun of her write on her Facebook ‘RIP, you will be missed, we loved you.’ Why would you say that when YOU’RE the reason she’s gone. They have no remorse, let alone any idea what they did. ”
Another post, by someone writing as Nathan Mullin, noted the hypocrisy in the outpouring for Todd in death when there appeared to be little help for her in life.
“Where was all this support when she was suffering?” he wrote.
“I find it sad and disgusting that people care now that it is too late. It bothers me to no end when someone ends their life because of reasons like this and everyone says ‘Oh she was such a nice girl, so pretty and kind’ Well, where was everyone with the kind words when she needed help? Breaks my heart. By watching the video, all she seemed to want was someone to love and accept her.”
Cheryl Quinton, communications manager for the Coquitlam School District, confirmed Todd was a Grade 10 student at a small school in the area. Teachers were aware of the video and help was being provided, she said.
“Amanda was well-connected with the students and staff at that school,” Quinton said.
“Whenever there is a student death, our critical incident team. . . goes to the site and that was the case this morning. They’re helping staff and students through their grief and shock. We’ll provide counselling services there as long as is necessary.”
Irena Pochop is the communications manager for the Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows school district, east of Vancouver. She confirmed that Todd had been a student in the district, but had transferred to another school earlier this year.
When asked if the district knew whether Todd had been bullied, she said “school and community supports were in place” and that officials were informed of the girl’s death this morning.
“In a case where we are informed about a case of bullying, we take immediate action, and the process is very thorough. We liaise with the RCMP in some cases, we talk to parents, we offer counselling services, we set up a safety plan for the child. It’s a very significant process.”