|Our daughter Cassie was all of the above. What made her so special
is what made her vulnerable. It was clear to anyone who took the
time to get past Cassie’s initial shyness, that she was a special person.
Her sense of wonder, glowing smile and radiant love were irrepressible.
As such, she received all of the love and caring from her immediate, extended
family and true friends that any human being could possibly receive.
However, as a social being, she also needed to be accepted in this world
by her “peers.”
To Cassie, everyone was her peer. She was non-judgmental, tolerant
and accepting of others. Unfortunately, some of her “peers” were
much less tolerant and accepting of Cassie. These “peers” tormented
Cassie with incessant teasing. She internalized this teasing and
forgave her tormentors, never seeking help or sympathy from others.
She was hospitalized in the summer of 2004 for depression. We
were unaware of the full extent of the teasing. After reviewing options
with the doctors and Cassie, it was mutually decided to let Cassie enter
10th grade at the same high school she had attended for 9th grade.
Quite simply, we all felt that Cassie’s special qualities would prevail
and like Cassie, we believed in the good in people. In short, we
simply couldn’t comprehend anyone purposely and maliciously trying to harm
our special Cassie.
Unfortunately, as we have now learned, Cassie’s “peers” weren’t such
good people and the teasing continued. At a minimum, we now know
the teasing began in 8th grade and continued until her untimely death on
January 15, 2005, while in 10th grade at the age of 15. As stated
earlier, special people like Cassie are vulnerable. Moreover, they
are especially vulnerable during their teenage transition years.
It is unclear what came first, the depression or the teasing.
What is clear is that Cassie was a special person, who was teased by some
very not so special people. By any measure, the teasing was at least
a contributing factor to Cassie’s depression.
There are many special children in this world. Their special qualities
bring along vulnerabilities. We wouldn’t change a thing about our
special Cassie. What we would change is the teasing she and others
have endured and provide better awareness and coping resources for depression.
Toward that end, we support the Bully Police’s efforts to get individual
state and national anti-bullying/teasing laws passed and NAMI (the National
Alliance for the Mentally Ill). We must provide school administrators
and faculty with the ability to protect our special children. Well-balanced
laws that protect our children have been passed in other states and there
is no reason for Wisconsin to wait any longer. We must also remove
the stigma associated with mental illness, so that it will be easier for
children to come forward with their depression and to make insurance more
available to families to help their special children.