Hayden was your typical 12-year-old boy. He loved his friends, his family, being outdoors, running around, going to school, and, of course, Fortnite.

But, when COVID hit the world, he started to lose these things. He couldn’t see his friends, he couldn’t go to school and, in an act of anger, he broke his computer monitor so he also couldn’t play Fortnite.

Now, to parents, this doesn’t seem like a big deal. I mean, it’s only a game. But to a 12-year-old boy, it is a big deal. It’s huge.  As his father, Brad, shares in a very emotional video, it was the final tipping point that caused Hayden to do the unthinkable.

Distressing Content: This video and story discuss suicide but, please, take the time to watch it, for Hayden’s sake. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in kids aged 10-14 and it’s so important we are one step ahead of our kids to prevent these types of tragedies from happening again.
Hayden social isolation suicide
Texas tween Hayden hung himself just 4 days before his 13th birthday, Source: Hayden’s Corner

‘My son died from the coronavirus… but not in the way you think’

Hayden was not sick. He was also not bullied. Hayden did not struggle with depression nor did he have a history of mental health problems. He was a normal healthy and happy kid who was unprepared for social isolation. 

After three months of being home, without the emotional outlets and normality he was used to, he broke. He made a horrible decision, acting on impulsive emotions, and he hung himself.

His eight-year-old sister found Hayden and immediately told their father, Brad. Despite trying to save his son, he couldn’t. Hayden died at just 12 years of old, 4 days shy of his 13th birthday. Now, just one week after losing his son, Brad reflects back on how social isolation and COVID played a role in leading Hayden to suicide.

 

Social isolation is hard enough for adults. It’s even harder for our kids.

In the video, we see a very emotional father, trying to make sense of his son’s death. He talks of Hayden – how great of a kid he was. He talks of his daughter and how proud he is of how she handled finding her big brother. But, mostly, he talks of how social isolation is impacting our kids, Hayden in particular.

Hayden socia isolation suicide
Hayden with his family – mum, dad, sisters, and dog. Source: Hayden’s Corner

As Brad explains, Hayden, like millions of kids his age, loved his Fortnite. It was his escape, his outlet to actually talk to his friends and probably his safe zone.

But back in February, he got mad at Fortnite and threw the controller at the screen. The screen broke. Hayden spent the next two months, while in isolation, doing chores around the house to make the money to buy another one. He saved up the money and bought a new one.

The tipping point 

However, just hours before he took his life, he threw the controller again, and, once again, broke the screen. It was this event, Brad believes, – exacerbated by social isolation – that set his son off.

In a rash of emotion and anger at himself and probably scared to get in trouble, embarrassed,  and all of these emotions, he went into his closet and he did something I know he regrets.”

Hayden’s birthday was in four days and he was going to get a new controller.

When he broke his monitor, I think he felt like it ruined his birthday. He already couldn’t have a birthday party due to social isolation

These are the things you look forward to as a kid. Then you break your monitor and you aren’t able to use your birthday present. You can’t go and see your friends, and you can’t go to [soccer] and run it all out. 

Kids don’t have the skills to deal with [these emotions]. We as a society, me as a parent, we haven’t given them all the tools to properly handle it.”

Brad thinks it was an accumulation of social isolation and loaded emotions that led his son into the closet. He also firmly believes Hayden didn’t mean to go through with it – but he did.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for 10-14 yr olds is suicide.

50% of suicides have no previous signs.

Hayden could be any of our kids. Honestly, he could be my ten-year-old son, who, just yesterday did the EXACT same thing with his controller. He threw it in a fit of rage and nearly broke the screen. He’s been banned from Playstation until further notice and thus spent a half-hour crying in his room acting like his life was over.

But here is the difference – My son went to school this morning. He will see his friends and run around at lunch and have an outlet for all those built-up emotions and extra energy.

For kids like Hayden in America, this isn’t the case yet. COVID is still very active and there is no end in sight. Thank goodness our kids will have some sense of routine and normality back. But this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be aware that this sort of thing can happen.

We know to be aware of any bullying that could be taking place and to limit their social media activity. But, parents, this is a whole new level of concern. This is an impulsive act that could very well be a reaction to social isolation – something we cannot control.

What we can control is how we help them through it, even now as we transition into a more social environment.

  • Talk to them.
  • Share your own emotions and thoughts even if they roll their eyes.
  • Make sure they are okay.
  • Force them to go for walks with you.
  • Help them find a routine at home, to keep busy, to keep active, to have a sense of purpose.

As Brad reminds us, social isolation is hard enough for adults, but it’s even harder for our kids.

I know my son would be alive today if he had been in school, around friends, in soccer. The human condition is not total and complete isolation.”

Hayden suicide social isolation
Source: Hayden’s Corner

Hayden’s Corner

Since Hayden’s death, Brad has set up Hayden’s Corner, an organisation to fund and provide K to 12 schools, students, parents, and school systems with learning content focused on social and emotional development for youth. It will also support nonprofit organisations focused on gaming and technology psychology, addiction, and abuse among children and young adults.

Please also see our previous stories on suicide to be aware of the signs to watch out for in your tweens and teens.

If you or anyone you know needs help, below are a few hotlines you can call:

Author

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

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