The family of Dan James Richards, a 16-year-old Iowa teenager who died by suicide, is speaking out against bullying, which they believe played a factor in Dan’s death.
Dan, affectionately known as “Little Dan” by his family, was the youngest of four siblings. He was just days shy of his 17th birthday when he died by suicide on May 30.
In his obituary, Dan, a high school sophomore, was described as “the ideal son.”
“He didn’t have a mean bone in his body,” his obituary read.
Mary Richards, Dan’s sister, told KCCI that her family was blindsided by her brother’s death.
While the family has many unanswered questions about Dan’s decision to take his own life, they know that bullying played a role.
“We would ask him, ‘Are you being bullied?’ and he would say, ‘Don’t worry about it. I’ve got it taken care of,’ or he’d just shrug,” Laura Dowda, Dan’s mother, told WXIN.
“So we knew he was being bullied, but he just didn’t want to make a big issue of it.”
Instead of celebrating his 17th birthday, Dan’s family prepared for his funeral.
“Today would’ve been little Dan’s 17th birthday. As a family, we would gather and do whatever he wanted to do. Instead, he was cremated this morning,” Richards wrote on Facebook.
In the midst of their grief, Dan’s family decided to go public about his suicide in hopes it will prevent other teens from taking their lives.
“The whole reason we are gathering here and doing this is to possibly prevent just one other person, one other teenager from doing this. And one other family from having to go through this pain because it’s the worst pain you could ever imagine,” Richards told WHO-TV.
In his obituary, the family addressed the bullies directly, wanting them to understand the role they played in Dan’s death.
“To the bullies out there who succeeded in making Dan feel worthless, he wasn’t. The family has no hard feelings towards you, and you are forgiven. Your actions are between you and God now.”
Richards told KCCI that in hindsight, the family wished they would have spoken more openly about the bullying her brother faced.
“We wish he would have talked to us about it more, because we didn’t realize how much of a problem it was until it was too late,” she said.
“I wish we would have asked more, too, and I wish people would have told us, as well, because other people knew about it, too.”
Richards knows that bullying is not limited to their small Iowa community and hopes her brother’s death will get people talking about bullying before it is too late.
“[Bullying is] not just [in] one place, it’s everywhere and it’s a true problem,” she said. “I’m happy we can get the word out and that people are talking about it.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741.
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