A Birmingham family is in shock after their 9-year-old daughter took her own life. Now they want other parents to look for signs of bullying that would prevent them from experiencing the devastating loss they are now dealing with, AL.com reports.
Madison “Maddie” Whittsett was a vibrant fourth grader whose parents described as having a joyful heart and a love for others. Maddie’s family is now speaking out after the Alabama tween hanged herself in her bedroom closet, last Friday allegedly because of bullying. Maddie was rushed to Children’s of Alabama where she was pronounced dead Monday morning.
The tragic story of Maddie has her grieving family trying to find answers as well as giving hope to other parents in an effort to spare them the pain they’ve experienced.
“We don’t want this to happen to anyone else,’’ said Maddie’s stepfather, Birmingham Fire and Rescue Service Lt. Jimmie Williams.
Maddie’s friends said she was the victim of bullying.
Her mother Eugenia Williams said she was blindsided on Friday. She was getting ready to spend some girl time with Maddie at Chick-fil -A when she got home from school.
“Maddie loved Chick-fil-A and she was running through the house,’’ Lt. Williams said. “Her mom called me, and we talked for a second. Then one of her friends called and they were talking.”
But Maddie retreated to her bedroom as her mother talked on the phone and prepared for them to leave. When Williams was ready to leave she peeked outside to see if Maddie was there. Then she went up to her bedroom and looked in but didn’t see her either. Williams, however did notice that Maddie’s closet door was open. Knowing Maddie, she knew that she did not like for her closet to be open so Williams went to close the closet. That’s when she saw her daughter hanging in distress. Still on the phone, she dropped it and started performing CPR on Maddie.
Maddie was taken to a local hospital and remained on life support until Monday.
“It came out of left field,’’ Lt. Williams said about Maddie’s suicide.
“She was so alive, energetic, funny, loved dance,’’ her mother said.
Maddie’s parents said there were a few incidents at school where other children had called Maddie “Stupid” and “dumb” but they handled it and thought it had been resolved. Maddie was taking ADHD medication and receiving additional help for academic issues.
“We talked to one of her friends and Maddie had apparently had a bad day. The friend said Maddie was bullied and she looked sad while she was being bullied,’’ Lt. Williams said. “It must have really worn her out that day.”
“The bullying plus the medicine, I think, gave her the boost to do that,’’ he said.
Her mom was reluctant to share which school Maddie attends, saying that the school administration has been supportive after their devastating loss.
Lt. Williams said he’s seen a lot in his 20 years as a firefighter, but Maddie’s death is taking a toll on the family.
“It’s hard,’’ he said.
As for other parents whose kids are struggling with social issues, he advises: “Maybe you can see if anything is going on. Look for changes in attitude. Changes in behavior,’’ he said. “Support them and be there for them.”
“Like they always say, ‘If you see something, say something.’’’
Birmingham City Schools released this statement Tuesday afternoon: “Our school community is deeply saddened by the recent passing of a student. Counselors and district-level support staff, trained to help students, parents and school personnel at difficult times such as this, have been on-site at the impacted school today to provide assistance to students and staff in needed of support in processing this tragedy. The death of any young person is a tragic loss that impacts the whole school community, and we send our deepest condolences to the family.”