CHICAGO (CBS) — A North Side mom is on a mission to save young lives.
As CBS 2’s Erin Kennedy reported, Carol Deely lost her 12-year-old son, and now wants to make sure other parents don’t feel that unending pain.
She said schools can, and must, help.
“We have five children. Unfortunately, one of them is a statistic now,” Deeley said, “He died by suicide on November 14, 2019 – our son Gabriel.”
The details of the day it happened are etched in Deely’s mind.
“It was a normal day. He said he was just going to go up to his room and do his homework,” she said. “That was the last time that I spoke with him.”
Deely and her husband were involved in Gabe’s life. They knew he had a girlfriend, and loved ballroom dancing.
They didn’t know how much he was hurting.
Deely has two pictures of Gabriel smiling and laughing mounted on her wall. They were taken the day before he died.
“Just doesn’t look like someone that would be at risk of taking their life,” she said.
Gabriel’s parents monitored his personal electronics and everything seemed fine. But Deely said it was Gabriel’s school-issued tablet that revealed Gabe’s truest and darkest feelings.
He had managed to get around a firewall and hide a huge volume of internet searches.
“He did search suicide. He searched bullying,” Deely said. “He searched Snapchat memes. One was about Kermit the Frog. Someone manipulates him in different ways that he killed himself. Very dark topics, scenarios.”
Deely was stunned.
“We had signed a contract at the beginning of the year that all the devices would be monitored,” she said. “We didn’t expect to find anything.”
So a year later, Deely and her husband began a nonprofit called Gabriel’s Light. The mission is to increase suicide awareness and show schools and parents how to monitor their kids’ electronics – before it’s too late.
“We definitely would like there to be federal mandates for technology, the same way that there’s mandates for other security issues in schools,” Deely said.
One safeguard is internet monitoring and programs that offer keyword search alerts for parents and schools.
Deely said there were other signs at the school, including something one of Gabe’s friends told her months after he died.
“We met with this child at the parents’ request, and they said yes, that he talked about it at school. He would say things like: ‘It would be better if I wasn’t here. Maybe I should just kill myself.’ He had done drawings that were different ways to kill yourself, and he had given a presentation in a religion class about a lonely, sad, isolated boy,” Deely said.
Deely feels Gabe’s absence every day. That is why she wants to make sure others learn from her family’s loss.
“We’re doing our best to make sure to try to help others through our loss to save someone else,” she said.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death in people ages 10 to 24, and 76 percent of those who take their lives give a warning sign to a peer.
For more information on how to monitor children’s devices and how you can push their school to do the same, click here for for the Gabriel’s Light website and find the Resources tab, and click here for more about the Bark parental control monitoring app.