Corey, aged 17, took his own life on Friday.
I read today that another teen, 17 year old Jay 'Corey' Jones of Rochester, Minnesota, took his life on Friday after he was subjected to a prolonged period of bullying. Corey was bullied because he was gay. The story broke my heart when I read it. As a youth worker, an LGBT campaigner and a human being it wrenches my heart to think that a thousand miles away a young person, Corey, felt so alone and so hopeless that he had no other option but to choose suicide.
I have been thinking of writing a blog like this for a while now, but it took for me to read of Corey's tragedy to give me the energy and the strength and the anger to do it properly. Corey's story is familiar to me, and to thousands of people across the world who have come through the other side, and who only wish they could have been there and spoken to Corey, and to the dozens of LGBT teens who have taken their lives, and to tell them that it gets better.
I was brought up in a Christian household; my parents were both practising Christians, and despite my father having Parkinson's disease their faith never wavered. I was brought up to believe in doing the right thing and I developed my own relationship with my faith and God as I knew Him.
Unlike my classmates and other boys of my age I didn't show much interest in girls or dating and I had maybe 2 girlfriends in the 7 years between first year and university. It wasn't until February 2008 that I began to question my sexuality. It soon dawned on me that there was a good reason that I was never interested in girls...
I came out to my parents on May 5th, 2008. It was the worst day of my life. My parents and my family couldn't understand why I was doing this to them, why I had 'chosen' to be gay and why I couldn't just stop. They told me it was a phase, that I was just reacting to my grandfather's death (he passed away in 2005 from prostate cancer) and that I needed help. I was soon treated for depression and prescribed Prozac.
I remember that my mum cried a lot, she couldn't get her head round it. Looking back now I can understand that it was a shock, I had made them feel foolish by telling my friends and co workers first instead of them. I had lied to them for months about what I had been doing with my free time, who I was going out with, where I was going. In my head I had done it to protect myself from the inevitable, but it had only made things worse in the long run.
My parents didn't kick me out of the house, but their trust in me was shattered beyond repair. It was through a friend that I began to make more friends that were 'like me' who had been in similar situations. I learned that I wasn't alone and that I had people I could talk to when I needed to. But things were still bad, and I felt like God and my family had turned their back on me.
Every day was a constant battle against my mother and father and God, I was so hurt and confused that I left my job and dropped out of University. I didn't want anything except to be left alone, and when I was alone all I could do was cry and blame myself for everything. Everywhere I looked I read about how gay people were 'sick' and 'evil' and that I would go to Hell for being me. I had not chosen to be this way, so why did God hate me so much?
In November of 2008 I decided that I had had enough of the constant arguments with my mother and family, and with no sense of hope or help I attempted to take my own life. It became apparent to me that I wasn't wanted, that the world hated me and that I was better off not in it.
I took 40 or so of my Prozac and some painkillers, and it wasn't long after I had done it that I realised that I didn't want to die. I called an ambulance and went to the hospital with my father who held my hand. My mother realised how broken hearted I had been and I saw in her face the sheer horror at the thought of losing me. It hit me like an 18 wheeler truck. I promised never to do it again.
Through Lifeline and the Rainbow Project I began to get counselling and have someone to talk to. I started to understand that I had so much left to give, that I wasn't the only one who had been through this kind of thing and that life for me hadn't even started. I was only 20 years old. They helped me realise that I wanted to not only help myself get better, but that there were young people in far flung corners of the province that have no access to the same help that I had. I wanted to do something about that, and I knew right there and then that I wanted to help them.
Through my partner I became involved with Belfast YMCA and the HIV Support Centre. I wanted to be a youth worker, like him, and to be there for young people who had been through what I had been through and felt like they had nobody to turn to. I want to let them know that they can talk to people about how they feel, what they're going through and realise that they don't have to do it alone.
I am lucky to have come through the other side and to have had such an amazing network of support from my friends, my family (eventually!) and the different organisations that have helped me and so many like me. I want to thank each and every one of them for hat they have done for me, and I hop by telling my story I can do the same for someone reading this.
It might seem like the world is a dark place at times and you might feel like there is no hope for you, but you are not alone. It gets better. You have so much more to give to the world and you need to be in it to do that. Speak to someone, anyone. I only wish, like so many, that I had been able to say this to Corey. Don't give up and don't give in, trust me, it gets a hell of a lot better.
Lifeline: http://www.lifelinehelpline.info/ tel: 0808 808 8000
The Rainbow Project: http://www.rainbow-project.org/ tel: (028) 9031 9030