Mentor mom who lost teen son to suicide, bullying says more needs to be done

MENTOR, OH (WOIO) - A school district in Cincinnati has released a video that shows an 8-year-old boy being bullied just two days before he died.

The video is from inside of an elementary school. It shows a student assaulting 8-year-old Gabe Taye in a restroom and other children kicking him for several minutes while he was unconscious. A coroner in Cincinnati has now asked police to treat his death as a homicide.

Cleveland 19 spoke with a mom from Mentor who lost her own son to suicide after he was bullied.

Janis Mohat's son Eric died by suicide at 17 years old, just 30 days before he was supposed to graduate high school. She says he was constantly bullied and the teacher who saw it happen did nothing to help him.

She's tired of this happening to other families.

Janis shared the happier moments with Cleveland 19 as she paged through a photo album full of pictures from Eric's childhood Friday evening.

"He played piano beautifully, he sang and danced wonderfully," she said.

As a teenager, she says Eric knew how to make his friends smile.

"He was known for his twiggy hugs. He was lean and lanky," Mohat said.

But she says constant bullying at Mentor High School drove him to the edge, and their family did not know just how bad it was until it was too late.

"He went up to his teacher and said, 'I can't take it anymore, I can't take it anymore,'" she said.

But she says his pleas for help were ignored.

"Eric killed himself four days later. His sister found him, and our family is broken," she said.

Janis says Eric was targeted by two star athletes. She says the teacher he went to for help was their coach. She sees cases like this happening too often.

"For a teacher to say they didn't know, they'd have to go out of their way to ignore it," Mohat said.

She says nothing will change until the legal system holds people accountable.

"We wouldn't tolerate it in the workplace, so why are we tolerating it in our schools?" she asked.

For Janis, "bullying" isn't a strong enough word.

She calls it "peer on peer abuse."

"There's a saying, 'Die by 1,000 paper cuts.' That's kind of what this is. They are targeted," Mohat said.

A decade alter, she thinks of what could have been, and the future her son will never have.

"What we don't know is who he would've fallen in love with, we'll never know who he'd marry. We'll never know his children," she said.

Janis now talks to teens at local schools about recognizing the signs of bullying and suicide prevention. As a parent, Janis says talking to your children and knowing what's going on in their lives is the first step to take action against any possible signs of bullying.

If it's your child doing the bullying, she says it's important you recognize the problem and do something before it's too late for someone else's child. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for young Americans ages 10 to 24, according to the U.S.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Ohio, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 34 years old.

One person dies by suicide about every five hours in the Buckeye State, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

If you or someone you love is at-risk for suicide, you can call a 24-hour hotline in Cuyahoga County at 216-623-6888. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (Crisis) at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or 1-800-799-4TTY (4889).

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