Talk focuses on dangers of bullying

Oct. 5—ELKHART — A parent with personal experience in teen suicide is meeting with parents of Elkhart Community Schools in an attempt to educate on the dangers of bullying.

The Ryan's Story Presentation, created by father John Halligan, will be presented at Elkhart High School, 2608 California Road, at 7 p.m. Oct. 13. The parent and community presentation will take place in the Little Theater and is an hour long. Interpreters will be available. The program aims to educate on the dangers of bullying, in order to help them recognize signs of bullying and depression, and empower them with tools families can use.

Halligan will also be presenting to students at all three ECS middle schools during the school day Oct. 13-14.

In 2003, Halligan lost his 13-year-old son, Ryan, to suicide. After his death, it was revealed that Ryan was subject to extensive bullying, both in school and online. Since then, Halligan has dedicated much of his life to informing parents about the dangers of harassment and teen depression, and the steps families can take to healthily and safely navigate potential issues.

"With technology and social media playing an increasingly dominant role in all of our lives, it's important to give families as many resources as possible to help students who may be dealing with bullying," said Elkhart Community Schools Assistant Superintendent of Student Services Lindsey Brander. "We need our entire community to recognize this is an issue that touches every one of us — students, parents, school staff, community leaders, and community members. More than ever, our community needs to hear John's message and come together to develop strategies to reduce bullying and protect the mental health and wellbeing of our youth."

Over the past 13 years, the Ryan's Story Presentation has been given to more than 2,000 schools, reaching over 1-million students. Halligan has told his son's story on several nationally-televised programs, including Primetime with Diane Sawyer, PBS Frontline, and The Oprah Show. Halligan also spearheaded successful legislative efforts to mandate suicide prevention programs in Vermont public schools.

He is the recipient of multiple service awards from nationally-recognized organizations, including IBM, United Way, and Children Abuse Prevention Services.