A Memphis family is grieving and demanding answers after investigators said a 14-year-old took her own life this week.
Family members told Local 24 they found Alexica Smith dead inside her south Memphis home Tuesday afternoon from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the same afternoon she was supposed to go the Memphis Zoo with her family. Loved ones said Smith’s fellow students at Riverview Middle School constantly bullied her.
Shelby County School district leaders called this suicide a tragic loss as grief counselors remain at the school to help students and teachers.
This suicide is the latest in a disturbing trend locally and nationally, where suicides among teenage girls recently hit a 40-year high.
There were a lot of raw emotions Thursday afternoon for family and friends of the 14-year-old. Smith’s mother said her daughter dealt with depression and constant bullying from Riverview students.
“You broke my child so she didn’t want to live anymore,” said Latanya Reed. “She was the life of the party and they broke my child.”
Outside the school Thursday, family questioned whether Riverview administrators did enough to handle the situation.
“I have to lay my baby in the ground for things that we could have did and worked together,” said Reed. “My baby got bullied every day, my baby came home and cried every other day.”
In a statement, a SCS spokesperson said:
“Our heart continues to ache over the tragic loss of our student at Riverview. Our thoughts are with the family and our focus remains on providing support to our students and staff members who are trying to cope with this loss.
We take all reports of bullying very seriously, and any time a family or student makes a claim, it is thoroughly investigated. Families are notified and brought in to help resolve any reported issues. We encourage anyone who suspects bullying to please report it immediately.”
“It’s a tragedy anytime we lose a young person,” said Memphis Crisis Center Executive Director Mike LaBonte. “We need to be willing to read between the lines sometimes.”
The Memphis Crisis Center offers a hotline and help to teenagers with suicidal thoughts.
“It can include such things as withdrawal, mood swings, persistent sadness,” said LaBonte.
The center received 57% more local suicide related calls in 2017 compared to 2016.
“The vast majority of times that people are struggling with suicide, they do communicate it somehow and it may not always be verbally, it may be through behavior and emotion,” said LaBonte.
Shelby County Schools offers a range of mental health resources on its website. CLICK HERE to learn more.