The family of a 12-year-old boy from Texas who hung himself last spring is speaking out about the tragedy in hopes of raising awareness about youth suicide amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Hayden Hunstable, of Aledo, Texas, took his own life last April after feeling isolated and lonely due to the nationwide lockdowns spurred on by the pandemic, the boy's father, Brad, 42, recently told Metro UK. He was discovered in his bedroom by his 8-year-old sister.
"I had no idea he was struggling or depressed, he was such a happy kid and loved his friends and family," his dad told the news outlet. "But Covid is a perfect storm for suicide and depression. I think everything just got on top of him, he felt overwhelmed and he made a tragic decision."
Brad Hunstable recalled that he was shocked and horrified, especially since there were no warning signs and he didn't have any clue that his son was depressed.
"On April 17 our water went out at the house and my dad came over, Hayden helped us fix it. It was a beautiful sunny day and I gave him a hug and a kiss on the head. Then when my dad left there was just me, Kinlee and Hayden at home. There was only a 30 minute window," he recalled. "Hayden had gone upstairs."
"Then my daughter ran downstairs and said Hayden has hung himself. I ran up there, pulled him down and tried to save him. I performed CPR but I couldn't save him. He was gone. I saw something horrific that day and I don't wish it upon anybody. I still get nightmares about it," he said.
Hunstable said that his son was active in the community and loved going to school and seeing his friends. But he said the isolation from classmates coupled with his dislike for virtual learning could have resulted in Hayden feeling depressed.
"He loved football and he loved being around people, he was very social," the father told Metro. "He was a little guy but he had the heart of a lion. He was beloved by his friends and family."
Hayden may have been triggered into making a "tragic impulse decision" after he broke a second monitor at home, his father added. For Christmas 2019, Hayden's parents got him a monitor to play video games on, but he had broken it out of frustration.
"We told him he would not get another one, but then lockdown hit and I told him he would have to work to get a new one," Hunstable said. "He did some chores around the house and we got him a cheaper one in April because it was his birthday on April 21st and he wanted to play with his friends."
When police were investigating his death, they reportedly discovered that he had broken the new monitor, as well.
"I don't know if he was scared about getting into trouble or anxious about not being able to speak to his friends and ruining his birthday," Hunstable said. "He either did it in impulsive anger or he got himself in a situation he couldn't get out of."
Now, Hayden's family is determined to use his death to bring positive change. They founded "Hayden's Corner," a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness about youth suicide and produced a video, "Almost Thirteen," which shares Hayden's story.
Almost Thirteen PSA youtu.be
"I am on a mission to solve youth suicide. Parents need to have conversations with their kids about their feelings," Hunstable told Metro. "We need to talk to kids about suicide and talk to kids about how to deal with depression. Kids get depressed and they need to be taught how to deal with their problems."
Since the start of the pandemic, several have voiced concerns over the unintended consequences of shelter-in-place orders and school closures, noting that while lockdown restrictions may protect people from the coronavirus, the forced isolation may also take a toll an mental health.
In May, California doctors reported that they had seen more deaths from suicide that from the virus. Then in June, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control discovered that more than one quarter of young adults in the country contemplated taking their own life. Just last month, Las Vegas schools decided to reopen as "quickly as possible" after a rash of student suicides rocked the school district.