Hayden Hunstable, of Aledo, hung himself in his bedroom in April 2020, three days before his 13th birthday, his father, Brad Hunstable, told KXAS-TV last May. Now, the 42-year-old father is reaching out to global and national media to raise awareness about the effects of the pandemic on adolescents.
He recently told Metro UK that he believes his son took his own life because he was feeling “sad and lonely” amid coronavirus lockdown measures.
“I had no idea he was struggling or depressed, he was such a happy kid and loved his friends and family,” Hunstable shared with the publication. “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.”
Hunstable added that it is now his “mission” to work toward solving “youth suicide,” Metro UK reported.
“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,” he said to the outlet.
“He was my best friend, we were buddies. I still cry every day and I can’t change what happened. … Hayden is a hero because I think he has already saved so many people across the world. I just hope I can do him justice.”
The grieving father also made a short film, “Almost 13,” which features his son’s story, and launched the website Hayden’s Corner to “bring together public and private partners to pass legislation to federally mandate that resilience classes are core curriculum for K-12 Schools nationally” and to “create a PSA … campaign aimed at educating both kids and parents on responsible gaming.”
Here’s what you need to know about Hayden’s death:
Hayden’s Body Was Found by His Little Sister, His Father Said
According to Metro UK, Hayden’s younger sister, Kinlee, now 9, discovered his body on April 17.
Hunstable recalled to Metro UK that his father had come over to help him with a plumbing problem in their house. Hayden had also helped the two men, according to the publication.
“It was a beautiful sunny day and I gave him a hug and a kiss on the head,” the father told the outlet. He added that there was only a 30-minute window between when his father left and when Kinlee found her brother.
“My daughter ran downstairs and said Hayden has hung himself,” he told Metro UK. “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.”
Social Isolation Brought On by the Pandemic Has Had a Severe Impact on Preteens & Teens, Research Shows
According to a recent study, nearly one-third of 3,300 high school students surveyed said they have felt unhappy or depressed in recent months.
“Since their school buildings closed, young people’s levels of concern about the present and future have increased, and indicators of overall health and wellbeing have suffered,” the Center for Promise at America’s Promise Alliance study reads.
“For example, 30% of young people say they have more often been feeling unhappy or depressed, and nearly as many say they are much more concerned than usual about having their basic needs met.”
According to the Society for Research in Child Development, adolescents use their friendships as a tool to maintain a sense of self-worth and manage anxiety and depression.
A November analysis released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says children’s emergency room visits surrounding mental health have increased during the pandemic.
“Beginning in April 2020, the proportion of children’s mental health-related ED visits among all pediatric ED visits increased and remained elevated through October,” the analysis reads. “Compared with 2019, the proportion of mental health-related visits for children aged 5-11 and 12-17 years increased approximately 24% and 31%, respectively.”
The CDC suggests “monitoring” indicators of children’s mental health, promoting coping and resilience and expanding access to services to support children’s mental health.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week with assistance in English and Spanish. You can also speak with a trained crisis counselor 24/7 by texting HOME to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line.