Teens gather at Enschede school to talk about classmate's suicide

Mental health problems
Mental health problems. Photo: psyberartist / Wikimedia Commons

The Bonhoeffer College in Enschede opened its doors on Tuesday, in the middle of spring break, for a few hours to give students the chance to talk about their 15-year-old classmate Onur committing suicide after finding a nude photo of himself online. The school leaders spoke to the teens before they broke up in groups to share their emotions in the presence of Victim support employees and district coaches, the Telegraaf reports.

Hundreds of teenagers made use of the opportunity, Genio Ruseun said to the newspaper, speaking on behalf of the school. "Hundreds of chairs were put out at the joint meeting, but there were more people than seats." The group also discussed preparation for a memorial and informed the students where to get help should they feel they need it.

by jumping off an apartment building on Sunday afternoon. This happened a few hours after discovering a nude photo of himself posted on Instagram. It is believed that a girl who used to attend Bonhoeffer College posted the photo.

Enschede Mayor Onno van Veldhuizen is shocked by the teenager's death. "The impact of social media on life can be very large. Have respect for others and be aware of the consequences of your behavior on social media."

According to Justine Pardoen of the Youth and Media Bureau, it is up to parents to make sure their kids understand the dangers of sexting and how to be safe on social media. And that starts with setting a good example, she said to newspaper AD. She referred to the massive interest in a and how that video was gloated over and shared by adults. "If we as parents give the wrong example, how do we explain to our children that it is not the victim who should be ashamed, but rather those who shared such pictures?" she said.

"Young people will take such pictures, it is a fact of our time. For some of them it is part of their sexual development. And sometimes they share those photos with a boyfriend or girlfriend. That's a novelty we have to get used to", Pardoen said. "But it is not normal for someone to send those pictures to people they were not intended for. Parents must point this out to their kids, again and again. But apparently there has to be more deaths before it gets through to everyone."

Psycho-traumatologist Rik Knipschild warns that the massive effect shame can have, especially on adolescents, should not be underestimated. According to him, the number of young people needing help because of sexting is increasing. "Now trauma among young people increasingly starts digitally", he said, warning that it can lead to depression and social isolation. "For example, children do not want to go to school because of a photo that was shared there, they close themselves up in their rooms." 

One of the most important things, according to Knipschild, is for the victim to get back a feeling of control. "It is important that parents support their child. Help them regain control. Discuss with your child whether to press charges with the police and go along. Try to get the pictures off the internet as much as possible, there are sites like helpwanted.nl with tips for that."

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