HERKIMER, N.Y. - A father who lost his son to suicide presented 'Ryan's Story' at Herkimer Jr./Sr. High School Wednesday night.
John Halligan’s presentation tells the story of his 13-year-old son who died of suicide, which he attributes to bullying.
"It's about opening up a wound everyday but its also helping other people to not encounter the same type of wounds," Halligan said. "Ryan was one of the early victims of cyberbullying."
Ryan passed away in 2004, and since then, Halligan has been presenting 'Ryan's Story' to middle schools and high schools all over the country. Halligan says he has made an impact on the people who have heard his presentation.
"I know it's helping parents, but I also know its helping children," Halligan said. "I've been at this long enough to know that it is getting through to them."
Wednesday morning, Halligan told 'Ryan's Story' to the students during the school day and the evening presentation was meant for the parents. He says it's not just about warning parents about the possibilities, it's also about helping the students who may feel how Ryan felt.
“I know I’ve saved a lot of people," Halligan said. "I’ve gotten so many emails over the years from young people who have decided to get help after my presentation versus do what Ryan did, so that in itself has made it all worth while.”
Michele Curtin, a facilitator for the Herkimer County Suicide Coalition, says she has learned a lot from 'Ryan's Story.'
"It's important for parents to hear that from someone that lost their child, you know hes got a vested interest," Curtin said. "For me, coming as a parent, to hear his story and to be able to see what good he has done, for me that's very important."
Halligan says while he knows mental health is apart of suicide, he says social media and cyberbullying also play a huge role. He says the problem hasn't gotten any better since he lost his son.
"Since his [Ryan's] death, I've been trying to reach parents to get them to pay more attention to the technology part of their lives and my message tonight was basically, things are getting worse," Halligan said. "The suicide rate has doubled among middle schoolers since 2007, it lines up with introduction and proliferation of smart phones so we have to figure out something here."
Curtin says she agrees and she is happy to take Halligan's advice.
"It validated me in that I don't give my kids a cellphone until they're 15 or mature enough to have one and so hearing that I'm on the right path with that, that's very important," Curtin said.