Friday, August 19, 2016

The Suicide of Danny Fitzpatrick

Staten Island boy who took his own life.
May the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.

He gave up.

I facetiously posted on bullying yesterday, and a friend alerted me to the suicide story of a 13 year old Brooklyn Catholic schoolboy and was shocked by my ill timed post.  Rightly so.  Suicide is not an appropriate solution to bullying, especially the kind that is ignored and allowed to continue by school officials.  The story of Danny Fitzpatrick is truly heartbreaking.

At Holy Angels Catholic Academy in Brooklyn, Daniel Fitzpatrick’s biggest test had nothing to do with academics. 
The 13-year-old seventh-grader — like so many young people in schools across the country — was the target of relentless bullying because of his grades, his weight and his sweet disposition, family members told the New York Daily News
This summer, Daniel detailed some of his toughest struggles in a letter that accused classmates of turning on him — and school officials of ignoring his pleas for help.
Then, just days before his 14th birthday, he decided he’d had enough. On Thursday, he wrapped a belt around his neck and hung himself inside the attic of his family’s Staten Island home.

“I gave up,” he wrote in the letter that preceded his death by several weeks. “The teachers . . . they didn’t do anything.” - WP - The parents story here.

There appears to be more to this story.  From the Washington Post:
Documents obtained by The Washington Post offer a more complicated picture of Daniel’s life and reveal that some believe the teenager’s struggles extended beyond the bullying he faced at school.
The boy’s father, also named Daniel Fitzpatrick, told the Daily News that he had been at odds with Holy Angels ever since officials there recommended that Daniel repeat the seventh grade at another school. The suggestion was offensive, Fitzpatrick told the paper, because he attributed Daniel’s academic struggles to the merciless bullying he suffered, noting that the boy’s “confidence was completely shattered.”


Last fall, in a report filed with New York City’s Administration of Children’s Services and obtained by The Post, an investigator wrote that Daniel was failing his classes and engaging in angry outbursts in class.
“Danny said mom being drunk affects him in everything and makes him angry,” the report stated. “He said dad also drinks, but controls himself more than mom. Student can’t remember a time when mom was not drunk often.”
The report continued:
Danny denies physical abuse by mom and dad, but says Kristen, his older sister, hides him in the attic or his room when mom is drunk. He says his dad and Kristen protect him.”
Danny denies suicidal thoughts, but feels angry, sad, has thoughts of wanting to run away. Mother is blaming his teachers for his failures and has written several accusatory letters to school. Student is afraid of both parents anger. - Washington Post

My apologies for my insensitivity.

I don't approve of bullying.  I was being facetious in my original post.  Danny Fitzpatrick's situation appears to be completely different from what I was talking about, although I know how 'mean' it must have come off.  Again, I apologize.

That said, I was never bullied by playmates or schoolmates.  My family and the nuns did that.

Like Danny Fitzpatrick, my parents were drinkers and abusive - Danny said his parents weren't abusive - but his sister hid him whenever his mother was drunk.  I wonder if his surviving family members, especially a sibling still at home, is going to be honest about mom's abusive behavior?  I doubt it.   It took many years for me to admit it, but my older brother was abusive as well.  I grew up thinking my family pretty much despised me.  Suicide was never an option for me, since I was actually raised Catholic and taught about mortal sin and hell.  Knowing how deficient Catholic religious education can be, I wonder if Danny was taught that.

These days, suicide is discussed openly and is becoming all too commonplace.  Danny 'chose' that awful option.  Something was wrong somewhere: With his religious formation, his teachers, and his family?  Perhaps he suffered from some sort of unrecognized, undiagnosed clinical depression?  I have no idea.  If the stories are true about the parent's drinking, that in itself is often problematic.  Drunk parenting is often marked by some sort of emotional neglect.

Suicide is very complex.  Bullying probably contributed to it, even though Danny was able to defend himself: He states he fought back.   Nevertheless, bullying played a role, but there has to be more to the story - I can't know all of the details, only what I've read in the news and documented here - so I'm simply speculating.  I'm neither attempting to defend bullying or promoting it.

My ill-timed and inappropriate post not withstanding.


Prayers for Danny Fitzpatrick and all kids tempted to suicide.


  1. Oh Terry don't feel bad about any of your musings. I think they are always intricate and sensitively informative. We are all just....trying our best to live the best that we can, and often it is so.very.hard.
    I was remembering about my father, and all the after-work/weekend things he would take part in: The Elks Club: The Moose ( Loyal Order Of Moose...)(so Cute !!!), the St. Vincent de Paul Society: Kiwanis: Lions Club: Knights of Columbus....toward the end of his life he also was a hospice volunteer, and so sat with the dying. Also he tried to get into the literacy thing.
    Anyway: those outside the family really loved him and admired him - what he most needed....for was so hard, so very hard. anyway, moving one;
    Our culture no longer emphasises these volunteer organizations, most especially the St. Vincent De Pauls: these involve house to house, or actually, usually, apartment to apartment, Catholics personally going door-to-door and offering substantial help. And, of course, parish priests always give a strong helping hand, spiritually as well as cash, etc.
    but....people today, are spent: exhausted: often, as with this poor young man who killed his own child: already full of self-loathing, near despair, not equipped to give what one simply does not have. A barren well, with deep needs, expected to provide as a is so tremendously sad and tragic.
    re: suicide: I have spend these laid-off months on scant unemployment and going to many 'groups', all really good. many, many failed suicides: all people on the verge of life. I have learned a lot. I am grateful for this...I do certainly understand your take on it, we were gifted in learning the faith regarding this act....there is so much to say. Thanks for this opportunity Terry, that you so generously provide to So Many to read, respond.
    Just today I was reading about the life-long effect of childhood trauma, and how very vulnerable it leaves people. I have been "diagnosed" with ptsd myself, which has been a surprise to me, but as soon as I talk about the family life, and I do with my usual gallows humor, the drs. et al are a little shocked. I know you 'get it'. don't you think we'd have a ball if we got together ?
    be well dear Terry. Continue as you give so much. And Our Dear Sweet Lord is consoling and holding close this child who was in such deep pain.

  2. Many of us have struggled with some difficult family dysfunction. The difference today, I think, is that for all the talk about support there is not a solid community to serve as a safety net. The Parish life I knew does not really exist anymore. Catholic Schools are all about scores, sports and achievements. I really think we are entering a new phase in our society where all religions decline while the secular asserts it's authority to allow everything. Didn't Rome decline like this before Christianity? I cannot get this boy,and his pain out, of my mind. All I can do is pray for his soul and for others, too many, in similar situations. Please do likewise.

  3. Thanks Consolata and wallacehamilton - I was going to remove this and the other post because the issue of bullying and suicide are so sensitive and disturbing. I was wondering why I even felt a need to comment on Danny's tragedy, bringing in my own experience, when his story is the focus.

    Anyway - bot of your comments are so good, I will let the post remain.

    God bless!

    (I do a monthly novena with the Carmelites to the Infant Jesus, this month I'm praying especially for kids who suffer abuse and neglect and terror.)

    1. Please add my two sons to your prayers. Even though they are grown and I did an OK job (but not great) and they turned out pretty good they still bear deep scars from being abandoned by their father. It was best he was not in their life (he had nothing to offer them spiritually or emotionally) but it still hurts. Thank you.

    2. Your name and Luke's is there - right inside my little book. Email me your other son's name if you like - I always pray for "Angela (real name) and son Luke and their familes" I really do.

  4. Hello Terry, Hoping this finds you very well. Would you please also add my two children to your list of prayers? Names, Carmen Anne and Syd Emmanuell; thanks very much for your post and yr prayers in advance!!...


Please comment with charity and avoid ad hominem attacks. I exercise the right to delete comments I find inappropriate. If you use your real name there is a better chance your comment will stay put.