Kenna's Story: A face and family behind teen suicide
Reporter's Note: When I began looking into the rise in suicides among teens in late 2016 (the second leading cause of death for ages 12-19) I expected to do a story about cyberbullying. While it can be a contributing factor, the root cause of teen suicide is far more complex. Experts say more than 90 percent of people of who die from suicide have a mental health issue. This isn’t an issue solely about teens it’s a societal issue.
I am immensely grateful to the families of people who have lost loved ones to suicide for courageously sharing their story. They did so in the hope of helping others and preventing more deaths. For more information and help, you can call the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Western New York Chapter at 585-202-2783 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
Chili, N.Y. (WHAM) - This is Kenna Dadey’s story.
“She was the best little kid you could have”, said Pat Dadey of his late daughter MaKenna Dadey.
Her mother Christina Dadey agreed.
“Kenna was everybody’s light, smiling happy, giggly, and smart," she said.
Kenna was the firstborn for Pat and Christina of Chili. They say Kenna thrived in school until middle school.
“From the get go, there was a girl picking on her and that just shocked her," Christina said. "That was upsetting. She wasn’t expecting it and It threw her into a tailspin."
That’s when Kenna began dealing with anxiety issues - a challenge exacerbated by texting and the relentless world of social media. “When we got home from school, we went outside to play” Pat said. "Now, you get off the bus and text messages are going off”.
"It’s challenging because parents don’t often know what teens are saying to each other," Christina added. "It’s not uncommon for a hundred text messages to be exchanged among a group of teens in just 15 minutes."
The Dadeys sought treatment and counseling for Kenna and her parents say 7th grade seemed better but it didn’t last.
“We don’t know, there was something definitely going on...attention from boys, feeling like they weren’t respecting her," Christina said. “Kenna was not ok with that."
The summer after 7th grade, Kenna attempted suicide. In January 2017, Kenna died from suicide.
She was 13.
“I don’t know” Christina said quietly, “It was just too much for her."
“We are living every parents’ worst nightmare” Pat said.
Pat was the one who discovered Kenna in their Chili home after her suicide attempt in December. Just 15 minutes earlier, she had texted him asking when he'd be home. Kenna was rushed to the hospital and died a few weeks later.
The Dadeys are convinced Kenna did not intend to kill herself. "It was a cry for help that went too far," Pat said.
Now, the Dadeys live with the pain of never knowing what the future held for their young daughter. They hope that by sharing Kenna’s story, they can prevent another young person from ending their life.
Suicide is now the second leading cause of death among U.S. teens, according to the CDC.
The Dadeys urge parents to talk to their children. “You think it’s not going to be your kid. It could be your kid," said Pat. “I never thought it would happen to us."
And to teens, the Dadeys hope Kenna's life is proof: the words you say to someone else matter.
“I hope there’s a way kids understand the impact of their words because you never know the state of mind of the person on the receiving end. Be kinder to each other”, urges Kenna’s mom.
The Dadeys hope Kenna’s legacy will be a kinder, happier world. They are holding a walk in honor of Kenna June 3 at Gates-Chili High School. Money raised will be used to bring a motivational speaker to school to help both parents and students. They would also like to start a scholarship in Kenna’s memory, awarding money to a student who shows extraordinary compassion.
You can learn more at www.walkforkenna.org.