January 18, 2016 4:56 pm
Updated: January 19, 2016 7:38 am

Redwater community hosts vigil for bullied teenager who died by suicide

WATCH ABOVE: Friends and family of a teenage girl who died by suicide gathered Monday evening to mourn her passing. Shallima Maharaj was there.

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EDMONTON – The Redwater community held a vigil Monday to show its support for the family of a teenager who took her own life.

Katelyn Merritt was a student at Redwater School. She turned 17 just days before her death.

Friends and family believe Merritt was being bullied at school.

“She had a lot of problems here at school,” Brittani Lapointe, a friend of Merritt’s, said at the vigil Monday night. “It was every day. It was constant. She would literally leave class because she couldn’t do it.”

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Lapointe said she and Merritt would try to help each other through the difficult times, because she too experiences bullying.

“I’ve been bullied by these people too,” Lapointe said. “She stood up for me Thursday at school because a guy kept on punching me, hitting me.”

“It’s too far. I lost two friends in the last two years because of bullying and it’s getting to the limit… It’s too much.”

The vigil was held in the Redwater School parking lot. Dozens of people came together to light candles, remember their friend and share stories about her.

“Katelyn was the most honest person you could meet. She would give you the shirt off of her back,” Brandy Hoyles said. Hoyles’ son dated Merritt for a while. Hoyles said Merritt was just at her house last weekend.

“She was always your friend, no matter what. The smiles, the laughter, the jokes, the crazy pictures. She was that bubbly girl that everybody just wanted to be.”

Mara Grunau, the executive director of the Centre for Suicide Prevention in Calgary, said suicide prevention is everyone’s responsibility.

“When we see someone at risk of suicide or someone in our life is at risk of suicide we need to ask them directly,” Grunau said.

“Sometimes as parents we don’t know any differently. We only know what’s normal for our child so sometimes we might miss the signs so we rely on other adults in our kids’ lives to be that second set of eyes.”

The school sent out a letter after Merritt’s death, offering psychologists, counsellors and teachers to help students cope with the loss.

A celebration of life is scheduled for Jan. 20 at the Sturgeon Memorial Funeral Chapel.

Michele Dick, superintendent of Sturgeon School Division, sent Global News a statement, part of which reads:

“From time to time we have students who struggle. When they come to our attention we do all we can to support them, in an ongoing fashion, and to connect them and their families with the necessary external agencies and caregivers… The student we are speaking of was a young woman who was seen to have a great sense of humour; she was thoughtful and caring; and she had a big heart which she wore on her sleeve. Students and staff will truly miss her.”

The statement went on to say each school has dedicated counsellors for students trained in suicide prevention and access to family support workers, psychologists and a mental health therapist.

Dick’s statement also said, “The school responds to all concerns related to bullying and ensures students are reminded, on a regular basis, that telling an adult if they are experiencing any bullying is a critical strategy in looking after themselves and each other.”

© 2016 Shaw Media

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