Real Life

Real life: Bullies drove my daughter to suicide

'They took away something too precious to ever replace.'

Joanne Piva, 39, from Ayr, QLD, shares her heartbreaking real life story

My darling Breannah.
You always knew how to make us all laugh.
Ever since you were little, you'd clip pegs in your hair and pull funny faces.
Your younger sisters Michaela, seven, and Isabella, four, would be in hysterics.
Soon, you'd be laughing, too, and your cute little giggles only set us off even more.
Bursting with confidence, you later took up modelling.
'You and your mum look just like sisters,' people said.
Although I denied it, I was gushing with pride.
When I had two more sons, Reece and Riley, you became my second shadow, offering to help look after all four kids and cook the dinner.
But the smiling Breannah quickly disappeared when you went to school each day.
'No one wants to sit with me,' you moaned. 'And they say I'm ugly.'
'Don't listen to them,' I told you. 'You're beautiful.'
At first, I thought the comments were just typical teasing.
Then you started coming home each day in tears.
Your dad and I spoke to the teachers, hoping we could put an end to it all.
But then you started protesting each morning, refusing to get out of bed.
'I've got a tummy ache,' you said.
Your dad and I looked at you, then each other. How could we possibly make you go when you were so terrified?
After sending you off to a counsellor, we decided to change schools.
Breannah at six months old.
At first, it all went well.
You got back into modelling and booked more and more work. I watched the old Breannah return.
You posted some of your modelling shots on social media.
Some people complimented you on your striking appearance, but all you saw were the cruel messages from strangers.
You're wasting your time, someone wrote. Just give up.
By now, you were a teenager and the nasty words hurt even more. It wasn't just online either.
'Kids at school are trying to bash me,' you said. 'They throw food at me and chuck my books in the bin.'
Looking at your tear-streaked face, my heart broke. How could anyone do such a thing?
Furious, I complained to your teachers and the parents of the kids targeting you.
'Breannah's a liar,' some mums said.
But they didn't see the traumatised young girl that we did.
Your struggles started to affect your dad, too.
'I feel so useless,' he said.
One night, you were out with a friend when my phone rang.
'Breannah's been beaten up by a group of girls,' your friend cried.
Rushing over to find you, I saw you had a black eye.
Those girls had punched you in the face and grabbed your hair and thrown you out onto the road in front of cars.
We filed a police complaint, but because the girls were under 17 they weren't charged.
'I'm sick of it!' you sobbed. 'What have I done to deserve this?'
I was petrified, but didn't dare show it.
'Other girls are jealous of you,' I said, wrapping you in a hug. 'They just want to bring you down. Don't let them.'
But my words were useless.
Next day, you came back from school terrified.
'They're going to give me another black eye!' you wailed.
From then on, your dad and I picked you up and dropped you at school, keeping you under our watch as much as possible.
Breannah, Reece, me and Riley.
Over the next two years, everything seemed to calm down.
You even found a girlfriend and fell in love.
Although I was glad to see you smile, I was worried that being a lesbian would make you even more of a target for bullies.
Sure enough, you were chased and had food thrown at you.
The romance didn't last and you took to hiding in your room.
I tried speaking to you, but you became increasingly silent.
The stress was taking its toll on your brothers, too.
'Breannah can't keep living like this,' I said to Michael. 'None of us can.'
'I think we need to move,' he said. 'A fresh start can heal us all.'
We started planning a new life in Melbourne.
You perked up enough to start modelling again.
Your blue eyes sparkled as you smiled for the camera.
Breannah, you genuinely looked so happy.
But once the photos of you started circulating, the vicious trolls came back out in full force.
'Ignore them,' I warned. 'Soon you'll be at a new school in a new city. Thing will get better, sweetheart.'
You started seeing a counsellor again, but it didn't make much difference.
'No one takes me seriously,' you said.
'I do,' I promised you.
I knew you were a bright, beautiful girl who simply needed to escape the bullies.
And soon, that's exactly what we'd be doing.
But one morning, I woke to the dreadful sound of your father screaming.
'Help!' he cried out. 'It's Breannah!'
My girl was so beautiful.
Jumping out of bed with a start, I rushed to find him.
'She's gone,' he told me, trembling.
Both my legs buckled beneath me as I realised what had happened.
Police and paramedics came immediately, but it was too late.
I blamed myself for your death, feeling like I had failed you.
Had I done enough to protect you?
Later, we came across your phone and found abusive text messages: Kill yourself, or I will…I'll kill you and make sure your body is never found…
Seething with anger, I thought about what these anonymous trolls had taken from me.
They didn't even know you. What gave them the right to think they could threaten a 16 year-old like that?
Police couldn't even track down the sender.
At your funeral, we played your favourite song, Little Things by One Direction.
The whole day was a blur.
'I'm sorry, Breannah,' I choked over and over. 'I'm so sorry.'
Each morning, I woke and looked into your empty room, hoping that –somehow- you would reappear.
I didn't know how I'd ever go on without you.
Your brothers still don't completely understand what happened and why you aren't coming back.
Then our family had an idea.
'We didn't save our daughter, but we have to save another kid,' your dad said.
Our Do It For Bree anti-bullying banner.
We were horrified to discover how many children had taken their life after bullying.
Worse, there were no laws to prevent it.
That's why we set up the Do It For Bree Foundation to provide free resources for schools to help deal with bullying.
I've been on a 200km bike journey around Queensland distributing flyers.
I want everyone to know they're not alone. There's always someone who cares.
Breannah, it breaks my heart that the bullies won, but I promise you that they haven't claimed victory.
I won't stop until every single child is safe.
All my love, Mum xxx
If you need immediate advice, contact Lifeline (lifeline.org.au) 24/7 on 1311 14, the Kids Help Line on 1800 55 1800 or visit Headspace at (headspace.org.au).

read more from