Constant bullying drove suicide 'plot'
A SUSTAINED pattern of persecution against Alex Wildman was the main reason he took his own life, a bullying expert has told the inquest into his death.
Professor Helen McGrath, an educational psychologist and member of the National Centre Against Bullying advisory council, said it was possible the 14-year-old was suffering from an acute stress disorder brought about by bullying, first at a school in Sydney and then 'cemented' by his experiences at Kadina High in Lismore.
But a definitive diagnosis could not be made without speaking to the teenager himself, she said.
The lack of support from Kadina and the school's 'unfair' response to his situation were also contributing factors, she said.
“I think the main event that contributed to the suicide was the ongoing bullying that he received,” Prof McGrath told the inquest.
“I think he completely lost any sense of hope.”
Prof McGrath said the school's reaction to a punching assault on Alex less than two days before he committed suicide in July last year was 'totally and completely inappropriate'.
She also told the inquest the police should have been called after the assault, which had been recorded on a mobile phone and later deleted at the orders of deputy principal Bradd Farrell.
“In this set of circumstances the police should have been involved,” she said. “If the police had been involved in some way I think ... it might have given Alex some sense that maybe this was being taken seriously now.”
Alex did not have a genetic predisposition to mental illness, despite some family history with antidepressant medication and counselling, she said.
Prof McGrath was critical of Kadina High for its lack of clear procedures for responding to bullying, and said the senior staff were not properly trained and resourced to deal with the situation.
The inquest at Ballina also heard from former Kadina High police school liaison officer Senior Constable John Croger, who said he made four visits to the school in the time that Alex was a student there.
Senior Constable Croger said Kadina was a 'great' school.
“The staff at Kadina High School are really good. I really enjoyed working with them. I go to a lot of schools and I think Kadina's a great school,” he said.
But he also said schools should pass mobile phone footage of fights and assaults on to police. “Where possible I normally ask the principal to take custody of the phone and then contact police,” he said.
“I suggest if it was a serious incident, there were injuries involved, police should at least be contacted.”
Snr Const Croger said cyber bullying was also a major - and growing - problem among school students.
“This is an issue that's not going to go away,” he said. “It's only going to get worse with more and more technology.
“It goes beyond the playground now and it's got a far bigger impact on the young person.”
The inquest, before Deputy State Coroner Malcolm MacPherson, continues today.