Liam was like any other teenage boy. He loved hanging out with friends, riding his bike, and he absolutely loved soccer. His mom Deirdre O’Brien told The Well, he would carry his soccer ball around with him everywhere he went and he was so excited when he made his school’s soccer team. She said that his two most favorite things used to be soccer, and his cell phone.
So you can imagine Deirdre’s surprise when one afternoon Liam handed his cell phone to her. He looked her in the face and said he didn’t want it anymore. She was baffled at the thought of her son handing over his prized cell phone. He used it to talk to his friends, and use social media. Initially, she just chalked the event up to typical teenage hormones. But boy was she wrong.
She really started noticing that something was wrong when Liam stopped eating. At mealtimes, he would just push his food around his plate. His parents grew concerned as Liam began to wither away. She says he didn’t even touch his food at his own birthday party.
Finally, Deirdre became so concerned about her little boy, she confronted him one morning after he refused to go to school. His mother pleaded with him to tell her what was going on. She wanted to know why he wasn’t eating, why had he lost interest in the things he once loved? The two of them sat down at their kitchen table and he finally confided in her. They were both in tears.
Liam told his mother that he was being bullied. Severely bullied. A group of boys at his school had decided that he wasn’t worth of being on the soccer team. They pestered him and prodded him, saying mean and horrible things. The boys called him names and told him that he sucked, and that he should kill himself.
Shocked and angry, Deirdre asked him how often this was going on. He looked her straight in the eyes and said, “Every day, Mom.”
She was heartbroken. Devastated. Her baby was being tormented and she was determined to do whatever she could to protect and defend him. Worried about losing him, Deirdre decided to take action.
Liam was taken to the hospital to be treated for malnutrition. The doctors put him on a feeding tube and a heart monitor, and underwent intense therapy for depression and anorexia.
While he was in the hospital, Deirdre was meeting with Liam’s school officials and the parents of the bullies. Both refused to take responsibility. Feeling helpless and disappointed, Deirdre took Liam’s story to social media.
The overwhelming response to Liam’s story took the internet by storm. People from all over the world responded with similar struggles in dealing with bullies. Too many people understood Liam’s pain. Some even shared their heartbreaking stories of their children committing suicide because of bullying. People offered an outpouring of encouraging words of kindness and strength using the hashtag #StandWithLiam.
Liam’s parents are so glad to have been able to share his story on social media because it helped them to realize that they’re not alone. It encouraged a conversation between parents in similar situations, and kids who have unfortunately been there before. The community was able to lift each other up through Liam’s recovery. Deidre told The Well that she hopes this conversation is able to be continued.
After 10 painful and grueling weeks in an intensive inpatient treatment facility, Liam was finally stable enough to return home. What happened next, sparked a profound happiness in his mother like you wouldn’t believe. Liam decided he wanted to return to his old school. He walked through the doors with confidence and courage, and with his head held high. He even finished the season with his soccer team.