GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - When WLOX took a stand against bullying back in May, many viewers called our "Stop the Bullying" hotline to share their personal stories.
A Gulfport mom has a story that really gets to the heart of the lasting pain of bullying. Just nine months ago, her son committed suicide. She believes bullying drove him to take his own life.
"When I close my eyes at night, all I see is him putting the gun to his head and pulling the trigger. I don't understand how he could have done that, because he took his life. It's killing me every single day," said Judi Fisher, as tears filled her eyes.
Time has not healed the grief, and the questions over the shocking death of her 26-year-old son will forever haunt Fisher.
"There's not a night I don't cry, because I miss him. I don't understand why he took his life, and you feel like a failure as a mother," said Fisher.
Fisher gave birth to her youngest child, Joey Slovensky, in 1987. Joey had a rough start in life. He was born five months premature, weighing in at a mere one pound, seven ounces.
"He had a hole in his valve, and so they had to close that up. His skin was so transparent, and he had a little hole in his head," said Fisher.
That tiny baby fought for his life. Joey grew up to be an active, smart, loving little boy, but Fisher noticed her son's behavior started to change in middle school.
"He really didn't want to eat. He didn't want to go outside and play. His grades were still straight A's and everything, but he didn't want to socialize anymore. I didn't really pick anything off it. I just thought maybe well, he's just going through this phase," said Fisher.
Joey graduated from Harrison Central High School and found a marketing job in Pennsylvania. Then, last year, on October 15, Joey didn't show up for work. A friend found him in his apartment lying in a pool of blood.
"That was the worst thing a mother could ever go through, is getting that phone call that they found your son and he committed suicide," said Fisher.
Fisher never knew the torment Joey endured as a child until she found some pages tucked inside his Bible. They were from his high school writing assignment titled "My Life in Anecdotes."
"I started going to seventh grade at North Gulfport back in August of 1999. That was the year I got my braces on, in October. To top it off, I got a huge pair of ridiculous huge glasses. My seventh and eighth grade years were the ones I got picked on. There were several guys. They fit the stereotype of the cruel jock, who would slap me in the back of my head, call me names, all the immature crap," said Fisher, as she read an excerpt from the journal.
Also in that Bible was Joey's goodbye letter.
"I'm crying now. I don't know why. If I don't kill myself, this will look pretty silly," read Fisher.
"Bullying is what made him do that right there. I can tell you that right now. That's low self esteem," Fisher said.
The pain is evident in a heart-wrenching message Joey left on his cell phone.
"I'm sick of being sad. I feel like I'm worth nothing, so I made this choice," Joey said in his message.
"I listen to it every 15 of the month, just to hear his voice," said Fisher.
Now, the child who once had a hole in his heart has left a void in his mom's heart no one can ever fill.
"As a mother, you don't want this heartbreak. It's only going on nine months that I lost my son. This is a lifetime of hurt and pain that I'm going to have for the rest of my life. I have a fight right now and that fight is to stop this. I want every single mother to sit down and look at my eyes and listen to me. They need to talk to their children," Fisher said.
Joey was cremated and his ashes are still in Fisher's house in Gulfport. Fisher will bury her son on October 15, the one year anniversary of his death.
She got a tattoo of a dove and a cross to remember Joey, and she still has his voice. At the end of his message, Joey sang his mom a song from his favorite singer, Frank Sinatra.
"Fly me to the moon. Let me play among the stars. Let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars. In other words, I love you. Good night," sand Joey.
So, what can be done to make sure the victims and the bullies get the help they need?
There's a group out of Dallas, TX, called MOB, or Mothers Opposing Bullying, that wants to start a chapter in South Mississippi.
Members recently met with a local mentoring group called GO-GO to talk about setting up a partnership. MOB has several missions, including education and raising awareness about bullying, setting up a national hotline and changing state law to make bullying a crime.
"Parents have a hard time even getting the name of the student that is actually bullying their child. So we want to take it out of the school and introduce some laws. If you're in a fight today, used to be you went to the principal's office. You may get suspended. Now, it's mandatory that you get a ticket, and you actually have to go to court with that citation," said Ellsworth Hercules, MOB Executive Vice President and COO.
MOB also provides counseling for both the victims and the bullies. The organization is interested in coming to South Mississippi, because the founder, Belinda Ramsey, has ties to Hattiesburg.