A mother’s message after losing her son to bullying: ‘Force them to have time with you’

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MENTOR, Ohio-- As Janis Mohat watches the DVD of her son, Eric, a certain smile crosses her face that can only belong to a mother.

It's a smile of pride, and love, a smile that recalls better days as Janis watches the video of Eric's rocking solo at the Mentor High School musical.

But the smile quickly fades as Janis recalls the pain of losing her son to suicide.

"I loved (being his Mom)," Janis says, "and I miss who I was. I'm not the same person I was as a Mom before Eric died."

It's been nine years since her son locked his bedroom door, and shot himself to death.

She says, on the day Eric died, one of two teens who had been bullying him at school asked Eric why he didn't just kill himself, adding, according to Janis "it's not like anyone would care."
Asked if she thinks her son was bullied to death, Janis replies simply, "yes, I do."

And she believes the bullying epidemic facing teens is worse now than it was when Eric was alive.

"(Today), they have their smartphones," she says, "and they're targeted on their phones; they're targeted on social media."

Janis is recalling her painful story in the hopes that it will help some parents facing similar problems today.

The I-Safe Foundation says over half of teens report being victimized by cyber-bullying.
And less than half tell their parents.

"It's much easier to have a much more serious effect than it used to be," says Ken Myers, an attorney whose handled a number of bullying cases - including the case involving Eric Mohat,  and also one involving the Mentor schools.

Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control report sixteen percent of teens say they seriously consider suicide.

And while not saying one causes the other, the CDC goes on to say: "We know that bullying behavior and suicide-related behavior are closely related."

"The kind of kids I seen, and the issues I see kids for have changed dramatically, because of...the obsession with social media," says Dr. Vanessa Jensen, a pediatric psychologist with the Cleveland Clinic.

Dr. Jensen says it's important to know what's going in your teens' social media world as much as you can.

"We want to give them that space and privacy," she says, before cautioning that "it's so easy for kids to get sucked in."

So she recommends teaching your children about social media before giving them a phone, and monitoring what's going on.

"Just like when you taught them to swim," Dr. Jensen says, "you didn't just throw them in the deep end. You went there with them, showed them what to do."

Janis Mohat worked very hard at being Eric's mom. Still, she is willing to offer some personally difficult advice for parents who may be facing problems she saw almost a decade ago.

"If they (your teens) blow you off, don't do what we did," Janis says, "because we took him at his word - 'no, everything is fine.'"

"Force them to have time with you," Janis says, "so you can keep your thumb on the pulse of what's going on."

"Sometimes, you just have to get through today," Ken Myers says, "and, if you get through today, maybe tomorrow will be better."

"The thing I miss the most," Janis says, "is what I will never know. I will never know the man he would have become."

The Mohats also had a daughter, Erin, who grew up and now lives in Colorado. Erin is a child psychologist, and works every day to help improve the lives of children.

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