Why no child is safe from the sinister cult of emo — (The Daily Mail)

SSRI Ed note: Popular, intelligent girl in group many of whom prescribed antidepressants may have taken some, hangs herself unexpectedly.

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The Daily Mail


Last updated at 01:38am on 15th May 2008

Eight months have now passed since 13-year-old Hannah Bond committed suicide, but for her parents the questions continue.

On the night before she died, she came into their room, kissed her father Raymond on the cheek and cheerfully told him: “I love you, Dad.”

The following day Hannah’s mother Heather went to check on her daughter and found her hanging by a tie from the top rail of her bunk bed.

From Fresh-faced to suicidal: Hannah Bond pre ‘emo’, left, and weeks before her death

She screamed for her husband to come, but try as he might it was too late: there was simply nothing that he could do to save Hannah’s life.

In the unending bleakness of the weeks that have followed, the couple have fought to make sense of what happened.

Why on earth did their daughter ­ a popular, intelligent and attractive girl ­ do such a thing?

They could find only one clue: Hannah was what is known as an “emo”.

Some describe it as a cult or a sect, but in reality the term ­ derived from the word “emotional” ­ encapsulates a trend that is becoming hugely popular among Britain’s schoolchildren.

A trans-Atlantic import, its followers dress in black, favouring tight jeans, T-shirts, studded belts and sneakers or skater shoes.

Hair is all-important: often dyed black and straightened, it is worn in a long fringe brushed to one side of the face.

Music also plays a critical role.

Emos like guitar-based rock with emotional lyrics.

American bands such as My Chemical Romance, Good Charlotte and Blink 182 are particular favourites.

No doubt many adults would ask: “So what?”

On the surface, it all sounds typically teenage ­ angst-ridden, over-dramatic and tribal.

Ray and Heather Bond said Hannah told them emo was ‘just a fashion’

No different, in fact, to the Goth subculture that first emerged in Britain during the early 1980s.

There is, though, growing concern that there is a deeply unhealthy undertone to the emo movement.

Some time before her death, Hannah’s parents, who live in Kent, noticed scarring on the inside of her wrists.

When they questioned her about it, honest and open as ever, she told them she’d inflicted the wounds herself and that it was part of an emo “initiation ceremony”.

Only after her death would they discover how she had secretly chatted online to emo followers all over the world, talking about death and of the “black parade” ­ a place where emos believe they go after they die.

A check of Hannah’s home page on social networking site Bebo revealed her pseudonym, Living Disaster, and that she’d decorated it with a picture of an emo girl with bloody wrists.

Another picture showed a child’s exercise book scrawled with the words: “Dear Diary, today I give up.”

While Hannah’s wrist injuries may have been slight, the issue of selfharm among adolescents is causing growing concern in British schools.

New figures show that the number of children admitted to hospital due to injuries inflicted on themselves has risen by a third in five years.

In 2002/03 there were 11,891 such admissions; in 2006/07 this had risen to 15,955.

In both periods, there were more than three times as many admissions of girls as of boys.

Crucially, those who self-harm are more likely to go on to attempt suicide. While there is a multitude of reasons for this epidemic (exam-related stress and bullying to name but two), it is hardly surprising that the emergence of a sub-culture that appears to glamorise self-harm and even suicide is being regarded with alarm.

Inevitably, criticisms of emo culture are laughed off by those who consider themselves to be at the heart of it.

It’s just a music thing, they say, and anyone who takes it further has something inherently wrong with them.

“If you listen to the lyrics, you will see there is nothing that promotes suicide; and even if there was, no right-minded person would listen to it and think: ‘Now I’m going to kill myself,’ ‘ a self-confessed emo wrote last week on a music website following the inquest into Hannah’s death.

“I don’t think anyone can say that there is a link between emo and suicide ­ it’s just a myth.

“Emo has become an easy target for ridicule like this; but the bottom line is emotional does not mean suicide.”

That is true, of course. But as any parent will tell you, adolescent children can be highly irrational.

They are also easily influenced and may be illequipped to deal with powerful emotions that can be magnified by a sense of “membership” to a sub-group that revels in self-pity.

It is something that Lorraine Harrison is all too aware of. She has three daughters, the youngest of whom is 11-year-old Levi, a girl who classes herself as emo.

Recently, Levi asked her mother: “Just why do people kill themselves?”

“When she asked me that, it made me shudder,” says Lorraine, 46, from Alston in Cumbria. “I managed to keep calm and explained to her that people’s minds are very disturbed, and often they don’t really want to die. But inside I felt sick with worry that Levi is thinking about such things.”

From being the sort of girl who dressed in pink and played with Barbie dolls, now Levi will wear only black.

Her favourite T-shirt is patterned with skulls, and she spends hours in her room listening to music by My Chemical Romance.

“Their lyrics seem to be associated with depression and self-harm, and I feel shock when I listen to them,” says her mother.

“Levi seems to have gone from being a lively girl who enjoyed having friends around, to someone who has become quite introverted.”

When the topic of suicide was raised, Lorraine became so concerned that she telephoned Levi’s father, David, from whom she is separated.

“He reminded me that I used to be a rebel, too,” she says. “I was a punk rocker for a while, and he reassured me it was probably just a phase that Levi would grow out of.

“But I don’t feel it is like the punk rock movement. That was about a zest for living and seeing life from a different angle. We didn’t harp on miserably about dying.”

Efforts to snap Levi out of her emo torpor have so far met with little success.

Before Christmas, Lorraine bought her daughter a wardrobe of brightly-coloured designer clothes and jeans, but they have barely been worn.

She has banned Levi from dying her hair black, but is worried about clamping down further in case it causes further rebellion.

Levi insists that her mother is worrying unnecessarily.

“I think many of the concerns around emos aren’t true,” she says.

“To me, emos skateboard a lot, dress in darker colours and listen to alternative rock music.

“It’s also true they probably think about feelings more than other people.

“I do get teased for being an emo because some people at school think it’s just about suicide and self-harm.

“But I think you would have to be depressed already to self-harm ­ and I’m not depressed.

“I like going out dressed in emo clothes because it causes a stir. There aren’t many emos where I live, so people look at you.

“It makes you feel individual.”

That sense of rebellion and non-conformity is something that 21-year-old Jennina Taylor-Wells can relate to.

Now a student at Oxford Brookes University, she became an emo at 16.

For her, it was also about making a statement.

“I was going through an unhappy period at school,” she recalls. “I grew up in the wealthy area of Cheshunt in Hertfordshire, and I was surrounded by spoilt rich kids. I felt that being an emo gave me a defined individuality.”

Looking back, she acknowledges that the “cult”, as she calls it, was heavily linked to self-harm and depression.

Many of her friends were actually taking prescription antidepressants.

“In hindsight, I can see that being involved with such a cult can be dangerous if you are a vulnerable personality.

“There is a very dark side to being an emo, which is about dressing in black and listening to music with very deep lyrics. That could tip a vulnerable person over the edge.”

In recent years, the growing reach of the internet and social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook and Bebo has meant that the influences to which teenagers are exposed are not controlled by mere geography.

While this can have positive effects, Professor Stephen Briggs, a clinician in the adolescent department of the Tavistock Clinic, says it can also adversely affect the way teenagers develop.

“With mobile phones, the internet and Facebook you can create a virtual world that means you need never be alone,” he says. “It means that you don’t ever have to be out of sight ­ and that doesn’t allow an adolescent to experience that sense of being a bit separate, of finding one’s self.

“It means you don’t have a chance to mature on your own; to know who you are.”

Just what directed Hannah Bond’s behaviour on that tragic September night last year will never be known.

At the inquest in Maidstone, Kent, Vanessa Everett, head teacher of Mascalls Secondary School where Hannah was a pupil, admitted there had been problems with emos harming themselves.

Everett added she thought it “probable” that Hannah might have been influenced by another emo girl at the same school who had attempted suicide a year earlier.

According to a fellow student, she was a close friend of Hannah’s and one of a large number of emo pupils.

“The amount of boys and girls who seem to be into it is incredible,” the teenager told the Mail. “I reckon there must be 15 to 20 per cent of pupils who are emos. A boy in my class has recently got into it and he’s changed completely.

“He used to be normal but now he harms himself, he’s dyed his hair black and he wears dark clothes and a really long black coat.

“He’s got loads of plasters up his arms and cuts and marks. I tried to ask him about them but he ignored me.”

It also emerged that in the months leading up to her death, Hannah had begun to use the internet more, secretively surfing the web on the family’s laptop.

Her mother told the inquest: “About a month before [Hannah’s death] I noticed that she was addicted to it [the internet].

“There was a definite change in her desire to be online.”

On the night of her death, Hannah had spent the evening at a friend’s house ­ also an emo and one who had also cut himself, telling his mother: “We’re emos, we all do it.”

Hannah had wanted to sleep over and was upset at having to leave.

When they got home, Mrs Bond told Hannah to go to bed, adding that they would discuss the matter in the morning.

The teenager turned to her and said: “I feel like killing myself.”

Breaking down in tears, Mrs Bond told the inquest: “I think I said: ‘Don’t be so silly ­ we’ll talk about it in the morning.'”

An hour later, Mrs Bond went into her daughter’s bedroom at the family home in East Peckham, near Maidstone, and found Hannah’s lifeless body hanging from the metal railing of the top bunk.

Returning a verdict of suicide, Coroner Roger Sykes said: “She had become an aficionado of the emo fad and she was a user of the internet, which enabled her to contact other emos all over the world, in particular America.

“But she was a very well-liked girl who had many friends and was doing well in school. In her mother’s words, she had ‘everything to live for’.

“The emo overtones concerning death and associating it with glamour I find very disturbing. It is not glamorous; just simply a tragic loss of such a young life.”

The 200 friends and family who attended Hannah’s funeral will no doubt echo that.

But not everyone seems to have learned the lesson.

In a tribute book set up at Hannah’s school, one pupil left the following message: “I hope you enjoy the black parade.”

Naive, misguided or just plain stupid.

But then, that’s always been the trouble with some teenagers. And the danger of emo.