PERRY TOWNSHIP, Ohio - After a sixth student took his own life in Perry Township, his parents spoke to News 5 on Monday.
Their message––they want to make sure this doesn't happen to another family.
Hayden Porter's parents said they hope by telling their story, parents will make sure other kids are getting the help they need.
Shaun Porter said he had talked to his son about the recent suicides at Perry and asked if he was okay. Hayden had assured him he was fine.
“Got off the bus, we talked for 30 to 45 minutes. I never thought he would've done that… that day,” said Shaun Porter.
Hayden’s father and stepmother, along with the rest of his family said they are hurting, but want to stay strong for the other teens who are suffering in secrecy, as Hayden did. Their message to parents––“If you think your kids may be OK, they may not be,” said Shaun Miller.
The Porter family members all wore #PerryStrong shirts to send that message.
“I definitely feel more steps should be taken to stop bullying,” said Shaun. “That's just kind of what I want to do in Hayden's name.”
While he said bullying may have been a factor, there were other things going on in his son's life as well.
“People do and say things to try to help when it's actually extremely hurtful to the families that have been affected by them, such as parenting advice, and everybody is the perfect parent. You might think that until you go through this,” said Samantha Miller, Hayden’s stepmom.
Hayden’s friends said they knew about Hayden’s depression and reported it.
“We contacted the school about it,” said Korbin Merrick, Hayden’s friend. “At least from the parents, I heard they never even got a call about it or were notified of it.”
Now his friends said they want to start a peer support group because sometimes students don't feel comfortable opening up to adults, but to their peers.
“I feel it should be supervised by an adult, but not led by adults,” said Korbin Merrick. “Like a student-led program––a foundation that funded by students for students, so they feel more comfortable talking.”
They have Hayden’s parents’ full support and have started a Go-Fund-Me page, which started out as a fundraiser for funeral expenses but has now turned into something else.
“Just want to make sure his death isn't in vain. We want to help other people through this, other kids, other teens,” said Samantha Miller.
Members of the Perry community also gathered and prayed for the families affected by the tragedies Monday evening at Hartwick Park. The parents, who talked to News 5, said they want those students to know they are loved.