A 12-year-old Texas boy who felt “sad and lonely” amid the coronavirus lockdown measures hanged himself, his father reveals in a report about the tragedy.
Hayden Hunstable, of Aledo, took his own life three days before his 13th birthday in April 2020 because he didn’t know how to deal with the isolation and depression when the emerging disease caused a nationwide shutdown, the UK’s Metro reported.
The boy’s 9-year-old sister, Kinlee, found him hanged in his bedroom, according to the outlet.
Hayden’s heartbroken dad, Brad, 42, spoke to Metro to help prevent future suicides among the nation’s youth.
“COVID killed my son. I think Hayden would still be alive today if COVID had never happened,” the father-of-three told the outlet. “I had no idea he was struggling or depressed — he was such a happy kid and loved his friends and family.”
Calling the pandemic a “perfect storm for suicide and depression,” Brad said: “I think everything just got on top of him, he felt overwhelmed and he made a tragic decision.”
On April 17, he recounted, the water went out in the family’s home and his father came over and Hayden helped them fix the problem.
“It was a beautiful sunny day and I gave him a hug and a kiss on the head,” the grieving dad said.
“Then when my dad left there was just me, Kinlee and Hayden at home. There was only a 30-minute window, Hayden had gone upstairs,” he said.
“Then my daughter ran downstairs and said Hayden has hung himself. I ran up there, pulled him down and tried to save him,” Brad continued.
“I performed CPR but I couldn’t save him. He was gone. I saw something horrific that day and I don’t wish it upon anybody. I still get nightmares about it,” he said.
The dad said his son was hit hard by the lockdown, which made it impossible to hang out with his friends, and took a strong dislike to virtual learning.
“He loved football and he loved being around people, he was very social,” the father told Metro. “He was a little guy but he had the heart of a lion. He was beloved by his friends and family.”
He said Hayden received a curved monitor for Christmas in 2019, just before the lockdown, but he broke it by accident when he got frustrated and threw a game controller at the screen.
“We told him he would not get another one, but then lockdown hit and I told him he would have to work to get a new one,” Brad said.
“He did some chores around the house and we got him a cheaper one in April because it was his birthday on April 21st and he wanted to play with his friends,” he said.
When police investigated the boy’s death, they found that he had also broken his new monitor, Brad said.
“I don’t know if he was scared about getting into trouble of anxious about not being able to speak to his friends and ruining his birthday,” he said. “He either did it in impulsive anger or he got himself in a situation he couldn’t get out of.”
Brad said he believes that if his son had been taught about depression and how to beat it, he may have been saved.
As a result of the tragedy, Brad is on a mission to address what he believes will be a “mental health tsunami” triggered by the pandemic — and has also made a short film called Almost 13, which shares Hayden’s story.
“I am on a mission to solve youth suicide. Parents need to have conversations with their kids about their feelings,” he told Metro.
“We need to talk to kids about suicide and talk to kids about how to deal with depression. Kids get depressed and they need to be taught how to deal with their problems,” he said.
“He was my best friend, we were buddies. I still cry every day and I can’t change what happened. … Hayden is a hero because I think he has already saved so many people across the world. I just hope I can do him justice,” Brad added.