I’m standing behind my declaration that Nate Berkus hosts a terrible, sometimes unwatchable talk show, but this week he did something just terrific. He invited Wendy and Shawn Walsh, mother and brother to dead gay teen Seth Walsh, to tell the story of what happens when kids are bullied: they die.
Wendy has already cemented herself as a hero in this space, becoming one of a growing number of mothers using their personal tragedies to reach other parents. And, hopefully, school administrators. In Seth’s suicide note, which he left before hanging himself from a tree in September (which would land him on life support for 10 days before he ultimately passed), he asks his mother to “make the school feel like shit for bringing you this sorrow.” She’s been on a mission to do exactly that, even managing to get the Department of Education to investigate the Tehachapi Unified School District in California for turning a blind eye to Seth’s torment.
But it’s Seth’s brother Shawn, at just 11-years-old, who stands out as a remarkable human being. He tells Berkus that he knew of Seth’s bullying, and says he encouraged Seth to tell his mother, but Seth feared it would only make his classmates’ attacks even worse. “I want people to remember that bullying isn’t okay,” says Shawn, “because one word can make them have suicidal thoughts.”
Along with Chely Wright, Berkus and the Walshes this week unveiled a new gay teen lounge at the New York City community center YES. And Chely bestowed Shawn with her first-ever Chely Wright Like Me scholarship, which will go to five teens a year who act as advocates in their schools. Well deserved.