TEEN TRAGEDY: 'Our hearts have been ripped out'
HEARTBROKEN parents who returned from a doctor's appointment to find their daughter dead have pleaded with other parents to "talk to your kids" as they try to understand why 16-year-old Kaitlyn Ros suddenly took her own life.
Stanthorpe's Eric and Juanita Ros have had their "hearts ripped out" and are living through "the worst nightmare a parent can have" in the wake of their youngest daughter's death.
On November 8, Mr and Mrs Ros were driving back from a hospital appointment in Toowoomba when they tried to call home.
When Kaitlyn didn't answer the phone, they rushed back to discover their "beautiful girl" had taken her own life.
"Kaitlyn is dead!!!" was the chilling text message oldest sibling Shardae will never forget.
Stanthorpe police officer in charge Gerard Brady said detectives were treating the death as a suicide.
Kaitlyn's tragedy is the second reported instance of a Southern Downs teenager taking their own life this year.
The other was 14-year-old Scots PGC student Amy "Dolly" Everett, whose death in January shocked Australia and sparked the Queensland Anti-Cyberbullying Taskforce.
Stanthorpe resident Hayley Latham said the incident had shaken the whole community.
"It gives people a sense of fear, of not being in control, not being able to create a safe environment for our kids," Mrs Latham said.
While Kaitlyn's family have called for an urgent coronial inquest to determine the circumstances surrounding her death, they believe she also suffered bullying and harassment at school.
"Our beautiful girl is gone she can never be replaced.
"Our lives will never be the same because someone felt it was OK to bully," Mr Ros said in a public comment on social media.
While the family struggle to understand the suffering Kaitlyn faced, her last words to them remain to be seen.
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Five individual letters addressed to each of Kaitlyn's relatives are locked away in a police report that is currently being prepared for the coroner.
The oldest of six siblings and closest to Kaitlyn, Shardae said her sister's death could have been prevented.
"I was going through my (text) messages the other night and she had been telling me she was getting bullied and the school wasn't doing anything about it," Shardae said.
"In hindsight you could probably see something was going wrong, but she was such a loving and caring person."
Mr Ros took to social media, begging other children to speak up about their troubles.
"Kids please tell your parents if you are (being bullied)," he said.
"We love you, we want to help you. You are needed in our lives.
"Please, please report it to someone you are being bullied. If they don't listen, tell your parents."
Psychologist Mark Cary said bullying could contribute to suicidal ideation when children and teenagers felt there was no escape.
"Bullying has become more invasive in a teenager's life than it used to be," Mr Cary said.
"Once upon a time bullying stopped at a school gate, but with technology and social media it can invade a person's whole life so even when you go home you can't feel safe."
He said depression and anxiety could impair rational thought and good decision making in children and teenagers, leading them to make impulsive decisions.
Shardae has called for urgent action to be taken in schools.
"I think they need a better anti-bullying policy in schools and they need to actually enforce it," she said.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said the school was "deeply saddened" by the loss.
"Specialist counselling support is being provided through services organised by the school, and we encourage anyone affected to reach out for assistance," she said.
"During this time, we ask everyone to respect the different ways in which individuals express grief, and understand the significant impact such a loss has on our community.
"It is a time for students, families and staff to take care of each other and offer time to listen."
Mrs Latham said the focus should be on bolstering resilience in children.
"I think a lot of concentration goes onto naming and shaming, but the bully is just another kid that is hurting," she said.
"We need to focus I think on building our own children's self-love and self-worth, because that is something our kids really struggle with."
As the wider community today commemorates Kaitlyn in a public service in Stanthorpe, she will be remembered as a caring young woman who loved art and her dog and was planning to devote herself to a career in aged care.
"She is going to be missed more than she knows," Shardae said.
If you or someone you know need help, 24/7 support is available. Phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800, or visit kidshelpline.com.au