Sudden loss of girl saddens community

Distraught teenagers have linked cyber-bullying to the sudden death of a teenage girl last week.

Stephanie Garrett, 15, had attended Palmerston North's Freyberg High School for only two weeks when she was found dead.

Several friends told the Herald on Sunday, on condition of anonymity, that Steph had been bullied in the days before her death.

One Manawatu-based anti-bullying group posted on Facebook: "At the end of the day another young life taken as the result of bullying."


Another concerned person, Toni Ferris, wrote: "Just learned this was the result of yet more bullying, she had so much to live for. RIP Steph."

A spokesman for the Palmerston North police confirmed they were called to an address in the city last Sunday night where the body of a 16-year-old was found.

Police were not prepared to comment on the cause of her death but said it had been referred to the coroner. Her mother, Tania Garrett, thanked on Facebook those who attended a funeral for the popular cheerleader on Thursday.

"Thank you for all coming to say goodbye to Steph. A huge thanks to the boys' haka; it was an amazing tribute for my baby girl. Please all of you going out to the memorial ... be safe and care for each other."

She did not wish to speak about her daughter's death.

However, a friend of Garrett's, who did not want to be named, said she had cried herself to sleep in recent days after more cyber bullying.

The teenager said people on the Ask.FM social networking site had called her "fat".

"Someone is anonymously posting things to me asking me why am I so fat. It made me feel like s*** that someone is purposely trying to hurt my feelings."

Freyberg High School principal Peter Brooks wrote to parents to reassure them this week.

"This is an incredibly distressing time for her family and friends and it is hard for all of us, both adults and students to come to terms with. Different people will react in a range of different ways and we must all look out for each other at this time."

Fellow students described Garrett as "loud, bubbly and overly enthusiastic, with so much to live for".

Palmerston North Mayor Jono Naylor said there were several agencies available for young people at risk.

"My message to them would be go and talk to someone."

According to the annual suicide statistics released last year, there has been a significant rise in the 15 to 19 age group.

Where to get help

Youth services: (06) 3555 906

Youthline: 0800 376 633

Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (4pm to 6pm weekdays)

Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (noon to midnight)

The Word

Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (8am to midnight)

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

CASPER Suicide Prevention
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.