Native Youth Takes Own Life after “Girlfriend” Fakes Her Death on Social Media


Young Tysen Benz in arms of his father, Raymond Benz.

13-year-old girl faces charges related to posting suicide prank on social media

Published April 8, 2017

MARQUETTE, MICHIGAN — A story that has garnered national headlines is a tragic one for an American Indian family in Michigan. Tysen Benz, an 11-year-old boy, added one more tragic statistic for American Indian youth, who suffer the highest suicide rate of any racial or ethnic group in the United States.

The tragedy began on March 14, 2017 when Benz, a member of the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan by descendancy, attempted to end his life after a girl who he had befriended on the internet allegedly used several social media sites to circulate a story of her own “suicide.” Some of her friends were in on the prank and posted that this girl had indeed taken her own life.

When Benz reached out to the girl’s friends, he expressed he wanted to end his life. The 13-year-old girl and her friends kept the prank going. Sadly, Benz’s mother found the pre-teen boy hanging by his neck in his bedroom.

His mother, who discovered him unresponsive, dialed 911. Benz was resuscitated and airlifted to the University of Michigan Hospital at Ann Arbor in Michigan’s lower peninsular from Marquette. Benz was kept alive on life support machines for weeks until this past Tuesday, April 4, 2017.

Benz’s paternal grandparents are Marcella and Lee Hadden of Mt. Pleasant, Michigan and Thomas Armiga of Marquette. Hadden is a tribal citizen of the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan where she served for several years as the public relations manager until she retired and now runs her own photography business.

“It takes a community raise a child. This is a real tragedy for us,” Hadden told Native News Online on Friday. “This story is important to get out so others may not have to go through what we are going through now.”

Tysen Benz, 11, took his own life after reading his girlfriend killed herself on social media sites.

Hadden is a maintaining a sacred fire for her grandson and a feast on Saturday so those who wish can come to prayer and show their respects to the family.

After Benz passed away on Tuesday, the story gained national attention after it was announced authorities will press charges against the 13-year-old girl.

Suicide Prevention Tips

How American Indian/Alaska Native Communities Can Take Action

The best way to prevent suicide is to use a culturally relevant, contextually driven, comprehensive approach that includes these key components:

  • Promote culturally competent practicesthat increase protective factors and reduce risk.
  • Connect the community’s resources to create a shared vision of wellness.
  • Gather information from elders and community members to gain knowledge and understand the issue of suicidein the community where you are working.

Source: Suicide Prevention Resource Center

Photos Courtesy: Niibing Giizis (Summer Moon) Photography Studio

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