Madissen's Secret: Grieving Devils Lake father raising awareness after 11-year-old daughter dies by suicide
DEVILS LAKE—It's every parent's worst nightmare: a father burying his 11-year-old daughter.
The father says his daughter's death was the result of pressure from other kids. Now, this father is sharing his grief to promote change so no other child is left thinking that suicide is their only way out.
Art projects were one of the many fun activities Shane Paulsen liked to do with his daughter, Madissen.
"My daughter was awesome man, 6th grader, straight A student, clarinet player," Paulsen said.
But the middle schooler's bright future would come to a dark end at only 11-years-old.
"These are images I will never get out of my head," said Paulsen.
Saturday, December 2nd.
"I woke up to a gunshot," Paulsen said.
He quickly darted to his little girl's room.
"I knew she was dead right away. I just called 911 and said my daughter committed suicide; send everybody, she dead, it's over," Paulsen said.
As word spread quickly throughout the Devils Lake community about Madissen's death, her secrets became unlocked.
"There are kids that knew, and nobody said anything," said Paulsen.
After her death, Madissen's friends told her dad she tried to kill herself two weeks earlier by hanging herself in her closet.
"I came home from work and I was like that better not be a hickey, the last thing on my mind was that she tried to hang herself," said Paulsen.
So what pushed this pre-teen so far? Paulsen has been told bullying may be one reason.
"She questioned her identity, she told me once she liked girls, and then boys and girls, this is an issue at 11, and this shouldn't be an issue right now," Paulsen said.
His baby girl may now be gone, but this grieving father wants to make sure Madissen's voice is louder than ever. He says the issue is much deeper than just bullying, but issues with how schools across the country are being run.
"This constant bombardment of things they can't process, they don't have the skills or life skills to process these problems," Paulsen said. "They should be learning about math and english, Picasso and art, teach my daughter a second language, don't teach her what bathroom to use, I got that covered."
Paulsen says he wishes he could have heard his daughter's silent cries for help.
Jamie Sehrt is the director of clinical services at Red River Behavioral Health. She says its critical for parents to talk openly about the issue of suicide with their kids, not just to keep close tabs on their own kids, but so they lookout for their friends as well...
"They might feel like they are breaking that friend's trust, but really they might be saving their life," Sehrt said.
Madissen is the second 11-year-old in the region to take her life since September. According to the State Health Department, six children under the age of 17 die by suicide every year.
"With the pressures in school, bullying in school, pressures in social media, those factors enhance the suicidality and increase in depression," said Sehrt.
"These kids don't know how to talk to people, this could have been prevented," Paulsen said.
Christmas will not be the same this year. Paulsen says he will likely take the decorations down since his 11-year-old angel won't be around the tree on Christmas morning.
"We aren't at the dining room table talking about things, I'm part of it, that's a burden I'm going to have to bear," Paulsen said.
During his daughter's funeral Shane wore the color blue, a color that stands as a symbol of bullying prevention.