Tennessee Teen Dies by Suicide After Being Outed Online

Classmates shared sexually explicit messages sent by the victim and he killed himself shortly after, according to his brother

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A Tennessee teen who died by suicide last week was cyberbullied by classmates over his perceived sexuality prior to his death, according to the teen’s brother.

Channing Smith, 16, a high school student in Coffee County, Tennessee, died by suicide between Sept. 22 and Sept. 23. Joshua Smith, Channing’s half-brother, said he discovered the cyberbullying after he was initially unable to identify a motive for Channing’s death.

“I just went out on a limb and started cold messaging kids that were apparently his friends,” Joshua Smith told TODAY.com. “Within just a couple of hours, I was able just from talking to kids to put together a storyline.”

Joshua Smith said he found out that Channing had been sending sexually explicit texts to a boy from school. When a girl Channing had previously dated came across these messages, she shared screen shots on Snapchat and Instagram and “pretty much outs my brother for being gay,” he said.

“I think these kids need to be held accountable at some level,” he said.

Faith Honea, Channing's classmate and friend, said other classmates started cyberbullying the teen who was not out as LGBTQ at the time.

"It just breaks my heart that people found out and made fun of him for it," she said. "The people who exposed him had absolutely no right. They made fun of him, hurt him and above all made him feel alone." 

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources. Or contact The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth at 1-866-488-7386 or by texting START to 678678.

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