BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Family and friends held a heartbreaking memorial service Sunday night for a 9-year-old Birmingham girl who committed suicide.
The goal of the service was to spread awareness of mental health and suicide.
The memorial service for Maddie Whitsett was extremely difficult, not only for the young girl’s family, but also for friends and even strangers there.
But even though the topic of suicide is one that’s hard to talk about, it’s one this family wants to address so that no other family has to go through the pain they’re feeling now.
The memorial service started with a prayer for the family.
“She had a beautiful smile,” said EMS Captain William Lipscomb, friend and colleague of Maddie’s stepfather. “She greeted everybody. She never met a stranger.”
Captain Lipscomb said this loss is also heartbreaking for this entire community.
“It’s a situation that has been hard on everybody. The community, the department, everybody,” he said. “As a public servant in this community, we see this a lot. But it hits home when it happens to one of us. One of our own.”
A family spokesperson told us Maddie hung herself in her room likely because of bullying and side effects of her medication.
“I’m a parent, we have children. And we just want to make sure that we get the word out. We really need to be cognizant of what is going on,” said Captain Lipscomb. “This new social media age now, we’ve got bullying now. And all this stuff that you don’t think is happening is happening. And we really need to be aware of what is going on.”
Speakers from multiple organizations dealing with suicide prevention, mental health, and anti-bullying all spoke at the service to educate parents and children alike.
“I hope that we put our arms around this family. We show our love to this family,” said Captain Lipscomb. “And we understand that today, this is this family’s problem. Tomorrow, it could be any of us.”
After the service, people were able to donate to the Maddie Foundation, which has a goal to raise awareness of suicide prevention, mental health, and anti-bullying.