She's still dealing with her teenage son's suicide, but a Sioux Falls mother said an outpouring of support is making one of the most difficult times in her life a little easier. Earlier this month, we introduced you to Tabatha Welsh. She told KELOLAND News her 16-year-old son Derrick Kester battled depression and was not perfect, however he also dealt with being bullied.
"I've gone through his old Facebook page, messages on his phone to see if there was anything," Welsh said.
Welsh has said she saw warning signs, but like so many parents, she never thought her son would actually take his own life. The mother is still trying to answer a lot of questions. As she searches for clues, she has found support.
"I've actually had a lot more people, you know, wanting to be friends with me on Facebook to help me take a stand and some of them have their own stories. There was a family in Chicago (with) a 7-year-old (who struggled with bullying). So, it's affecting more than just the teen population where it's hardest to fit in," Welsh said.
Described as a caring teenager with a quick sense of humor, Welsh said her son hid a dark side. Cards, letters and support from strangers beyond South Dakota have made her realize her son's battles with depression, bullying and thoughts of suicide are all too common.
"The feelings that I have, the emptiness I feel, I don't want another family to feel it. It is very traumatizing when it is a choice child made," Welsh said.
Her story resonated with a lot of viewers, and it got more than 8,000 responses on our KELO Facebook page. Welsh said a lot of people she had never met went to her son's funeral.
Now she's trying to use this attention to her story to help others. Beyond keeping her son's memory alive, Welsh wants to keep the conversation about the dangers of bullying going. She eventually wants to organize rallies and marches to create awareness. For now, she just hopes her story inspires more parents and teens to talk more openly about their own stories.
"I don't back down. I always take on challenges," Welsh said. "If I can make an impact and people really listen, I seriously think these kids are going to be more willing to stand up for themselves."
As she tries to understand her son's suicide, she feels she is also answering a new calling: to support other kids going through situations like Derrick's.
"I still talk to him like he's right there. He very much always will be there. Everything I do every day is to better children like him. To give them a place where they feel like they can talk to somebody," Welsh said.