The parents of a 20-year-old student who died by suicide last week because he had been bullied persistently over a period of years have shocked the Netherlands by publishing their son’s suicide note in a local newspaper along with his death notice.
The note which is accompanied by a large smiling picture of Tim Ribberink who was training to become a history teacher, reads: “Dear Mum and Dad, All my life I have been ridiculed, abused, bullied and excluded. You guys are fantastic. I hope you’re not angry. Until we meet again, Tim.”
Tim’s parents Gerrit and Hetty Ribberink, who say they were unaware until his suicide on Thursday that anything was amiss, have asked police to investigate his death – and in particular two fake messages posted online in his name which they hope will help identify the bullies.
The first of the two messages dates from 2010 when Tim was a second-level student. The second appeared online last summer and stated: “I am a loser and a homo.”
In the Ribberinks’ home village of Tilligte, east of Amsterdam, near the German border, a tearful farewell was held in the Catholic church last night. It was attended by hundreds of friends and wellwishers stunned by his death and angry at what led to it.
Earlier, local pastor Marinus van den Berg read a brief message from Tim’s parents. “Tim was not weak or pathetic,” they said. “He was strong. That is how we knew him, and that is how he would want the world to remember him.”
They added: “Tim was a history student, and that is why we quote Winston Churchill on his behalf to other people who are being bullied: ‘Never, never, never give up’.”
Like Tim’s parents, his teacher training collage in Windesheim, where he was a second-year student, said it had had no suspicion of any bullying.
“He was doing well here. He fitted in and we know his parents thought so as well.”
His former secondary school said the same thing.
“He was a nice boy who never seemed to have any problems.”
Only Henk and Martina Knol, who run the ice-cream parlour where Tim sometimes worked, said they noticed he had lost weight and become pale.
“The girls used to ask him if he was gay but he’d make a joke of it. If he was gay, he didn’t want anyone to know about it.”
The publication of the suicide note has generated a huge reaction on Twitter and other social media with the majority of posts supporting his parents’ decision to make his story public and calling for tougher legislation to deal with bullying.
A few said his parents should have been more aware of his plight.
“Hopefully this is a wake-up call and more attention will be paid to bullying at last,” read one message.
“Yes, this is shocking, and it should be”, said another.
“Tell your friends and your children, bullying is hell. It should never be allowed to happen.”
Tim’s photograph was shared more than 5,000 times within hours of the story emerging of his death
And the hashtag, #timribberink, has been a trending topic in the Netherlands.