Mike Neuts discusses years of pain, anguish

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Myles Neuts
Myles Neuts

“Wish I wasn’t me but I’m OK to be me.”

That seemingly paradoxical statement sums up the journey of what it’s like to have been Mike Neuts in the 18 years since his son Myles died after being hung from a coat hook in a Chatham elementary school washroom.

Neuts has taken the incredible pain and anguish of that experience and has forged the non – profit Make Children Better Now (MCBN)), which will celebrate its 11th anniversary October 25th.

The aim of MCBN is to raise awareness about Mental Health Issues among young people; especially the issue of bullying that he says caused his son’s death.

A police investigation failed to result in charges against the two boys Neuts says he believes were involved in putting his son, a small 10 year – old in fifth grade, on a hook on the back of a washroom stall door.

A six-week coroner’s inquest resulted in the reason behind the death as undetermined. Nine of the 24 recommendations made by the jury have never been acted on.Neuts believes the Coroner’s Office and Inquest’s need an overhaul to do what they are supposed to do.

Myles was found unconscious February 6, 1998. Six days later, his parents took him off life support.

After spending tens of thousands of dollars on legal advice, Neuts chose to represent Myles and his family at the inquest, a decision that helped ultimately determine the future direction of his life.

“I was able to learn all of the things I wouldn’t have otherwise, with having legal representation” he said. “I was able to look those boys in the eye and I knew what had happened.”

He said before the inquest began, he was sure he needed an undetermined verdict to do proper justice for Myles and the Neuts family.

“Everyone thought I wanted a homicide verdict,” he said. “I didn’t. I know those boys didn’t mean to kill my son, but I also know that they had motive to bully him.”

The grief and sense of loss was almost too much to bear. Neuts left his well-paying job at Navistar for 8 months in 1998 and another two months for the inquest in 2000, suffering financial hardship and was concerned about what the future held for his wife Brenda and other son Dane.

“I had all the nagging doubts and anger in me,” he said. “I wanted justice and vengeance. I wish I had taught him to fight so he wouldn’t be picked on. I made sure I taught Dane.”

Knowing that bullying is a learned behaviour, Neuts decided to set out and change attitudes and eventually a system that he believed ignored the issue.

He began speaking out about bullying, starting with his comments during a symposium in 2000 called by Chatham-Kent Police Chief John Kopinak to answer questions of the local police investigation and children’s behaviour.

“There are a lot of people who helped me along the path, and John is one of them,” he said. “Unofficially Myles case was still open until February this year when after 5 police chiefs and 18 years, Myles belongings were returned to the family. Even if one of the boys came in and confessed I don’t think anything would be done. I don’t know if they kept the case open for me or because those who were there felt so bad that nothing was officially answered.”

Since his first speech, Neuts said he’s spoken to more than 250,000 students across Canada.

“I do it to change the attitude about bullying in the general school population but I especially want to reach those who are at risk of becoming bullies and to help victims to overcome bad decisions and thoughts of self-harm and suicide. Those are the kids who need to know that what they’re doing isn’t all right and there are ways to work out the issues which make them bullies and/or victims.”

“Do you know how at risk kids spell love?” he asked. “They spell it T-I-M-E. A lot of these kids are just ignored by whatever parental influence they have in their lives. That anger and rejection comes out as a way to hurt others.”

Neuts said the time after Myles death was the most difficult.

“The lows were incredibly low. Brenda and I got through it because we had to for Dane but also because we never judged each other. We were going through the same journey but at any given time we’d be at a different spot.”

“I didn’t expect to be on this journey, I wish I had a crystal ball,” he said, “but I don’t think it’s coincidental anymore.”

Asked if he thought that Myles was with him on the Journey, he took a deep breath and said, “That’s a question for a long night of discussion.”

Comments

comments

3 COMMENTS

  1. Your quest to help victims & bullies is remarkable! These kids who bullied Myles, as adults surely will question their motives & hopefully face theirselves & not continue the attitude that it is okay to bully with their own kids!
    Most of us have run into a bully as kids! I recall getting hit on the head with a roller skate by a much bigger girl
    as a child, not on school grounds. No one else was there to witness her anger or my lump!
    Funny how this article brought the memory back of many, many years ago!
    Kudos to you Mike & Brenda! Not everyone could control their anger of what happened to Myles & reach out to
    make this into a positive way of dealing with bullies! Myles did not die in vain! If your speaking engagements help
    even one person realize bullying is not acceptable that is an amazing feat!

  2. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things! So proud of your journey to make things better now! God bless you all.❤️

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