Teen from 'laser cat' yearbook photo takes his own life

Feb 23, 2015 at 3:30 p.m. ET

Draven Rodriguez, the Schenectady High School kid who went viral with his delightful "laser cat" yearbook photo, took his own life last Thursday at home, his parents have announced. He was only 17 years old.

How completely heartbreaking.

"He made friends wherever he went," Jonathan Stewart, Draven's father, told the local news. "He had friends all over the country — people he'd met at youth leadership conferences, online, just around town."


How could this beautiful kid, who had the creativity and humor to come up with the most epic high school yearbook photo ever, find himself in such darkness that he would take his own life? We'll never know.

Which brings to mind last night's touching speech by Oscar-winning screenwriter Graham Moore, who used his few seconds standing in front of the world to reveal his own suicide attempt at 16 years old and reach out to kids at home just like him.

"I tried to commit suicide at 16, and now I'm standing here," Moore said during his speech. "I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she doesn't fit in anywhere. You do. Stay weird. Stay different, and then when it's your turn and you are standing on this stage, please pass the same message along."

I couldn't help but wish that Draven could have heard that call to just hold on until it was his "turn to stand on this stage."

People who are quietly suffering are all around us, and both Draven and Graham Moore remind us to stay involved and vigilant in taking care of those we suspect are struggling with depression or having thoughts of suicide. And so often it is the "weird" kids — the ones who are the most complicated and creative and sensitive — who need us the most. And sadly they're too often the least likely to ask for help.

In case you missed Moore's moving Oscar speech, watch it now.


Rest in peace, Draven Rodriguez, you beautiful soul. We've all lost the opportunity to watch you assume your place on that stage. Hopefully this will remind us to help convince the next Draven to hold on just a little longer.

If you suspect someone might be considering suicide, or you have struggled with those thoughts yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

More on suicide prevention

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