A troubling and heartbreaking video has gone viral after being posted on Facebook, and stoked controversy about the appropriateness of such sharing on social media. In the video, Brenden Bickerstaff-Clark of Youngstown, Ohio, can be seen sitting at a picnic table in what appears to be a public park. Seated across from him is his 8-year-old son alongside an unidentified woman. Bickerstaff-Clark proceeds to inform the young boy that his mother died the night before as a result of a heroin overdose. Shocked, the boy asks, “You mean my mom?” Bickerstaff-Clark confirms and then the boy screams “How?” and collapses into the arms of the woman sitting next to him, sobbing. “From drugs,” is the response from his father.
“This is for any and every addict with children,” Bickerstaff-Clark wrote in the post accompanying the video. “Today I had to tell my 8-year-old son that his mommy died from a drug overdose last night. This is the realization and reality of our disease. Don’t let this disease have to make someone tell your child that you’re dead because of drugs. This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. My son has no mother because of heroin.”
It’s a tragic moment that is difficult to watch for several reasons. The video is below, but we urge caution in watching it as it is upsetting.
Since being posted on Monday evening, the video has gone viral amassing an astonishing 25 million views and has been shared more than 600,000 times. It has also elicited a range of strong reactions among the more than 82,000 comments. Many criticized Bickerstaff-Clark for posting video of such a delicate and emotional moment in a child’s life for the world to see. But many also defended Bickerstaff-Clark, comparing it to a case from last month in which Ohio police posted gruesome-looking photos showing a 4-year-old boy in the back seat of a car while his grandparents were passed out in the front seats as a result of overdosing on heroin.
Bickerstaff-Clark, who according to his year of high school graduation listed on his Facebook page is likely in his late twenties, went on to acknowledge his own struggles with addiction in the post, saying that he’s been clean for a little more than three months. He added that he posted the video so that “addicts with children can see the seriousness of our epidemic” and that he hopes his sharing of the video will help save the life of at least one parent.
Ohio has been one of the worst-ravaged states in the U.S. by the heroin epidemic this year. Some 23 Ohioans die weekly in the state from heroin overdoses, according to a report earlier this year by 60 Minutes. Nationally, the problem, though worse for men than women, has been escalating dramatically. According to CDC statistics, deaths caused by heroin overdose among women have spiked in recent years. From the year 2000 to 2010, heroin overdose deaths among women were well below 1,000 per year in the U.S. But over the following four years, deaths rose sharply from 0.4 to 1.2 per 100,000 for women, as illustrated in the graphic below. The 2013 stats are the latest national figures available from the CDC.
If women and mothers aren’t dying from the heroin epidemic, in many cases, their lives are increasingly experiencing tragedy because of it. Consider the story of Camelia Carter of Cleveland, Ohio. Her 25-year-old son R.J. Parker died earlier this year after ingesting a mixture of heroin and fentanyl, the same opioid that killed Prince this year. Carter has launched an online petition calling for Governor John Kasich to declare a state of emergency in Ohio over the heroin epidemic.
“Heroin is bigger than a hurricane,” Carter told Cleveland.com in an interview last week. Her initiative, dubbed the Parker Resolution, draws on her late son’s experiences and his trips in and out jail and drug rehab, and calls for state lawmakers to invest an unprecedented amount of money in fighting the problem — as they would do for a national disaster. “We have to treat this like the crisis that it is,” Carter said. “Or else we’re going to lose an entire generation.
In the video below, watch Carter elaborate on her plan and the plight of her late son.