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Father of 11-year-old girl who died by suicide hopes her story will save others

Zy’onna Phifer was just a 6th-grade student. Her father is hoping for answers.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Editor's note: This story discusses youth suicide and may be upsetting for some readers.

The father of a Charlotte girl who took her own life is speaking out to save other children.  Zy’onna Phifer, 11, was a 6th-grade student at Renaissance West STEAM Academy in Charlotte before taking her life earlier this month.

“My daughter was a very loved child,” said her father, Juan Mason, who spoke to WCNC Charlotte via Zoom. “She had a lot of life in her, just things to look forward to in the future.”

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Mason said his daughter was full of life and love, seemingly a happy child. They spent a lot of quality time together doing things like homework and playing tennis, but she didn’t show signs she was struggling.

After her death, the family has many questions that they hope an investigation will answer.

“We’re just now finding out a lot of stuff that’s coming to surface and we’re learning now about some things that she was going through in school dealing with certain individuals,” said Mason.

Mason didn’t want to go into the details of what Zy’onna faced because the case is under investigation.

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On Saturday, dozens of people came together in Charlotte to hold a ride raising awareness about bullying in memory of Zy’onna.  Riders traveled from The Plaza in Charlotte to Zy’onna’s family home in support of her loved ones.

 “We want to take a stand in our community to do things to try and help our children to understand that there’s someone out here that cares,” said Vince Cuthertson, who attended the ride.

Mason is sharing his daughter’s story in hopes of saving other children and preventing any parent to feel the deep pain he is living.

“The main thing is just to basically look for signs and symbols if they're depressed or if they're going through things,” said Mason, “Anything to change their normal pattern of the things that they do at home, pay attention.”

Zy’onna’s funeral was held on Friday. 

If you or a loved one are facing thoughts of suicide or self-harm, there is help readily available. You can call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or chat with them online. There are also resources in North Carolina available here and in South Carolina available here.

Contact Indira Eskieva at ieskieva@wcnc.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.

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