Teen's Suicide Galvanizes SAP to Tell Youth 'It Gets Better' (VIDEO)

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In June 2011 SAP's Moya Watson began developing her company's It Gets Better video. She wanted to add her company's voice to this project, and, knowing that the wheels of corporate process can grind slowly, she had a feeling it might take some time to get it done.

She was right. Six months later all the appropriate channels had been cleared. The i's had been dotted, the t's had been crossed, and Watson settled in for what was likely to be another long slog.

When Watson sent an internal casting call on Jan. 30, 2012, she had no idea what would come next. On Jan. 31, 2012, she received an email from a colleague that contained the death notice for teenager Jeffrey Fehr, a Granite Bay, Calif., teen who had committed suicide on New Year's Day. He killed himself after enduring a lifetime of bullying. He also was the son of Steve Fehr, a senior executive for SAP.

With its international scope (SAP is a global, enterprise software company headquartered in Germany) it wasn't long before SAP people from all around the world began to reply -- LGBT staffers as well as straight allies who wished to speak out against bullying. As the responses came in Watson found herself torn. She wanted to reach out to Steve Fehr but felt it was an intrusion. "What if Jeff wasn't actually gay? Or what if he was and his parents hadn't been supportive?" Watson said. "I didn't want to intrude, and I was terrified of being disrespectful."

After two weeks of agonizing over the decision, Watson opted to take the plunge and reach out. She emailed Fehr on Feb. 14, 2012, at 10:18 a.m. He responded almost immediately with one simple line: "I will do anything I can to prevent just one person from suffering what Jeff suffered and one family feeling the agony that we feel."

There already had been solid support across SAP for the video, but Fehr's experience and involvement fueled the project in an entirely new way. Watson said that "people really 'got it' based on [Fehr's story]," adding that "it really drove the point home."

The result is a video that, while quite a bit longer than the usual It Gets Better fare, stands apart from many other corporate contributions. Beyond the inclusion of Jeff's story, the SAP version has participation from the highest level of the company, including SAP co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe, and Jan Grasshoff, SVP of Talent, Leadership, and Organization and the highest-ranking out, gay executive at SAP.

The SAP video also is unusual in that it includes five different languages (English, French, German, Hebrew, and Norwegian) and staff from at least six different countries. In another unique twist, SAP is translating the video into multiple languages and displays subtitles for various versions.

"Bullying is a global issue, and we are a global company," said Watson. "SAP does not stand for intolerance inside our company, nor should we stand by while it happens outside."

NOTE: The Trevor Lifeline is always available at (866) 488-7386 for those who need support or are considering suicide.

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