Concerned mom believes the term 'runaway' comes with a stigma as several teens are missing

Scrolling through social media, it doesn't take long to come across a desperate parent looking for their missing child.

Recently, there have been several teenagers identified as runaways in middle Tennessee where parents shared that their child struggles with their mental health.

Experts say at least one in five teenagers struggle with mental health issues.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says there is no typical runaway. However, there are factors that increase the risk. Mental health issues, self-harm, suicidal tendencies and medical conditions are some of those risk factors.

Somewhere between 1.6 and 2.8 million youth run away each year in the United States.

Heather Bond says her son is one of those who left their Murfreesboro house and has not returned home. It’s been one year, 10 months, hundreds of calls, and thousands of posts, but zero words from Devin Bond.

“I never had any idea any of this would ever happen,” said Heather.

The family is offering an $8,000 reward for someone who finds him, or to Devin himself. She is holding on to hope that he will come home, even after 22 months of hearing nothing from her son.

“At this point, Devin is over 18. That kind of changes, he doesn’t have to come home, they are still looking at him as a missing person. We need to know he’s OK,” said Heather.

Runaways are by far the largest group of missing children, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

“It happens every single day, and most people don’t even notice that it happens, and that’s really sad to me,” said Heather.

She believes there is sort of a stigma that goes along with the term ‘runaway.’

"Mental health could be a reason, their home life could be a reason, just the pressures of being a teenager could be a reason,” said Heather.

Victoria Noelle Vaughn believes Heather’s family is in a difficult situation.

Vaughn works for the Department of Transportation where she puts up signs for Amber Alerts.

She said teens who run away typically don’t meet the right criteria to get a lot of attention.

“Most of it is all social media, and word of mouth,” Vaughn said.

So she runs the Middle Tennessee Missing Children Facebook page, where you’ll find many teens, a lot like Devin.

“It just seems like every other day there is a new missing child, missing teen,” said Vaughn.

“It could happen to anyone,” Heather said.

Ron Johnson works with at risk youth and says teens are dealing with a lot right now.

"What I am seeing now more than anything is that now, young people are seemingly compact with so many different things, that they are taking on, as if the world and everyone in it is stacked against them," Johnson said.

He shares the same point as Heather. Simply put, teens need someone to talk to.

“Have that conversation that what they can do if they feel like they need to walk away, that there are other options,” said Heather.

The concerned mother hopes she'll hear that her son will be found safe after all these months of waiting. And also that no one else will have to go through the pain she's going through.

If you or someone you know is facing a crisis, the 24/7 Oasis Crisis Services is available at 615-327-4455.

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