Recently there has been an unfortunate rise in teen suicides here in the United States. In fact, as many as seven have occurred in the last two weeks. In most of the cases, the ones committing suicide have faced severe bullying due to their sexual orientation or rumored sexual orientation. Whatever the cause of the bullying, there has to be something to done to help those who are victimized by this nonsense.
When I was a kid, the bullying was within the classroom or on the playground. We didn’t have to deal with social networking where classmates can now ambush you as a group—24/7. Access to the internet also allows people to hide behind fake screen names and brutalize their victims anonymously. Photoshopping is another popular way used to demean and embarrass victims by imposing their faces on unflattering pictures. There are just too many tools available for one to torment a potential victim.
As mentioned earlier, many of these suicides stemmed from a person being bullied due to their sexual orientation and or rumored sexual orientation. Homosexuality seems to be such a taboo topic especially in schools. Is it the responsibility of the school system to help students with their sexuality or is that up to the parent? Should it be part of the Sex Ed classes? I don’t know if it’s the responsibility of the school to help students with their sexuality, but they do need to teach these students about tolerance. If students don’t know how to be tolerant to those who are different, then it’s likely that some will have a negative reaction to a gay classmate. Tolerance has to be taught early and often, so that it becomes embedded in mindset of the students. They need to know that tolerance is something they’ll not only need as student, but in life in general.
Many will say that it’s up to the victim to stand up to the bully, but that’s much easier said then done. In many cases, it’s not one singular bully doing the attacking. It’s a group of people, many who are afraid themselves to be bullied that are involved. Some of these students don’t stand up for themselves, for the same reason they don’t tell anyone about it. They don’t want to make things worse. So, by not telling they deal with the pain all on their own, which unfortunately brings them to the decision to commit suicide.
This must change. Teen suicide is becoming epidemic. These kids will never graduate, go to college, get married, have kids of their own, or enjoy any other of life’s great moments. Parents are forced to bury the children and spend birthdays at gravestones leaving gifts that won’t ever be opened. Photo album pages are being drenched with tears as these parents look at pictures of their dead child knowing there won’t be any future memories being made. No parent should have to bury their child and endure this type of pain.
Who’s to blame? It was once said that it takes a village to raise a child. It takes that same village to help protect that child. It begins with the schools. School staff needs to “nip any sort of bullying in the bud” when it comes up. It could be a simple joke at a classmates expenses that could open the floodgates, so teachers have to tell the students that this is inexcusable behavior. When it becomes apparent that a student is being bullied, the school needs to do whatever it takes to end the bullying and then go on to provide counseling for this student. Counseling can be for those being bullied, as well as the aggressor. I’ve read that some aggressors don’t even realize they are bullying whereas others are just sadistic in their actions, so this why I believe the aggressor needs to participate in some sort of counseling as well. The bully needs to come to terms with their actions to provide the effect it can have. Depending on the depth of the bullying, the school may need to displace the bully and send him/her to a new school. A school should be safe haven for students.
Should we blame the parents? In some cases, I would say the parents are somewhat responsible, but not all bullies come from an abusive home. In fact, most come from a home with two loving parents, with good jobs, as well as access to the tools to be successful. I’ve heard many parents of bullies can’t believe that their child could do such things. Is this child living a double life or is the parent blind as to what their child does? It’s what a parent does when they learn of this behavior that can effect the way this child treats people in the future. They cannot be naive. They need to take control the situation, so that no further bullying is done. These kids need to be reminded of the “golden rule”, which is: Do not treat others in ways you would not like to be treated. It sounds so simple and easy, but apparently it isn’t.
What about the other side of the coin? The parents of the one being abused. It just seems that no matter how close some of these kids are with their parents, they are unable to let them know of their inner turmoil, their inner pain of being victim of bullying. Some don’t want to look weak and some fear by telling a parent, they’ll then inform the school. For the gay student being bashed, it may be that his parents do not know the he/she is gay and is not ready to come out of the closet. Coming out can be life changing and it should be up to the individual when they want to come out. They shouldn’t be forced to do so because of the actions of others.
Parents have to pay attention to the child’s behavior and personality. Are they becoming withdrawn? Do they spend all their time in their room or on the computer? Do they no longer spend time with friends or go to the local mall like they used to. Talk to your kids daily about how school is going. If necessarily talk to their friends as well. You may even need to talk to their teachers and get to the bottom of these lifestyle changes. Don’t be afraid to talk to them about anything and everything. They need to know that they can come to you, no matter what. It could be the thing that prevents them from taking their own life.
Last year, Constance McMillen, a gay student from Alabama was barred from going to her prom with a same sex date. By doing this, the school is saying that the rights of a straight student outweigh the rights of a gay student. In many states, we do not allow same sex couples to get married. Maybe we should take away their right to vote too? We as a country are leading by example and the current example is that if you are gay, you do not matter. It’s no wonder gay teens are being bullied.
My message to any student being bullied is this. Do not be afraid to speak up. You do not have to face this alone. Just know that there have been many before you that have been bullied. High school is just a small fraction of your life. Allow yourself to move on from this, because there is so much more to your life to live. So many goals to be accomplished. So many dreams to be realized. Life can be painful at times. I’ve dealt with my own heartbreak, my own tragedies, my own mistakes, but always knew that it would get better and it did. Don’t ever give up. Suicide should never be one of your options. Suicide is a final solution to a temporary problem. There have been too many tears shed over coffins that are too small.
Please don’t ever think that you need to kill yourself to escape your pain. Please don’t put your friends, family, and your parents through it because their pain will be everlasting when they lose you. Life will get better. You just have to give it a chance.
If you are thinking of suicide, there is help. You can call the National Suicide Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
The Trevor Project, is a organization that helps gay teens and tries to prevent them from committing suicide. You can find more information at http://www.thetrevorproject.org/.
I also saw on Facebook, that on Wednesday, Oct. 20th, people are encouraged to wear purple in memory of those gay teens who have committed suicide due to abuse.
If you have any questions, comments, or even ways you think we can help with the bullying in schools, as well as suicide prevention, please comment here or email me at [email protected] (Ryan Madland).