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Bullying; End the Violence: Lead by Example

Bullying in the Headlines

Many of us have suffered from bullying at some point. I recall being called a “waste of space” by my fellow immature middle school “friend.” It was uncalled for and it hurt. I still remember it to this day, 15 years later. It was tough being an outsider, my family had just moved from Connecticut to Texas as I entered the 6th grade in a small school where everyone else had grown up together. But, I made it out with only a few emotional scars, as we all did I think. However, today it seems adolescents, and younger, are suffering enough to take their own lives, something unheard of as close as 10 years ago. What changed?

It  is truly horrific just how many young people have recently taken their own lives. Suicide linked to bullying is a tragic problem; take for example the following headlines:

And each article pops up even more shocking and saddening articles. 

In the Lev LaLev video, made a few years back, one of the young ladies goes into detail about her suicide attempt before she came to live at the Children’s Home. I re-watched the clip a few days ago and realized that the young woman was one of our recent brides. How happy she, and her husband, must be that she persevered to reach her wedding day and new life!  Yet, the prospect of a bright future doesn’t seem to be enough for the youth of today.

According to the CDC, Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year. For every suicide among young people, there are at least 100 suicide attempts. Over 14 percent of high school students have considered suicide, and almost 7 percent have attempted it. A study in Britain found that at least half of suicides among young people are related to bullying. Bully-related suicide can be connected to any type of bullying, including physical bullying, emotional bullying, cyberbullying, and sexting, or circulating suggestive or nude photos or messages about a person. Some say that this ease of a quick, global forum via the internet and cell phones is to blame for the recent increase in teen deaths.

Don’t think bullying is just done by peers, as we saw with Penn State, victims of abuse can have the pain of bullying added on by those who should help them, but cover up their cries for help instead.

What Can I Do to Help?

In several cases where bullying victims killed themselves, bullies had told the teen that he or she should kill him or herself or that the world would be better without them. Others who hear these types of statements should be quick to stop them and explain to the victim that the bully is wrong. Let’s do our part by taking notice of these non-verbal cries for help.

Warning signs of suicide:

  • Showing signs of depression, like ongoing sadness, withdrawal from others, losing interest in favorite activities, or trouble sleeping or eating
  • Talking about or showing an interest in death or dying
  • Engaging in dangerous or harmful activities, including reckless behavior, substance abuse, or self injury
  • Giving away favorite possessions and saying goodbye to people
  • Saying or expressing that they can’t handle things anymore
  • Making comments that things would be better without them

If a person is displaying these symptoms, talk to them about your concerns and get them help right away, such as from a counselor, doctor, or at the emergency room.

Ways to help people who may be considering suicide:

  • Take all talk or threats of suicide seriously. Don’t tell the person they are wrong or that they have a lot to live for. Instead, get them immediate medical help.
  • Keep weapons and medications away from anyone who is at risk for suicide. Get these items out of the house or at least securely locked up.
  • Parents should encourage their teens to talk about bullying that takes place. It may be embarrassing for kids to admit they are the victims of bullying, and most kids don’t want to admit they have been involved in bullying. Tell victims that it’s not their fault that they are being bullied and show them love and support. Get them professional help if the bullying is serious.
  • It is a good idea for parents to insist on being included in their children’s friends on social networking sites so they can see if someone has posted mean messages about them online. Text messages may be more difficult to know about, so parents should try to keep open communications with their children about bullying.
  • Parents who see a serious bullying problem should talk to school authorities about it, and perhaps arrange a meeting with the bully’s parents. More states are implementing laws against bullying, and recent lawsuits against schools and criminal charges against bullies show that there are legal avenues to take to deal with bullies. If school authorities don’t help with an ongoing bullying problem, local police or attorneys may be able to.

People who are thinking about suicide should talk to someone right away or go to an emergency room. They can also call a free suicide hotline, such as 1-800-273-TALK (8255). – Source: www.bullyingstatistics.org

How Can I Prevent Bullying?

I think its also important to not only deal with the aftermath of bullying, but to also try to prevent our children from becoming bullies. We must teach the young people in our life how to respect others, no matter how different they are, and the best way to do that is by example.

Teach empathy from babyhood. When you are out with your baby or toddler, or at home reading stories together, use words to identify emotions. If you see someone trip, say to your child, “I hope that person is OK and doesn’t feel embarrassed. We all trip sometimes.” If the person is near you, offer to help. Demonstrating positive, empathetic actions and using words that are respectful reminds children how to treat others – the foundation for friendship.

Be a good friend. Our children, even when we aren’t watching, are watching us. If we spend time visiting with a friend, then turn around and gossip on the phone to another friend, we are teaching our children to treat others the same and to expect the same from our friends. Treat your own friends well and your kids will learn through your actions.

Give your child time to find friends. Kids all have their own timetables and comfort zones when it comes to making friends. Kids need time to develop friendships, so it is important to keep their schedules from becoming overcrowded. Encourage them to participate in activities that reallymatter to them and they will be more likely to meet people with similar interests. – Source: 3 Foundations for Raising Good Friends

We can all take a few pointers from a good ol’ country song to help with us remember the person behind the stranger, “Don’t Laugh at Me” by Mark Willis.

Have you ever suffered from bullying, or were you the bully?

How did you grow past it?

Sheena Levi

Director of Outreach, Lev LaLev Fund

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