Bullying, Abuse, and Suicide Risk Among Students: Ignorance is Bliss for Disbelievers (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Recently, a man commented on one of my blog posts that I made last year regarding a particular school in which bullying (and worse) occurred by children and adults toward other children.  What was so shocking to me was that the man basically stated that he was physically abused by religious at a parochial school during his childhood, and he inferred that children should currently be treated more harshly (infer more abuse and violence) than what they already endure in many schools.  In responding to the man – and seeking to provide information for his understanding of the seriousness of the issue – I stated to him that bullying, abuse, and violence is extremely serious in the United States.  The United States has the highest child mortality rate of any Western country.  And, in the United States, Texas is the state with the highest single mortality rate (about 4%) of any state.

Why isn’t the American public outraged about that?!  Why do more people not stand up for and protect children, nor seek to listen to, hear, and understand them?  Why is it so easy for so many people to minimize, overlook, ignore, and discredit children?  It is no wonder that so many children and youth commit suicide when they do not receive the assistance and/or protection that they need from their families – or other adults, and then, experience bullying, abuse, and/or violence at school.  Children and youth are so vulnerable.  They are growing and developing, and are going through stages of their lives in which they are most fragile.

Too many people believe that children and youth should be harmed – and then, they call it discipline or disciplinary action.  Children and youth need support, care, kindness, understanding, and compassion.  How does American society expect children to grow and develop in a healthy manner when many of their role models, teachers, coaches, and/or other adults bully and harm them?  What is worse in a Catholic or religious faith-based school is when the expectation is that children are to be valued and appreciated, but are bullied and harmed by many of the very adults who are charged with protecting them.  The situation is not restricted to faith-based schools, but is present in all too many schools in the United States, both public and private.

I believe that much of the issue relates to the toleration, acceptance, encouragement, and promotion of violence – particularly media violence – within our culture.  So many television shows, movies, and other programs that have been deemed “entertainment” are so horrific that I have rarely watched them, now, over a period of many years.  Yet, for many people, the more violence they view, the more they want.  It is as if there is a competition in the United States in media and entertainment to produce more and more violent shows and movies.  That would not occur if people did not spend so much money to view violence, to play violent video games, to participate in sports that are violent, etc.

Thus, I have broached a few more topics about which most people do not want to contemplate, talk about, or take action to prevent or eliminate.  These are, however, issues that must be brought into the open and discussed if there is any hope for improvement in regard to them within our culture.  One person who takes his or her life due to bullying and abuse is too many.  Yet, there are dozens of children and youth who commit suicide in the United States, with such deaths continually on the rise.  Last I knew, there were about 135 reported deaths due to suicide in the United States in one recent year.  There are likely many more that are not reported.  And, many of these children and youth who commit suicide have been bullied and harmed at school, by their peers and/or teachers.

I have taken the liberty to post several links regarding children and youth who have committed suicide in such circumstances so that the man who posted his comment, saying that my article was “stupid” can have a better understanding that when someone is dead, the situation is too late to improve – and is far from “stupid.”  For this man, ignorance is bliss.  Following, therefore, are just a few of the 100s of links on the Internet (in no particular order), all of which I retrieved on April 30, 2014, related to children and youth who have committed suicide due to bullying and/or abuse experienced at school from their peers and/or teachers:

“Bullied 10-year-old girl commits suicide.” http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Girl+Commits+Suicide+On+Camera&Form=VQFRVP#view=detail&mid=7A9D5FDFA0071FC8A1657A9D5FDFA0071FC8A165

“Suicide of Amanda Todd.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_of_Amanda_Todd

“Suicide of Phoebe Prince.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_of_Phoebe_Prince

“Suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamey_Rodemeyer  (One of my student teaching experiences was at a school that he attended, Heim Middle School, in the Williamsville (New York) Central School District.)

“Gay Ottawa teen who killed himself was bullied: Jamie Hubley was a figure skater and the only openly gay boy in his school.”  http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/gay-ottawa-teen-who-killed-himself-was-bullied-1.1009474

“Suicide of Kelly Yeomans.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelly_Yeomans

“Girl commits suicide after boyfriend sends her naked photos to fellow students, Family receives $154K from school.” http://news.asiantown.net/r/26323/Girl-commits-suici–100-e-after-boyfriend-sends-her-nak–101-d-photos-to-fellow-students–Family-receives–154K-from-school

“Girls, 12 and 14, arrested in death of bullied Florida girl who killed herself.”  http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/10/15/girls-12-and-14-arrested-in-death-bullied-florida-girl-police-say/

“How a cell phone picture led to a girl’s suicide.”  http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/10/07/hope.witsells.story/index.html

“Georgia middle-schooler commits suicide after bullying, being called ‘snitch,’ dad says.”  http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/04/05/17616979-georgia-middle-schooler-commits-suicide-after-bullying-being-called-snitch-dad-says?lite

“Bullying allegations probed after boy, 15, commits suicide after first day of school.”  http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/08/29/bullying-allegations-probed-after-boy-15-commits-suicide-after-first-day-school/

“Anti-gay bullying cited in Georgia teen’s suicide.”  http://www.projectqatlanta.com/news_articles/view/anti-gay_bullying_cited_in_georgia_teens_suicide

“My bullied son’s last day on Earth.”  http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/04/23/bullying.suicide/  (It is difficult to believe this already happened five years ago; I remember the news about it.)

“Ex-teacher gets 30 days for rape of girl, 14; judge says she was ‘older than her chronological age.’ ”  http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/ex-teacher_gets_30_days_for_sex_with_student_14_judge_says_she_was_older_th/  (I am aware that the National Organization for Women made a formal complaint against the judge in this case, desiring his removal as a result of the sentence that he gave this man.  The girl committed suicide.)

“Teacher Kidnaps, Rapes Boy.”  http://abcnews.go.com/US/video?id=7390696

“Mary Kay Letourneau.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Kay_Letourneau

“Columbine High School massacre.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbine_High_School_massacre

These 17 articles represent at least 29 people who died, either by suicide or homicide, in relation to bullying and/or abuse by peers, or abuse by teachers.  The articles also represent at least two other survivors of abuse who remain living.  The victims and survivors in each of these articles are reason enough why bullying and abuse must be taken more seriously, and be prevented and eliminated, especially in our schools.  Hopefully, the man who commented on a different one of my blog posts in relation to this issue no longer views it as “stupid.” 😦

As a result of the comments made by the particular man in regard to a prior post relating to these issues, I have been inspired to create a new LinkedIn group, “Stop Youth Suicide.”  I created the group today, and promoted it within 30 LinkedIn groups, and invited 70 people on LinkedIn from around the world to join.  Six fellow LinkedIn members – most of whom are mental health professionals – have already joined the group as of 5:30 PM Eastern Time today.  I have also promoted the group on Twitter, and will continue to do so.  Today, I have also gained additional followers and “likes” on Twitter as a result of creating this group.  (As of 1:30 PM Eastern Time on May 4, 2014, there are 55 members of the group!)

The comments made by the particular man – and the thoughts and attitudes of so many regarding these issues – definitely reflect the need for increased understanding, sensitivity, compassion, and support toward children and youth, especially those who are contemplate, attempt, and/or commit suicide as a result of bullying and abuse, that which is especially experienced at school from peers and adults.

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“How do you Treat Others?” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

If you are uncomfortable with people or issues, do you just stick your head in the ground?

I love this picture.  I just think it’s so funny, but also sad.  Locating it today while reading a fellow blogger’s post, I thought it appropriate to borrow for my own post on how people treat each other.  Too often, people think ill of, mistreat, and/or misjudge each other.  Like this ostrich, for many people, it’s just easier to stick one’s head in the ground, so to speak.  Then, people are free to misjudge and mistreat each other because they refuse to see, understand, deal with, or cope with others and issues. 

In the past year, I have worked hard at and have achieved a presence on LinkedIn.  My connections span more than 800 people around the world, representing people of all backgrounds and professions, with all types of interests and beliefs.  LinkedIn provides me with a vehicle to connect with others – of similar and different interests and backgrounds – throughout the world.  It also provides me with a professional support system for those who are like-minded, and who stand up for causes for which I also support and in which I am active. 

On a smaller scale, I have also worked to achieve a much smaller presence on WordPress with this blog.  Admittedly, I have not worked hard at it, and that was not my intention.  However, it has been my intention to share, educate, and inform about causes in which I believe, views that I hold, and certain life experiences.  It has been refreshing, energizing, and inspiring to connect with and be supported by others who share similar beliefs, by others who work to further certain causes, by those who stand up for and take action for the good of others.

What is particularly interesting, and perhaps somewhat saddening and discouraging, are those folks who place roadblocks in the way of understanding, relating, empathizing, and/or simply communicating a good and/or supportive word.  What I have noticed is that many people who are aware of the causes that I support, as well as what I say or communicate which may not be what they want to hear, stick their heads in the ground, similarly to the ostrich in the photo. 

Because these folks feel uncomfortable with hearing about, knowing about, and/or even communicating about issues related to bullying, retaliation, child physical and sexual abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, sexism, sexual harassment, women’s and children’s rights and welfare, and women’s equality, they misjudge, mistreat, turn away, and put up roadblocks to a greater understanding and awareness surrounding these issues. 

These folks have already made their judgements and/or misjudgements about me as the messenger, advocate, and activist, as well as about the issues.  Once they have turned themselves off, it is typically like talking to a wall to encourage and promote interaction due to their discomforts and unnecessary judgements.  It causes me to wonder how discouraged and disappointed Jesus – a wonderful, compassionate, innocent, and loving man – must have felt when so many people turned against him and condemned him.

Sadly, I have experienced certain people whom I had considered friendly and/or friends to be avoidant or mute, lacking in interaction and communication, even turning away and shutting me out – simply because they are uncomfortable with those issues, what I communicate about those issues, and/or that I am at all associated with those issues.   Is it so uncomfortable to them to communicate with and/or interact with another individual who supports improvement in each of those areas?  For many, I see that the answer is, “Yes.” 

Perhaps, too often, people have their own issues and problems with which they are dealing, and they are unable to deal with or cope with hearing about, supporting, and/or advocating for positive change in those areas.  They, therefore, may misjudge, mistreat, and/or blame the messenger.  To me, such actions reflect that people, too often, may react toward certain people or issues without fully listening to, understanding, and/or delving more deeply through the superficial layers that they solely wish to perceive.  And, as a result, such reactions are disappointing and discouraging. 

I feel sympathy for those who do not understand, for those who blame the messenger, for those who – by their own inability to cope – are unable to stand with and support others who are working toward positive change for everyone.  It always saddens me to “lose” a friend simply because I have exercised my right to free speech and have shared particular hard truths with them about certain issues.  When people are unsupportive of others who promote activism and positive change for important issues, respect for and confidence in them by the activists is also lost.  That stated, I am not one who is afraid to tackle the tough, challenging issues.  And, I have a profound appreciation and respect for comrades who stand up for others in order to achieve improvement and positive change. 

Throughout my life, there have seemed to be few who are willing to take risks and go out on a limb to promote important causes, and be activists and advocates for improving various areas of human life.  Therefore, it is, indeed, disappointing to witness so many who are content and satisfied with simply walking away from such issues, refusing to become more educated about them, thinking such things won’t happen to them, turning their backs on others because someone says what they don’t want to hear, thinking they can avoid the people and the issues – until they have personal experience with them.

I find that most people are conformists, going with the flow, not wanting to make waves, not rocking the boat.  In order to make our world better for ourselves and our children, we must be willing to take those risks in standing up for and supporting what is good and right.  We must denounce those who harm others in any way.  We must be role models for them and provide education in better, more successful ways to respond and react toward injustices, crimes, and/or mistreatment – ranging anywhere from poverty to bullying to rape and murder.  We must remain compassionate, kind, and nurturing, but also honest, direct, assertive, and active. 

All of the issues that I have identified in this post are likely those that many people do not wish to hear, however such issues must be addressed in such a way that will make the future better – not worse – for those who come after us.  The issues are reflective of those relating to human rights, feminism, and social justice.  They are good and important issues, as are the messengers who advocate for and support positive change regarding them.  Therefore, let people not blame the messengers of the news that they don’t want to hear, but let them get involved, become more educated, achieve greater understanding, and work to create improvement and positive change so that the world is a better place for everyone!

References:

 Ostrich photograph.  From “All Tied up and Nowhere to go: Ostriches lead us to our doom.”  September 26, 2012.  http://atung.net/2012/09/03/ostriches-lead-us-to-our-doom/.