Bullying, School, Suicide

Are you who our youth need us to be?

Kindness matters. Kindness saves lives.

Being the target of relentless bullying wears you down.

What is bullying?

Here is the legal definition:

Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems.

In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include:

An Imbalance of Power: Kids who bully use their power — such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity — to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.

Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.

→Yet, what if the words and actions aren’t necessarily repeated by the same person on a regular basis? Then, this definition doesn’t fit. It’s just considered “mean”. Why be mean? It’s still aggressive. Pain is still inflicted.

Bullying and callousness are prevalent.

As a teacher, I witness it every year…students being hateful to one another. They make jabs, name call, use sarcasm to belittle, purposely “bump into” someone they don’t like so they can go off on them. This all transpires before me. Next, they wield the world of social media as a weapon. Hiding behind a username, the bullying turns vicious.

I’ve seen my students struggle with victimization, depression, cutting, admittance to psychiatric hospitals, shutting down emotionally, and struggling with suicidal thoughts.

Kindness Matters

Actions…and our words… affect others. We don’t always know the wound left within someone’s heart or the replay of events in their minds. My students seem to understand the concept when we’ve discussed it. Yet, it’s only theoretical. When they move to their next class, many of the students don’t think before they speak and act. They immediately revert to their own habits of how they treat one another.

What are the most common types of bullying?

Hitting * Threatening * Intimidating * Malicious teasing and taunting * Name calling * Making sexual remarks * Stealing or damaging belongings * Spreading rumors * Encouraging others to reject or exclude someone

Our youth are taking their own lives.

Headlines of bullying are recurrent.

Many victims of bullying taking their lives via suicide, some of whom include 8-year-old Gabriel Taye, 12-year-old Mallory Grossman, 14-year-old Luken Boyle, 13-year-old Arin Lyth, 13-year-old Hailee Lamberth, 13-year-old China Howard, and on and on and on.

13-year-old Peyton James took his own life, as well. Peyton is the son of my friend and former colleague, David. Peyton’s death hit me hard, as he was only a year older than my son. I had always been concerned my son would be bullied due to his smaller stature, and he has been.

According to the CDC, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10–24 in the United States.

Kindness Matters

Change starts with each of us.

Teaching students the importance of kindness, tolerance, and acceptance continually becomes more and more arduous. Our children are bombarded with examples of the opposite…from politicians to protests done inappropriately to “reality” TV…to their parents and other adults they see on a daily basis.

Our youth observe how adults handle conflict, how we talk about others, how we behave. They learn by example.

Changing the behavior of our youth will be a slow process, yet one that is feasible. We need to begin with ourselves. We should never rationalize our bad behavior; there is always a more apt way to respond. Yes, we may slip up; no one’s perfect. However, we can still model how to remedy the situation instead of letting it remain as is. Let our youth see us sincerely apologize to another and atone for our words and actions.

Be who our youth need us to be.

Call to Action:

  • Think before you speak and act.
  • Live mindfully. →You are modeling how we want our youth to conduct themselves.
  • Let us remind them to be kind. Talk to them about appropriate use of social media and what to do when they see or hear of a situation where another is targeted. For guidance, please, visit these sites…

In addition, Peyton’s father David, in conjunction with Jill Kubin and Sue Harris, has founded The Peyton Heart Project, which “help[s] raise global awareness about suicide and bullying and to help end the stigma surrounding mental health issues.” I urge you to check it out.

Originally written and published on Medium in April 2019.

Copyright © 2019 Alicia Rust. All rights reserved.

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