Recently in our local area, we lost a young teen boy to suicide. The community has been grieving the loss of someone so young. If you are a parent, you might even have put yourself in his parent’s shoes and can almost feel the indescribable pain. Some are saying the cause was bullying. I don’t know many of the facts surrounding this tragedy, but if bullying was even one contributing part, we should address it. While we know bullying has been around a long time, that does not mean we shouldn’t attempt to end it. Otherwise can we truly say we are evolving people?
As a clinician, I have seen children who share how peers have told them, they are not good enough and that they should end their lives. It’s hard to hear a young person share that someone told them their life should be brought to an end, but it’s even harder to be the one receiving that message.
The kids who are the bullies in the school are in pain. They are carrying an experience that others may not know so they attempt to create pain in others. After all, why should they be the only ones to suffer? That is not an excuse for bullying but if we want to end bullying, we need to look at this core factor. If a bully brings down another person, now they have created another person in pain. The bully doesn’t feel like he/she is at the bottom of the pile.
My own children have experienced some of this themselves. I make every effort to explain to my kids that those who are seeking to cause them pain do so to make themselves feel better. I don’t tell them to allow the abuse however. I tell them to take a stand where they can. To remember whom they are and how firmly they are grounded. The bullying can shake the strongest of kids however. Having a safe place to share what is happening and to find protection is vital at this time.
I have read that parents are angry at the school system. I can understand their anger, as I too have felt dismissed when I reported an act of bullying. Sometimes the ones you go to in power situations react poorly or are not supportive. I agree something more should be done here. Parents I believe are trying to say that the school should be a place where kids can find protection but is that realistic with the out numbered staff? It’s time to consider something new.
It’s not just the school’s responsibility to end bullying. If we seen children in pain, we need to make every attempt to get them the help they need. It can mean just one person who says they care about them and who asks how they are doing often. Just one adult who cares can make a world of difference in the life of a young person. It’s vital to provide open doors for our young people to find help. Programs like the Student Prevention Program currently in place at Great Mills is a wonderful addition to meeting this need and yet, it’s one of the programs that is most likely to lose funding next school year.
Parents don’t always know when it’s time to reach for a professional mental health worker. It’s often hard to know when it’s something that your own family support can be enough or when you need more. I also realize when parents call to find support for their children through therapy, they are often met with 3-month waiting lists for services. We must continue to offer and encourage education for parents regarding warning signs as well as provide them services when they need them.
A year ago our community had Dr. Mark Besan, with the QPR Institute come and present to our students and to talk to school administration. The Institute is a training agency to prevent suicide. Dr. Besan suggested programs that our school might look into to improve our current situation. He mentioned the program, Hope 4 Utah. This is a program that many schools across the nation are implementing and finding great results. They are using students to help one another to end bullying and to provide support.
While here, Dr. Besan also provided suicide prevention training for adults. It was an evening program however; very few people were in attendance. As adults in our community we need to take an interest in these events. That education could save a life.
I have worked with grievers of all ages and what I always find in common is that they need to feel there was a reason for the tragedy; a purpose for their pain. Perhaps now would be a time to find purpose in a horrible situation. Maybe now is the time for us to take action and push for changes that might help.
Today, I am asking that we all share the burden of this precious young man’s death and focus on how we can begin to relieve some pain from a young person we might know. It’s every adult’s responsibility to teach our young people love, acceptance, and tolerance and to provide a safe place. Know that often times, teens don’t share with their parents for fear of disappointing them or fear of retaliation if reported to the school, when it comes to bullying. Be that someone for a young person. The responsibility lies with all the adults in our community.