You’ve probably heard or read about the tragic story of Amanda Todd, the 15 year old girl from BC who took her own life just weeks after creating and publishing a heart wrenching video on You Tube about how she was bullied and harassed online.
It’s a tragic story about a young girl who tried to reach out, to find a place where she fit, but ultimately was not able to make that connection. My heart aches for this young girl and her family. Sadly, we are hearing more and more stories about children and adolescents like Amanda who run out of ways to cope.
We talk about bullying all the time. It’s in the news, on social media, in our schools. It seems to have become a modern day epidemic.
I am both relieved and scared by this. Relieved that people are taking a stand against bullies and letting the world know that this sort of behavior will not be tolerated. Scared because we are putting all of our focus on the bullying and the bullies but in doing so maybe overlooking deeper issues that are effecting the victims.
In the US 90% of all people who die by suicide have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death. Did Amanda Todd have a mental illness? Well I certainly can’t make that call. If you read her story I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that perhaps she suffered from, at the least, depression. Of course that leads us to the whole “chicken and egg” question doesn’t it?
Yes, we need to address bullying and bullies but in our enthusiasm for this cause we cannot forget to focus on the kids that are more likely to become victims, not just of bullying but of their own harmful behaviors, including suicide. We need to put attention and funds towards helping young people identity and heal from depression and other mental health issues before they turn into yet another sad statistic. Amanda clearly suffered for some time, and it seems, not so silently. We can’t let kids like her continue to slip through the cracks.
Of course it’s not just the victims of bulling that are likely to have mental illness but bullies often, at the least, have their own self esteem issues and may have deeper issues as well.
I’d like to see more emphasis put on the root of bullying and preventing victims from actually becoming victims. Right now the focus seems to be on identifying bullying and stopping it once we catch it but with the bullying escalating and the outcomes becoming more and more tragic why are we not putting more energy into figuring out why these issues have climbed so dramatically and putting programs and systems in place to help our young people find ways to get the help they need before it gets to this point.