Beyond Bullying – What Are We Missing?

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.

This article has 12 comments

  1. Oh this bullying story really upsets me. Its so completely tragic and such a loss. I have a tough time trying to find words or make sense of what happened.I too was severely bullied for almost 15 years of my life. From about 5 till about 21 yrs old. I won't go into details as its just too long and I really don't need to live it again. It took me so so many years and half of my adult life to take care and heal myself. If I ever run into a bully or see others bullying I'm the first person to jump to their defense. In regards to overlooking other factors such as depression and suicide I too had all of these thoughts and emotions and like Amanda todd I developed extreme panic disorder. There actually was a time I could not leave my house for 6 months for fear of panic and fear of the outside world. It was utterly brutal. I think we need a support system that really focuses on giving a child a refuse or safe place to go. What I mean by this is having an organization of people who will open their homes and hearts such as a big brother kind of organization and allow these kids the time away to heal from their current situation. I know this sounds drastic and as though its running away but, I believe sometimes a change of scenery and a support system behind them will really help them get out, grow up and become confident away from the confines of the pressures and bullying. I think every city needs this kind of organization. Until we get the support and the backing within the school systems and police departments to really attack bullying head on I don't see many alternatives to keeping the child within the environment as it is now. Yikes LOL I am really rambling on here.. its just such a sad sad story and it brings out so many emotions within me.

    • Kevin thank you so much for sharing your story. I totally agree that we need better support systems in place. That may also mean educating people, like teachers for example, more thoroughly on watching for warning signs. We can't all be psychiatrists I know but there are things to watch for to help these kids that are vulnerable. And I also think the idea of a home away from home type of support. I don't know what I would have done as a teenager if my grandmother had not been around to give me just that.

  2. You see bullying everyday – at schools, in the work place, in our communities. But until more people are willing to stand up and say "No More", tragic events like this will continue to occur.If you are a witness to bullying, don't just stand by, SAY something and help put and end to it.

  3. we see bullying happening in all forms everyday. we must all stand up for it, educate and at the same time watch our own selves as some bullying are not intended to be bullying but are the ones that impact the mostthank you for sharing this post

  4. It's pretty sad that bullying can get so bad that someone would feel they need to go to extremes to end it. Schools really need to do more about it.

  5. thanks for posting this – I feel pretty similar to how you do in regards to the fact that there must be something else going on

  6. I really like what you say about changing the emphasis between detection to prevention! That's a hard one though 🙂

  7. I really like what you say about changing the emphasis between detection to prevention! That’s a hard one though 🙂

  8. I had not heard of this story, but it greatly saddens me. Especially that the bullies are still bullying her after her death. I think part of the problem is that is public schools, where the children are the majority, bullying can seem like a normal behavior. There are times when I bullied someone in my childhood, without even realizing that was what I was doing. One time, when I was in 6th grade, several of us ran into a boy, who I only knew as "Spazz". We were only talking to him, not harassing him, but alone in a dark area, away from our school autumn fair (I think we may have been going home…). His sister came along and started yelling at us to leave him alone. We said, "We weren't bullying Spazz, other people do that." She looked at us and with her voice breaking, yelled, "His name isn't "Spazz"." I was completely shocked to learn that he had a different name, it never occurred to me, no one ever called him anything, but "Spazz". So we asked what what his name was, if it wasn't "Spazz", we didn't even believe her, and she said "John". Her anguish was palpable in her voice, and heart breaking. I never called him "Sapzz" again. Others did and I am not even sure how much he understood, there was definitely something not quite right with him. Later, in junior high, he was constantly in fights. I broke up one of them, he was so much smaller than the other boys, but he honestly wanted to fight. Still, I could never get her voice out of my head (can't to this day). I don't know what ever became of him, he just sorted faded away over time, eventually leaving our school, I think. Still, I wonder how many other kids bully and tease, as I did, without even realizing that is what they are doing? Nice kids, who would never intentionally hurt someone, but do so, just because so many other kids are doing it, the kid thinks that is normal behavior. If every kid in school calls a girl, "Nose picker" and you are warned not to get near her, because she will wipe her boogers on you, which later proved to be true, how does a "normal" kid handle that???? The adults need to intervene, but honestly, there aren't enough adults in schools…

  9. I agree with you one hundred percent. Bullying and victimization are products of much larger socioeconomic issues, as well as psychological issues. There are so many issues that are at the root cause of this stuff including poverty, racism, unsafe communities, and poor access to resources. Like you say, mental health issues are also widespread, and they are often ignored or stigmatized.

  10. You're right Laura, there are so many factors involved and in our rapidly changing world there are just going to be more and more…..

  11. Thank you for your comments Maureen. I bet a lot of us could look back and think of a moment that we treated someone poorly, especially when we were young. I mean even a "good" kid says or does the wrong thing occasionally, that's life but if you can look back on it and realize it was wrong then that truly means you have grown. And the fact there is not always enough supervision from adults in situations is a great point too!

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