I’ve had my head buried in books this week and haven’t paid much attention to news, current events or anything that wasn’t related to neuroanatomy.
Yesterday, when I was finally able to rejoin the world, I heard about the suicide of Tyler Clementi. And then the suicide of Seth Walsh, who lived only an hour from where I grew up. And then the suicide of Asher Brown. And then the suicide of Billy Lucas.
Four young kids killed themselves in one month.
Four lives, lost, cut short because of bullying.
This is not okay.
I was bullied, mercilessly, incessantly when I was in school. I was called a tub of lard, I was told that I was so fat that I shouldn’t sit in the back of the bus or it would tip over. One girl told one of my few remaining friends that I had AIDS, well, in the end she told pretty much the entire 4th grade at our school. So I went from few friends, to none.
I switched schools because I couldn’t escape the bullying. Teachers were aware, bus drivers were aware and even the principal. And because the parents of the children were generous to our school, a blind eye was turned. Many blind eyes in fact. These children were given a green light to tease me, there were no repercussions, there were not punishments. I was allowed to be bullied by all the people who were supposed to protect me.
I’m lucky in a lot of ways. I was able to get away from these kids. My parents recognized that things had reached an apex and they moved me. They knew I needed help and they gave it to me. Not all kids are as blessed as I was. Not all kids have a support system or a family like mine. Not all kids can see that there’s a light at the end of this hellish tunnel.
And not all kids are as lucky as me because not all of them have parents who made it clear from a very early age that bullying others was unacceptable. Many of the kids who bullied me had parents who did the same thing to other adults. Who treated them badly to get their way. Who modeled the same behavior their kids then showed at school. It’s hard for me to hate those kids because how could they know better?
And now, after a month of 4 suicides from bullying, it’s more clear than ever that we have to do something.
I think our job is two fold. Because first, we have to stop teaching our children that this sort of behavior is okay. It’s not. And it’s up to parents and aunts and uncles and sister and brothers and all the adults in a child’s life to step up and model the right behavior. To explain why bullying cannot continue. We can help start a change in these kids.
The second part is supporting those who need it. Children who are bullied need support. They need to be reminded of how loved they are, they need family and friends to remind them that things will get better. There is hope, there are good people in this world and if you just wait, if you just keep being yourself, you’ll find them. You’ll find happiness. You’ll find the people that allow you to be yourself all the time. Who love you for who you are. And while things are indescribably tough right now, it will get better. And until it does, we will be here for you.
Something has to be done.
We cannot lose more lives to bullying, we can’t watch as more families are destroyed. We can’t allow more children to reach the point where they feel that they’re better off dead. We can’t allow kids to prey on each other.
We have to do something. As the adults, as the role models. We have to start a change so that no more children die because of bullying.
I know it’s hard to step up and do things like this. And maybe we start small. Maybe we start by modeling the behavior that we want the children in our life to have with their peers. Maybe we start by letting children in our lives know that they are loved. Today I’m going to send little letters to the kids in my life, just to let them know how important they are to me. To let them know that they are loved. And maybe that’s not a big step, but it’s just the first one of many.
And I hope that some of you will take it with me.
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Ghandi