*Warning: The content of this post may contain triggers.
There was an article in the newspaper the other day. Another child committed suicide due to bullying at school. He was nine years old. Nine. Years. Old.
Let that sink in for a moment.
It seems that more and more lately, kids are resorting to ending their lives because of what goes on in the one place that they should feel safest. Fellow classmates taunt, tease, harass, and bully to the point that these kids can’t take it any longer. They feel like there is no other way out of the torment that they are facing.
Growing up Bullied
Growing up, I was bullied all through elementary school for a speech problem that I had. A group of five girls would make fun of my speech every single day of the year and even call during summers to make sure that I didn’t have a single day of peace. They would spread vicious rumors and would tell other kids that I had a contagious disease that they would catch if they used the water fountain after I did.
This went on for five solid years and during those five years, I felt alone and deeply depressed. I remember at one point, when I was about ten years old, telling my mom I wished I was dead as I sobbed on the couch in a fetal position. My mom hugged me and told me that one day it would get better. ‘One day’ felt a day far in the future that would never come.
When things got really bad, my mom called the school on several occasionsns. Nothing ever happened. Their response?
Kids will be kids.
She needs to grow a thicker skin.
If she ignores it, they’ll stop.
The thing is, I did ignore them. I was the shy girl who tried to remain invisible, and yet it continued. I would sit and read at recess and latched on to the few friends that I made that didn’t pay attention to the rumors, yet the bullying continued. It’s hard to grow a thicker skin when people that you see every day make you hate yourself and everything you are.
Then, a miracle happened. The bullying pretty much stopped once middle school hit. It was too late, though. The scars were already there, and deep. I lived in fear of having to speak in front of a class and always chose the back row whenever possible, hoping to remain unnoticed. When I was called upon in class, I always felt like my answer was wrong. So instead of guessing, I would say that I didn’t know to avoid embarrassment. My confidence had been destroyed
In high school, I gained a few best friends, a boyfriend, and focussed on taking the classes I needed to graduate. My main focus was writing and telling stories as an escape. I still tried to avoid having to talk in front of classes. There were several instances where I would fake being sick to get out of having to give an oral presentation. The bullying was now several years behind me, yet I was still affected. During my high school years, other than a few comments on my weight, people pretty much stuck to their cliques and left everyone else alone.
Graduation was one of the happiest days of my life. The moment I got my diploma, it was as if everything I’d faced just disappeared. It was behind me. After the summer break, I started classes at a local Community College. Let me tell you, college is a whole different feel from K-12. People grow up a lot during the summer between high school and freshman year of college. Everybody is concerned about finding their place in this new phase in life, joining clubs, and meeting new friends. They’re hoping that they show up to the right class, on the right day. Or, that they don’t sleep through that early 7:00 AM course. From my experience, people leave one another alone and don’t go out of their way to pick on others. It really is a breath of fresh air.
Bullying in Schools Today
The thing is, not everybody gets to this phase in their life. Too many are deciding they can’t bear another day of whatever it is they are going through. When I was going through it, social media didn’t exist. Many households didn’t even have the internet. Kids certainly didn’t have their own cell phone and neither did most adults. If you wanted to communicate with your peers, you had to pick up your family landline phone and dial out.
I cannot even begin to imagine what it must be like growing up today where people are literally accessible at the tips of your fingers. Kids today have no escape from it, whether it is through text, Facebook, Snapchat, or whatever else kids today use to torment others. It is there all of the time.
Nobody, let alone a child, should ever have thoughts of wanting to die run through their head because of how others are treating them. Yet, that is what keeps on happening because nothing is being done. Over 2,000 kids per year end their lives as a result of bullying and for every 1 that succeeds, many more kids try. A lot of schools aren’t taking bullying seriously because they don’t want to get involved.
Nothing is being done in the home, either. In many cases, this behavior is likely being learned in the home because of a guardian’s personal beliefs, hatreds, and prejudices being passed on. Parents and guardians should be teaching their children compassion, tolerance, and accepting people from all walks of life. Instead, children are being told how they are supposed to think and feel before they even learn how to think for themselves.
Kids, by nature, don’t have hate in them. They are accepting of everybody, but somewhere down the line, they learn the intolerance from somewhere. It then gets passed on to their impressionable friends, who follow their lead. If somebody is different than them, they use that as a driving force. In some cases, it has been noted that kids are telling their victim to kill themselves. And these poor children listen. It’s a vicious circle and it needs to stop. Too many innocent lives are being lost.
I am still working on my confidence today, nearly twenty-five years later, as a result of what went on during my childhood years. I still hate talking in front of groups and prefer to write instead of speak on the phone. However, I am leaps and bounds further along than I ever thought I would be. Although I can still be quiet, shy is not a word I would use to describe myself anymore. I’m not afraid to express my opinion because I understand that it’s okay to have my own, yet still respect others if they are different. I don’t try to remain invisible and go for things that I want. There are several good friends in my life and I’ve been married to an amazing man for eight years. Its taken a while to get where I am, but I’m happy.
My advice to anybody out there currently going through bullying? I know that the school years suck and they can be hell. Trust me, I know. At one point, I thought about dropping out. Hang in there. It does get better and it will get better. Find a best friend. Meet people through an interest group. Put your energy into something that you love. One day, you’ll be able to look back and say that you made it.
If you are depressed, have thoughts of suicide, or simply need somebody to talk to, the US National Suicide Prevention Hotline provides free, confidential support 24/7. They can be reached by calling 1-800-273-8255.
For those outside of the United States, check the number for the Hotline in your country for somebody to talk to.
Remember, there are people that care and are there to listen.