Wednesday, October 24, 2012

We Make Suicide Look Good

Something has been bothering me. I don't think it's any secret that poor bullied children are committing suicide at an astonishing rate. While this is obviously horrible what's been worming through my brain and making me uncomfortable is all the attention these cases have been getting due to social media.

This isn't because of my delicate sensitivities or some crusading mission I have to sensor the world and keep everyone from witnessing anything ugly. No. This terrifies me for one simple reason. What if it's making the problem worse?

Before I get to my main point I'm going to tell you a little about myself and why I feel my fears are valid. Bullying is deplorable and something I have dealt with first hand. Between 4-6 grade I was tormented by students and teachers alike. I once even had a teacher threaten to call social services on my family and have me removed from my home because I missed a few days at school. I had brought her a note from my parents before and after the time off was taken to request any homework I was going to miss and explain why I wouldn't be there, and she just ignored it. I had a teacher shove a book in my face and tell me that the stuff I read was crap (it was a book I had gotten from the school library mind you). The students were even worse towards me and the administrations only answer to this was to tell me that I wasn't trying hard enough to fit in. I remember crying and begging my mother to transfer me to a different school or at least home school me. I got told that every kid gets bullied, she did and made it through and so would I. I felt totally alone.

I considered running away, doing serious harm to the students and staff, and even considered hurting myself, but I knew I could never go through with it. So believe me when I say I have a little insight into the minds of these poor children. As more and more adults are speaking out and taking action more and more light is being shined on the bullying problem. Sadly however bullies breed more bullies and this is an issue that will never really go away. The only thing I think will be achieved is the bullies will be going a little more underground in their actions in an effort to not get caught.

Now that doesn't mean we should stop speaking out or holding these people accountable for their actions. On the contrary we should try harder to give the tormented a voice, to let the world know that it is not okay and will not be tolerated, and we should stand with these children and make sure they have the self-love necessary to carry on. Loving myself more than I hated the pain was the only thing that kept me going.

Instead of this I see a disturbing trend. These tragic suicide victims are turned into martyrs. Their pictures are plastered all over facebook asking for likes and shares to "stand against bullying" Where were these pictures and support when these children were alive? The only people they are really reaching are other children plagued by bullies who feel they have no voice. The only message their confused, hurt, and adolescent minds are getting is that if they just end it all then finally people will love them. Finally they'll be appreciated, remember, cherished and heard. They ponder with satisfaction how terrible the bullies will feel, how they'll finally be punished.

We're feeding into a culture that values death more than life and we're making suicide look like an attractive option for those who don't know anything else. The media, social and otherwise, latches on to the misfortune of others, offering no real solution but allowing people to feel important and involved simply because they're "in the know".

Once someone has ended their life it is too late, we as a society have failed them and no amount of passing out pictures will change that. Allow them to be remembered privately by the people who knew and truly loved them. Posting pictures of victims does nothing to stop or combat bullying. If you want to make a difference post pictures of the bullies, don't allow their actions to be swept under the rug. Or better yet if you see that someone is being bullied DO SOMETHING, before it's too late!! Don't shut your curtains and when it's all over mutter about the poor dear. Teach your children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces and students that bullying is unacceptable. Teach them to love themselves and by extension each other. Teach them that not everyone has to "fit in". Teach them that we don't have to be friends with or even like someone in order to be respectful of them.

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