A stark background. Window blinds. A tearful teenaged face. Flash cards with words scrawled on them.
“I look like I’m happy. Well I’m not. What all you see is the fake me,” and then he goes on to describe, in black and white, what he has done to himself in response to abuse heaped on him for years by bullies who have harassed him with homophobic taunts. He shows scars that are visible and calls to the viewer’s attention those that he has done his best to keep hidden. Fear, dread, self- loathing. Thoughts of suicide.
The haunting song playing behind the images is called “Breathe Me,” by Sia.
“Help, I have done it again. I have been here many times before. Hurt myself again tonight.”
The young man in the video has a name, Jonah Mowry, but it could just as easily be the one given at birth to any child you love. Although bullies have been around as long as there have been human beings who felt insecure and mistakenly believed that they could elevate themselves by knocking others down, with the advent of social media, cyber-bullying has reached epidemic proportions.
The Canadian-based Council on Youth Drug Abuse, in an article titled Bullying and Its Connection to Youth Drug Abuse, highlights the particular impact bullying has for those who are targeted because of gender identity or sexual preference. Young people who are targets of bullying have an increased likelihood of addictions and since youth in that group are often the focus of attack, it correlates dramatically. Indicators for depression are present for both boys and girls, but there is a higher rate of substance abuse among girls who are bullied. LGBT teens feel even more disenfranchised and desire the support of adults that may be lacking by virtue of their sexuality.
7 Ways To Stop Bullying
So, what can responsible, caring adults do to intervene?
- Awareness is key. If a young person in your life reports being bullied or witnesses bullying, take it seriously.
- Don’t tell him or her to “tough it out,” “be a man,” “grow a thick skin,” or “ignore it.”
- Don’t advocate striking back in retribution. While some might encourage “the eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth” mindset, Gandhi reminded us that “It makes the whole world (toothless) and blind.” It perpetuates the violence that leads to tragic results. Talk to the teachers, principal or guidance counselor. Many schools have a zero-tolerance policy and bullying prevention program.
- Talk to the parents of the one instigating the bullying.
- Let the one being bullied know that they are not alone.
- If you as a parent are uncomfortable with your child’s sexuality or gender identity, PFLAG is an organization that provides information and support.
- For teens who are being bullied or who want to have a voice in stopping it, Stop Bullying is a good resource.
As a society, we can’t afford to look the other way. Our children are crying out and dying for our attention.
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We Can Stop The Cycle Of Child Bullying! Start Now!