October 19, 2012 by bowmanaj
It is hard to know where to begin an essay coving the topic of teen suicide and bullying. As mentally strong as I like to think I am, every time I am researching/talking/writing about the subject, tears seem to find their way into my eyes and a sense of vulnerability creeps over me.
To say the issue is complex, would be an understatement. Yet, the final goals are undeniably simple; end bullying in school and stop teen suicide. Finding the solution to these is the crux of the problem, but for me not to do anything would be criminal. And unfortunately, another tragedy prompted me to finally write about the subject.
Amanda Todd, 15, of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada was found dead on October 10, 2012, from an apparent suicide after she had been bullied. The Huffington Post reported on her story extensively, but the outcome is all too familiar. She had made a mistake online, others found out, and bullied her for it, both in person and on social media.
Todd’s suicide is nothing new to the Great White North. Rick Mercer, a popular Canadian television star, said in one of his most popular segment ever, over 300 Canadian teens take there lives every year. Mercer talks about another 15 year old who ended his own life because he was picked on because he different, more specifically because he was gay.
The GLBTQA community watched many of its youth commit suicide in the past few years, undoubtedly citing peer bullying in most of the cases. There are groups trying to encourage GLBTQA members to not let bullying and homophobia affect them.
The It Gets Better Project is the most well known of the two. It was started by eccentric columnist Dan Savage and his husband, Terry Miller, in 2010. While the project does many things, it is most known for the thousands of videos created. While most are done by every day citizens, such as myself, some are from famous individuals, such as the President Obama and the White House Staff, Stephen Colbert, Rick Mercer and many more.
Another group with a more specific purpose is the You Can Play Project, which seeks to end homophobia in sports. While bullying is not as heard of as much in sports settings, it is because sports’ climates are usually not tolerant. Though bullying may not take place, not being allowed to do what you love because you are different is just as wrong.
Along with countless other groups, social media always explodes when a teen suicide happens. The hastag #RIPAmanda ripped across twitter after her death was reported. American rock band Rise Against, even recorded a song dealing with teen suicide.
However, videos and social media are not going to solve the problem. It seems even legislature will not end bullying. The Michigan State Senate now has an anti-bullying law, named “Matt’s Safe School Law,” but there was a time where part of the law actually allowed bullying. Republicans originally inserted text which said, bullying would be tolerated if it was for a Religious purpose. Or as Colbert said, “Bullying is just fine, as long as you get a permission slip from God.”
Someone took the comedian’s words too seriously. The evangelical group, American Family Association, is protesting against “Mix It Up Day,” started by the Southern Poverty Law Center, schedule for Oct. 30. The day is supposed to be about sitting with other students who normally do not congregate together to promote tolerance and discourage bullying. The AFA inaccurately said the event was “a nationwide push to promote the homosexual lifestyle in public schools.”
It is instances, events and people like the AFA which allows bullying to continue. Distorted facts by bigots and hate mongers dilute sane thought and rationale, therefore causing normal people to have mishandled facts. In other words, bad people twist words and normal people do not get the truth. This conundrum leads to fear, misunderstanding and bullying. Then when bullying gets too much, we have suicide.
Legislature will not prevent teen bullying. Social media will not prevent teen suicide. It will take a culture change. Sadly, most likely, none of us will be around to see it happen. However, we can lay the foundation for a better tomorrow by preaching tolerance, acceptance and promoting everyone’s differences because those are what makes us great.
Updated: 3/5/13- A 12 year-old boy has died from complications of a bullying attack.