It’s October 7, 2010, and it seems as though everyone on Facebook is talking about the bullying that led to the suicides of 6 gay boys/young men.  Okay, I stand corrected.  Not everyone on Facebook is talking about; it’s mostly my LGBT and supportive friends.  They are outraged, as well they should be!

But shouldn’t we ALL be?

One post today said, “it makes me crazy that no one has said anything about this before “.  Another one said, “I am telling ya—Gay parents are better than straight parents any day of the week. Gays will go to the mat for rights that straights take for granted and they stand up for what they believe in.”

Okay, these are just TWO responses in a long strand of comments in a very serious conversation happening on Facebook.  Please do not get all up in arms about things and starting saying it’s stereotyping.  I actually addressed stereotyping in that post.  The important thing here is that it’s NOT a gay/straight issue.

Yes, these 6 young men were gay and that is what they were bullied for and that is why they killed themselves.  But our youth have been killing themselves for years….because of bullying and/or depression.  I remember several years ago there was a rash of suicides due to bullying/cyber bullying, and there was an out cry then to stop bullying.  Back then, those kids weren’t being bullied over their sexual orientation; it was something else.

There are several thoughts going through my head right now.

First, Suicide:  I’m 41, and I grew up in Richardson, Texas.  The next city just north of us was Plano, Texas.  If you do the math, this makes me a 14-year-old teenager in 1983 when the big news about a cluster suicide happening in Plano, Texas.  A year or so later, the boy down the street from me killed himself.  Heck, I tried killing myself several times.  Depression.  Why do our teens become depressed?  Is it because of bullying?  I remember reading a book on how to prevent your friends from committing suicide.  It was written for teens!  Even our high school teachers were sent to special training on how to recognize suicidal students and how to help them. (Not that it was great training, because I pretty much gave my teacher a suicide note and she did NOTHING!)  It can’t be up to the teachers to prevent suicide, but it would be nice if they would recognize the symptoms.  But let’s face it, in junior high and high school, these teachers have nearly 300 students a day they see and are responsible for.  And they are under paid with all the budget cuts.  Is it THEIR job to watch after each and every one of these children?

Second:  Bullying.  Kids have been bullied for a very long time.  It’s not like it just started happening.  I’m willing to bet it has been happening in one way or another since we started having children and they learned to talk.  It’s not new.  I know I was bullied for developing early, for my dad’s weight, for the condition of my house growing up, for developing early, for OVERLY developing, for the religion my parents raised me in, for being over weight, for being a virgin, for not being a virgin…for anything that made me different from someone else (and they didn’t understand it).  My children were bullied for being the youngest in the class, for not being in sports, for learning disabilities, for their religious (or not religious) beliefs, for just being different from the kid sitting next to them.

My parents didn’t stand up to my bullies.  I DID.  For my children, I am the one who went to the mat to support them and help them through their bullying issues.  I asked the teachers to help.  One teacher actually told my daughter there was nothing he could do about it, and he didn’t even respond to my emails about the situation.

The schools teach character development and along with that goes the anti-bullying segment.  Most schools have a zero tolerance program, but that doesn’t even begin to help.  Eventually, I just had to move my daughter to a different school or different class.

So again, is it the school’s responsibility to stop it?  Is it the teacher’s job to prevent it?  In a perfect would, we would like to think so.  In a perfect world, we would like to think that going to school is a safe and happy place for our children.  But in all reality, sometimes, it’s just not!  So then what???

Like sex education, it really belongs and begins at home!  We as parents need to teach our children how to make and sustain healthy relationships…starting with a relationship with themselves.  If this means sending them to a class at the Boys & Girls Club or Planned Parenthood, then do it!  We as parents need to be open, loving, accepting, supportive of our children NO MATTER what they come home and share with us.  Certainly if it’s the case of them using drugs or some other harmful situation, then step up, take a stand and help them overcome it.  But if they tell us they are different from what we had imagined them to be (sexual orientation, religious preferences, sports minded, educational decisions), then its our job to love and support them through it!  It’s our job to be a safe port in the confusion of growing up!  It’s our job to arm them with education, knowledge, love and support.

Preventing bullying & suicide starts at home!  If we teach them love, tolerance & support, they will take that into the schools.  If we teach them how to stand up for themselves and others, they will take that into the schools.  If we give them a safe place to open up at home, any issues  they may have at school can be brought home to the loving ears and arms of the family and can be taken care of as a team instead of leaving the child to feel like they are alone.  And if you have a warm, loving, accepting, tolerant home…then your child’s friend who may not experience that in their home will likely feel safe to come to yours and express their concerns and you will be able to help them!

There is a saying that it takes a village to raise a child.  This is so very true!  It takes a village of loving, caring, supportive adults to stand guard, hold vigil and support that young person to feel free to grow and express him/herself..to be who they will become.  Yes, it starts at home….then it spreads to the village…to the safe neighbors..churches…schools….  And it all starts with LOVE!

My heart breaks for the 6 boys who needlessly took their lives recently.  For that matter, my heart breaks for the untold numbers of youth who take their lives on a daily basis because they felt alone..like they had no one to talk to..not even their own families.  My heart breaks for the children in the schools who are being bullied on a daily basis with no one to stand up and fight for them…my heart breaks for the children being bullied who DO have people who stand up and fight for them.

There is a Budhist prayer that says, “May all beings be free from suffering…..”  This is my prayer today and everyday…

 

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