2 Beautiful young women that took their lives because of bullying.
~ Amanda Todd tragedy highlights how social media makes bullying inescapable
When the girls in Jenna Bowers-Bryanton’s class pretended to vomit when she walked into the room, or when an older student slapped her on the first day back to school, Jenna’s mom, Pam Murchison, pulled her out of school.
What Ms. Murchison didn’t anticipate was that the abuse would persist even at home. Jenna received nasty messages via SMS and on forums such as Formspring, where her tormentors posted anonymous vitriol about her looks, personality and singing ability. (Jenna had her own YouTube channel.) In January, 2011, when she was 15, Jenna died by suicide in Truro, (Nova Scotia, Canada.)
Bullying is far different today than it was even a decade ago. The entwining of social media in adolescents’ social lives has created a whole new environment for abuse. It is bullying that is almost impossible to contain, even when teens change schools or cities, and online anonymity helps shield bullies’ identities.
The persistent bullying that Amanda Todd, 15, suffered before she died by apparent suicide on Wednesday has raised alarms about how bullying can push teens into despair. Shannon Freud, a counsellor at the Kids Help Phone – which receives about 5,000 calls and e-mails a week from youth across the country – says girls who reach out to her service often say that bullying has contributed to depression, self-esteem issues, self-harming, eating disorders and feelings of suicide.
According to a study this year in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people, ages 10 to 19; suicide rates among females have been on the rise over the past 30 years, while those among young males are decreasing. The latest data from Statistics Canada show 69 females between the ages of 10 and 19 died by suicide in 2009, and for every completed suicide, it is estimated there are as many as 20 attempts.
Ms. Freud explains that teen girls tend to be bullied in a different way. While the bullying of males typically involves physical aggression, girls tend to be the target of social and verbal harassment, including exclusion or having others talk – or in many cases now, text – about them behind their backs.
Telling cyber-bullying victims to simply shut off their computer or stop checking their Facebook accounts is far easier said than done, since social media is such an integral part of how teens now interact and communicate, Ms. Freud says. Some may even be reluctant to delete tormentors from their lists of online friends because keeping those online contacts boosts their sense of status. “And status is such a huge thing for kids and youth,” she said.
“Kids only let you see what they want you to see,” Ms. Murchison said. Sometimes, after Jenna received a mean text message, she’d pick fights with her mother. But Ms. Murchison never knew the full extent of her daughter’s online abuse.
“You can’t get away from cyber-bullies unless you take everything away from [your kids] and you can’t do that,” she said.
On nearly every front, Ms. Murchison followed the guidelines most schools and mental-health providers suggest: Jenna, who was diagnosed with depression when she was in Grade 8, regularly saw her doctor and a child psychologist. She was on medication and had supportive family and friends to help her cope with her mental illness.
Jenna’s depression may have made her feel the effects of the bullying more acutely, her mother says, but when teens die by suicide, it is difficult to dissect what exactly led to it.
“Not every young person who attempts or dies by suicide was bullied. We know that’s a high rate, that it’s a contributing factor for sure,” said Joanne Lowe, the co-chair of the Community Suicide Prevention Network of Ottawa, a group that formed after the 2010 suicide of Daron Richardson, the 14-year-old daughter of an assistant coach of the Ottawa Senators. “Trying to understand all those contributing factors, not making assumptions about what those factors are and getting somebody to talk about them is really important.”
Her network prepared a brochure to be distributed to schools that includes warning signs to watch for, including low energy, declining school performance and preoccupation with appearance. More important than what to look for is what to do. While some fear that discussing suicide may trigger a suicide attempt, she says that is a popular myth.
“Ask them if they are thinking of suicide,” she said. “Don’t be afraid of being clumsy.”
Although high-school bullies may lose interest after graduation, the effects can be long-lasting. Lindsey Belaire, 23, of Edmonton, says the social isolation, taunts and online badgering from her high-school years still haunt her; after graduating five years ago, she continues to suffer from anxiety and depression.
“I don’t think anyone ever moves on from it,” Ms. Belaire said. “It stays with you. …You’re left with a feeling of constantly looking over your shoulder, constantly wondering if people are out to get you.”
Ms. Belaire’s advice for teenaged girls now suffering what she went through: “Talk to somebody. Talk to a principal. Talk to a counsellor. If you don’t get help, keep going. … Call the police. File harassment charges. Do whatever you have to do to make it stop. I wish I did.”
Posted this stuff for a friend, to remember these girls. I grew up in the area where Jenna took her life and I know her family. I know the school she went to and I know the families of the people that tormented her.
Amanda has family from this area (my area) as well. She's hosting a vigil in both Truro and Halifax (they are near each other) to remember Amanda and to support anti-bullying movements.
Title of my post
: Girls Get Angry Too
We here about bullying and see the causes of it. Tormenting, teasing, racism, homophobia, and the list goes on. Sometimes the behavior is really criminal in nature.
Amanda was stalked by a man that gave naked pictures of her to every single person in her school, including teachers in one massive spam email. Afterwards she was tormented at school. It never stopped.
Jenna was humiliated and tormented to death.
Even after death these girls message boards and online memorials have been subjected to bullying and abuse.
The variations of bullying are outstanding and sometimes people don't even realize they are doing it.
I spoke with a friend mine that plays MMORPG online games a lot about the things that he sees online. He's been a player for years and often works for the game companies as a sort of inside the game helper to assist other players. He said that game companies mostly have no policies in place to prevent cyber bullying. Matter of fact - most companies tell him that the company policy is that it should be sorted out between players themselves and the company has a hands off approach to it. The company line, "Let them sort it out between themselves on the battlefields."
My friend says that it's amazing the stuff that goes on in the public and in guild chats. (For those that don't know: Guilds are private places within a game where a group of players can form a sort of team and have a more private chat - sometimes these guilds can have hundreds of players belonging to them. They are like little communities of players within the games themselves.)
He told me about racist jokes and homophobic jokes and all sorts of things that might in face to face society be seen as harassment or maybe even criminal. The justification by the gamers online was that it was "just a joke," "no one in our guild is offended by it," "If they can't take it, maybe they should go play Hello Kitty Online." I was shocked but it's true, I've seen it myself. It's hard to believe that anyone could even think that sort of thing. As if someone that is feeling bullied is going to speak up against it or they should go play another game? Isn't that sort of a big part of the problem? People that are bullied are afraid or humiliated they can't or don't speak out - they don't want to be ostracized, ridiculed by peers, they just don't want to be hurt anymore.
These conversations inevitable lead to talks about standing up for yourself and soon we talk about how one or more of the guys that I know got angry and fought back. This usually involves a lot of macho chest puffing - proof of their toughness sort of thing. Although they don't exactly use those words. Most of my friends are very articulate Uni grads with art majors and are good at flowery talk and prose filled speeches.Now I'll tell you my story.
I was bullied.
I thought about suicide a few times. I think I came closer then I care to admit to myself but I never tried.
... but I did do something else.Bullying doesn't always cause people to hurt themselves. Sometimes it can push a fragile hormone fueled and depressed teenager in the other direction.
I got angry. When I say angry, I mean really angry.
The first incident happened at school one day. A boy was picking on me in class - I was about 14ish? He was saying lewd things to me and passing notes around the class. Stupid things but at the time it was embarrassing and I was angry.
I hit him with a textbook, a big heavy one, it broke his nose in a very graphic way that caused a lot of shock in the school. Of course, I got in trouble (suspended.)
I know I shouldn't have hit him and DON'T cheer me for fighting back. It was wrong and it should never have come to that. When people fight there's always the risk of more serious injury. Fighting is wrong.What if I hadn't been angry but instead got depressed about it? Instead of a violent act, it could have been a suicide. The scale that decides those two things are our basic instincts - fight or flight.
By the way... I still got picked on, even after that. Whoever thinks that standing up to bullies will help is wrong. That's just not how it works. There's no guarantees that anything will change. By being violent, I felt disgusted by myself. I blamed myself for the act and instead of getting depressed. My anger just got more bottled up and I held it back. The pressure to do something, anything was too much.
Suicide? I just didn't see a way out. I refused to give into the urge to end it all but simply pushing down the feelings didn't help.
The next time my anger really broke out was when I was around 16.
It's complicated but after months of being picked on again. I did something worse this time.
I stabbed a 17 year old boy and if it wasn't for a room full of my friends that held me back. I would have stabbed him to death and you'd be reading the words of a murderer. Believe me, I tried. I kicked, screamed, lashed out and tried so hard. All I wanted to do was kill the source of my pain and make it stop.
He wasn't seriously injured, only a few stitches and a stiff back. I guess my friends grabbed me the same time I stabbed him and kept me from sticking the full blade of the knife into his back - It was a long bladed kitchen knife.
I was lucky and so was he.Some Resources for People
- The Anti-Bullying Network was established at the University of Edinburgh in 1999 with funding from the Scottish Executive to provide free anti-bullying support to school communities.Stop A Bully
- Stop A Bully is a national non-profit organization and Canada-wide anti-bullying program developed by a B.C. teacher which allows any student who is a victim or witness of severe bullying to be able to safely report the details to school officials without risk of becoming a target themselves. Pink Shirt Day
- A campaign to raise awareness and stop bullyingStop Bullying
- StopBullying.gov provides information from various government agencies on what bullying is, what cyberbullying is, who is at risk, and how you can prevent and respond to bullying.
Bullying hurts in a lot of different ways. Fighting and violence isn't the way to stop it.