There was an article in the New York Times today that really hit home with me for a number of reasons. It was about a 15 year old child, a sophomore in high school, who killed himself after the first day of school. From what I read, he seemed like a good kid, active in scouting, clean cut, smart and in decent shape. However, he was bullied at school. Kids at his school were mean to him and gave him a hard time.
His killing himself didn’t happen immediately, he was tormented and bullied over a period of time. His parents tried to help by talking to the school. The school tried to help, but it wasn’t enough. He even called out for help on social media. Even with this, he must have felt a sense of hopelessness and nowhere to turn.
I have been bullied at different times of my life. In middle school, in high school, and at various jobs, one in which I just left. I know how it feels to be picked-on, to be called names, threatened, intimidated, and physically and/or mentally abused.
When I was young and living with my parents, I was told to ignore the bully, that he would stop if he didn’t get the reaction he wanted. I was told that I should stay away from that person and they wouldn’t bother me anymore. That didn’t work. I am confident that many parents and educators give that same advice. Ignore the bully, stay away from the bully, that will solve the problem. I will say right here, right now… that is NOT the solution.
I know how the 15 year old in Connecticut felt. I have felt hopeless, alone and that I had little or no options. I can understand why he felt that way. He asked for help, but not enough was done. The situation wasn’t taken seriously enough. In this child’s case, the school followed-up to see how things were going, and the child said everything was better. The school didn’t understand, by doing that, they potentially made the situation even worse. Of course the child is going to lie after initial attempts at getting help, went nowhere. I am confident, the bullies felt empowered even more and ramped their abuse when they got a ‘talking’ to and nothing else happened.
In my recent job, I was mistreated, talked down to, and was criticized to other employees. I was made to feel insignificant, unimportant and powerless. I felt humiliated, degraded and worthless. At my lowest moments, I did think about suicide as a means of ending the situation and abuse. I felt hopeless. I was dependent on my job for my livelihood and didn’t have any other means of support.
I was lucky. One day I stood up for myself and told the CEO that threatening me was not acceptable, that cutting my pay was not acceptable. I felt empowered and energized that I could stand up for myself. I was told to keep quiet and not complain and if I did again, I would be fired. I didn’t keep quiet and I was fired. Not everyone can learn how to stand up for themselves, I have. It took two years of abuse from the CEO of my company before I said enough was enough.
Not only are there bullies in school and in the workplace, but in governments and in positions of authority. President Assad of Syria is a bully. He used chemical weapons on his own people to send a message that they need to stay in line. He wanted to bully his people into submission to stay in power and to put down his opposition.
So how do you deal with a bully? You come down HARD. You don’t ignore the problem. You don’t try to appease the bully. No child, no employee or citizen of any nation should feel helpless, to feel like they have no choice but to accept the treatment they are receiving. In many cases, the person or persons being bullied are afraid and unable to help themselves. It is up to us to step in and help, however possible, by any means possible. To come down hard, the first time, so doesn’t happen again.
When there is a 15 year old child who needs help or a nation of woman and children who need help. We all need to lend a hand. We need to do whatever is necessary. We need to step in. We need to come down HARD on the bully so that they will NEVER treat someone in this manner again. Bullying is serious. Bullying happens in schools, companies and in nations. We can not allow 15 year old children to feel so hopeless that they kill themselves. We can not allow women and children to be killed with chemical weapons. We can not allow CEOs to mistreat, threaten and abuse their employees.