There has been a lot of great attention drawn to the problems with bullying. Dan Savage started the It Gets Better Project where people from across the world record their own messages to teens telling them that indeed, things can get better. Local and national news stations are beginning to air the normally silent stories of struggles that young people face. The attention is good--it's raising awareness, starting a dialogue, and building a platform for change.
This morning I watched a video on Towle Road. Sean Walsh was, a 13 year old who killed himself after being bullied, left behind a suicide note. His mother made the decision to read his suicide note and tell his story on YouTube. My heart aches for Wendy. I hope her video can make a difference in an adults life by teaching them to speak up about bullying. If you'd like to watch the video, I'm including it in this post. It's sad, raw, and powerful. If you are feeling a little vulnerable you might not want to watch it.
Sean wrote, "I will hopefully be in a better place than this shit hole... Make sure to make the school feel like shit for bring you this sorrow."
There is a problem here. We aren't teaching our children that things can be better now. We aren't showing children other children who have lives of joy, compassion, and excitement. We aren't teaching children how to be resilient, how to resist bullying, and how not be be bullies. We are failing our children.
The narrative of much of what I hear is something like this: It can't be better now--you have to wait for it to get better. Youth are suffering and miserable and need adults to rescue them.
I am filled with sadness for the loss of Sean and the grief his mother is experiencing.
Suicide doesn't change the world. Suicide isn't an effective way to punish a school or a bully. In the end, suicide means someone is dead, some people experience profound bone breaking grief, and the rest of the world moves on.
There are so many more effective ways to resist a bully and change the world. We ought to be teaching our youth these skills. We ought to be teaching our youth about other youth who use these skills. It can save a life--and change the world.