Tag: help center

One mom’s thoughts on bullying and teen suicide

I’ve been chewing on this post for awhile, mostly because I wasn’t sure I had anything to add on the subject that hasn’t already been said. Somehow, though, saying nothing seemed worse.

I just finished reading INFAMOUS by Suzanne Brockmann, which is a fun and gripping romance about a history professor who meets and falls in love with the descendant of a man she has written a biography about. It was a good story, and I was disappointed to notice some negative reviews for it on Amazon, based in whole or in part on Brockmann’s tendency to promote her social/political views including those of gay equality.

Personally, I applaud her.

As the mother of a gay son she is using her voice and her platform to educate, to make the world a better place…to help ensure that her child is afforded the same rights and treatment as everyone else. Which he deserves, because we are all human, and that is the bottom line.

Like a lot of people, I’ve had Tyler Clementi and the heart-breaking stories of other bullied young people who came before him on my mind quite a bit. In every way imaginable his story hurts my heart. As a person who was bullied in school herself, as a person who has been close to depression and suicide, to the gay community, who remembers just how clueless and awkward we are as teenagers, who has been an educator of young people, as a mom, etc.

Most of all as a mom, because no matter what else occurs in my life I am a mom first and foremost. Am I the mom of a gay son? Not that I know of, although my youngest is not even old enough to tell which hand he’s gonna write with so it’s hard to say. And it IS, believe you me, the same kind of a thing. Plenty of science can attest to sexual orientation being a trait that develops in utero just as surely and uniquely as a fingerprint.

It is a blessing, and a part of what makes us all who we are.

But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you think such science is BS, that homosexuality is a “choice”, or whatever. I urge you to rethink this and do a little research. Regardless, should we not be teaching our children that teasing, ridicule, pranks, etc are unacceptable for any reason? I spend more time than my kids care to think about, hammering them over the head with the whole “treat others the way you want to be treated” speech. I may not be the most devout of churchgoing individuals, but I sure as hell try to give my kids that message.

Some friends of Tyler Clementi’s roommate have argued that he would have played the same prank (catching what should have been private, intimate moments on video) had Tyler been with a female instead of a male.

Umm… point being?

What was done was unacceptable, period. Gay, straight, or otherwise, we would be hard-pressed to find an individual who does not have some aspect of themselves that causes them shame and insecurity. NONE of us would want our privacy violated in such a way, or heaven forbid have those insecurities caught on video.

I sure as hell wouldn’t.

As a mom, I would be horrified to find that my child had ridiculed another or violated their rights. Or that such a thing had been done to them. Sure, kids and teens can be seriously lacking in the empathy department, but that is why it is a lesson that parents and teachers need to teach and re-teach until it is ingrained. When parents blow off or downplay bullying as “just teasing” or harmless, it tacitly condones such behavior to their children, and such actions can have far-reaching implications that we may never envision.

So please, parents, make sure your children understand the importance of treating their fellow humans the way they would want to be treated. The way YOU would want THEM to be treated.

You may think they already know it, but it doesn’t pay to assume. The way we turn this around is by promoting acceptance, and you don’t have to agree with a person’s lifestyle to treat them respectfully as equals.

No way should a sweet 18-year old kid have to suffer the kind of ridicule that makes them feel so desperate that they think they have to end their life by jumping off of a bridge. An 11-year old should not be so shaken from taunts at school that he bequeaths his Pokemon cards to his sibling and then hangs himself.

It is horribly, obscenely, disgustingly wrong.

I just want my kids to be healthy and happy. And I hope I am successful in teaching them to be good and decent human beings. The rest is gravy. Who they love is inconsequential so long as the happy part applies.

If you or someone you know is being bullied, or is depressed enough to be thinking about finding a permanent way out, please know this:

It REALLY does get better. That may sound like crap, but many of us have been in that dark place, and no matter how all-consuming it feels, it is NOT permanent.

I know what it’s like to hate yourself so much you think the world would be better off without you, or to have the day in and day out pain of merely showing your face in school feel like too much to handle. Or to be so fucking mad at those bullies that you think maybe you’ll show them – you’ll end it all and the blood will be on their hands, and then maybe they’ll learn.

All I ask, is that you hang on until tomorrow. Then tomorrow, see if you can do it again. Get help, wherever you can. A school counselor, a parent, a friend’s parent, a hotline, whatever. If you’re in college, just about every campus has a GLBT organization. If you’re not in college or your campus doesn’t have such a group, find the nearest campus that does. Call Oprah if you have to. People out there care, and know what you’re dealing with. I swear to you.

I cannot count the ways that I am grateful to still be here on this earth. I’m not sure I would have said that a decade or two ago. So things do indeed turn around.

And here are some places you may find help:

The Trevor Project is a suicide prevention resource for GLBT youth. 866-488-7386

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 800-273-TALK (8255)

The GLBT National Help Center – they have a national hotline as well as listings to help you find a resource close to you. 888-843-4564