Today there is a small tear in my heart. I am sad. I feel a bit helpless. Mostly, though, I am mad as hell. My sweet, beautiful nine year old nephew, J, was bullied at school today. He told another, older boy in the schoolyard that the ball he was playing with belonged to another child and that he should give it back. This resulted in J being kicked by the other kid. No, I don't mean a small kick to the shins.
Not a big deal, though, right? Just kids being kids. But it's not the first time that J has suffered at the hands or the words of school bullies. I am not sure what hurts more but I am leaning towards the words.
Oh, and did I mention that it's currently anti-bullying week in Canada? Timely and ironic.
My brother made a great point this evening. He said that if your child is sick, the school will send him or her home right away - can't get the other kids sick! Kind of a preventative measure as the school is looking out for the physical health of the children. What about the mental health of our kids? Where's the prevention there?
When Amanda Todd was lying in a ditch after being beaten up by "schoolmates", a teacher found her there. The teacher turned away and left her. After that Amanda went home, drank bleach, and hoped for death.
Bullying comes in all shapes, sizes, and forms. It can be physical and it can be verbal. However it shows up, it can lead to mental illness in various forms - everything from eating disorders to depression and anxiety, to addiction & substance abuse. Scary things for adults, terrifying for kids & teens.
So what is it going to take? When will that tipping point occur where we all stand together and say that this is not OK? When will society all band together and agree to treat each other, young and old, with respect and dignity? None of this is happening fast enough.
I don't think it's too much to ask that when J goes to school each day, he can expect a safe environment where he can learn and grow. Where he can stand up for another child without fear of taking on the fury of a bully. Is it too much to ask? Am I being unreasonable? But J's story is not the only one. Sadly, there are millions of stories out there, all written by bullies and told by their victims.
It's a cliche but it's true - the children today are the future tomorrow. Don't we want our future to be healthy? Please commit yourself to a better today and a healthier tomorrow for our communities. So how about we change the story? I think we can do it. Actually, I know we can do it. Here's how:
* Defend the underdog
* Act with good intent
* Seek understanding
* Spread kindness
* Stand up and be counted
For more information about mental illness in kids & teens please check out the Partners for Mental Health campaign, "Let's Call BS", that is currently on until end of November: http://callbs.ca/#home
You can map your mood, take the pledge, and learn how you can impact change.
J really is a wonderful kid. He is thoughtful, funny, loving, and protective of others. When I spoke to him on the phone tonight to check on him and tell him that I was proud of him for looking after the other kid, you know what he said? "It's OK. I love you."
I love you, too, J. More than you can ever know.
P.S. Here's an anthem to inspire: "Fighter" by Christina Aguilera! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PstrAfoMKlc