In the news this past week was the tragic story of 14-year old Jamey Rodemeyer. Jamey committed suicide late Sunday night, September 18 after years of being bullied because of his sexual orientation.
Jamey had endured taunting and harrassment since 5th grade. Things got much worse when he was in middle school. It seemed to have gotten better after Jamey started high school at Williamsville North High School near Buffalo, New York this fall.
Jamey’s parents Tracy and Tim had intervened with the schools which seemed to help. Jamey was in counseling and was able to talk openly with his parents about his sexuality. The schools said that they had addressed the bullying issue with the kids involved who seemed to back off.
Tracy and Tim said that Jamey seemed happier recently and they felt that things were getting better for him.
In May of this year, Jamey posted an encouraging You Tube message to other bisexual and gay youths as part of the ‘It Gets Better’ program.
Part of Jamey’s message was, “Just love yourself and you’re set. And I promise you, it’ll get better.”
Sadly, Jamey was unable to believe his own message. He became one of many teens to take his own life because of the unending tormenting of his peers.
Bullying has been around as long as people have been on the earth. Has it gotten worse or have kids become less able to deal with bullying?
Statistics from the Center for Disease Control www.cdc.gov show that suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people age 10-24. LGBT teens commit or attempt suicide at a much higher rate than others their age.
In the past, bullying was less aggressive and less pervasive. The taunting and teasing occured at school only out of the sight and earshot of teachers. Home was a haven away from bullies.
But now the bullying never ends. Now that nearly all teens have cell phones, facebook accounts, and other social media access, there is no escape.
Private comments become public fodder on social sites like Facebook, Formspring, Twitter, and other social media sites. As teens share their private lives on the Facebook walls, they open themselves up for more abuse at the hands of bullies.
On Formspring, a popular teen Internet outlet, hateful posts were aimed at Jamey saying things like, “Jamie is stupid, gay, fat, annd ugly. He must die.” Other posts on Formspring encouraged Jamey to kill himself and said that nobody would care if he died.
Often parents are held accountable by many for not knowing every thought in their child’s mind and every action their child takes.
Teens are close-mouthed by nature and don’t always share with their parents. Often when parents ask how things are at school, the response is a non-commital, “Okay” or “Fine.”
Some say that Tracy and Tim “should have done more” by perhaps enrolling Jamey in private school. But would that really have helped? Most private schools are religious in nature and many faiths teach that any sexuality outside of heterosexuality is a sin against God.
From an outsider’s perspective, it seems that Tracy and Tim did everything possible. They encouraged their son, talked openly as a family, got involved when the situation seemed to be out of control, and involved counselors, therapists, and other professionals to help Jamey. But in the end, none of that was enough to save Jamey’s life.
Does that mean that there’s nothing parents can do to help and protect their child from bullying? Parents can work with their child to help him understand that nothing lasts forever, that it really will get better.
- Don’t blame your child or tell him to ignore the bully.
- Don’t contact the bully’s parents. That will usually just make things worse.
- Talk with your child and work together to find solutions.
- Suggest ways that your child can handle bullying.
- Document what’s happening to your child.
- Involve teachers and administrators at your child’s school.
- Get help from other professionals.
- Be persistent in making the bullying stop.
- Keep communication open with your child and with his school.
- Encourage your child to be involved in activities he loves.
- Love your child unconditionally and stand beside him.
- Help create a circle of acceptance for your child with family, friends, and other adults who care.
- Use resources available at websites such as www.stopbullying.gov, www.cdc/gov/violenceprevention, and www.suicidology.org
Often as parents all we can do is watch from the sidelines as our children make their way through life. They have to live their own life and learn from their own mistakes. As we watch and wait, we hope and pray that all will be okay in the end.