Fourteen-year-old Brandon Bitner, a freshman at Midd-West High School in Snyder County was, by all accounts, a model student and a gifted violinist. Bitner,who dressed in black clothes and wore dark eyeliner, was known by other kids as an "emo," a student who freely shows his emotions. In his suicide note, Brandon wrote that for years he had experienced taunts from fellow students who called him "faggot" and "sissy." To end that torment, Brandon chose a fatal remedy: He stepped in front of a truck as it sped down Routes 11/15 in Perry County on November 5. His suicide and the note he left behind have become a catalyst for open conversations about how to stem bullying and its tragic results.
Brandon Bitner was not alone: A spate of recent bullying-related and other suicides has captured national attention including a 13-year-old Cumberland County girl, an 11-year-old Georgia boy, and a Rutgers University student who jumped from the George Washington Bridge. Among our panelists this week is Cheryl Dellasega, Ph.D., a professor of Humanities in the College of Medicine and a professor of Women's Studies at the Penn State University. She has written several books on the issues that confront mothers and girls. In her first book, Surviving Ophelia, she shares stories of adolescent anxiety and ways to help young women overcome problems like anorexia, depression and school conflicts. Her second book, Girl Wars, explores issues surrounding relational aggression or female bullying. Also, Harvey Edwards, a Humanities and English teacher at Selinsgrove Area High School, is the founder and director of the award-winning Tolerance Troupe. The troupe performs skits to raise awareness of bullying and its effects. And, Jason A. Pedersen, Ph.D., a school psychologist at the Derry Township School District and president of the Association of School Psychologists of Pennsylvania, will add his perspective, as well, to the panel discussion.
Many parents and students wonder where to turn for help. There are a number of sites that offer assistance and guidance: Harrisburg Area Community College student Alexa Kylen started a website, PleaseLive.org, as a resource for young people thinking of suicide. The Yellow Ribbon-Ask 4 Help campaign encourages young people to discuss their feelings of depression and suicidal thoughts. The Trevor Project for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and questioning students has a wealth of information and resources. Holy Spirit Hospital's Teenline and the local CONTACT organizations (check local listings for one in your community) provide around-the-clock counselors to talk with you.
One local middle school vice principal told me recently that one of the toughest forms of bullying that affects girls involves exclusion -– leaving certain students out of social activities or the lunchroom conversations. There are active steps parents can take to help their children who are bullied or excluded. Work with your child to find a new social outlet where he or she can make new friends. Simply put, friends can be a lifeline to a child in trouble. Always remember that there is strength in numbers. So, reach out to parents of other children who are being bullied and get the school to take action to protect the group. It's very important, as well, to keep a record of specific incidents of abuse. Write down notes in a journal with the date, time and bullying details. Whatever you do, never minimize your own or your children's feelings or tell them to simply ignore the bullies. Children do not have adult-coping skills. Get professional help for your child and yourself. Licensed psychologists and psychiatrists are trained to help calm and treat whatever emotional problems your family might be having. Please share your thoughts with us live, Thursday night at 8 by calling 1-800-729-7532, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or post a comment on www.facebook.com/witf.org.
Published in News
Tagged under bullying
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