October 6, 2010

Acts of Kindness: Countering Bullying in our Schoolyards

Filed under: Youth — Tags: , , , , — Marc Peters @ 9:15 am

My heart may have been irrecoverably broken this week. Each and every day this week there seemed to be a new story about a student lost to suicide. People are waking up to the fact that there is an epidemic of bullying in our country and all too often it is ending in tragedy.

I’ve been suicidal before. I get brought up to the edge by a chemical imbalance, but what keeps me there thinking about taking my own life is self-loathing. A self-loathing that was fostered by making the wrong friends in grade school and sticking by them after being constantly demeaned. A self-loathing that was fostered after being called out for being overweight. A self-loathing that was fostered by being made to feel too smart by my classmates and not good enough by my father. It took me a long time, a great therapist and good friends to get over all that. But too many young people aren’t giving themselves that chance.

Bullying is a fact of life. From the time we start kindergarten until we graduate from college, we are faced with “school-yard bullies” Some kids are just mean and haven’t been taught a sense of right and wrong. Others have an abusive home life that fosters the belief that doing wrong is right. Now, we can love these bullies and hope that they grow and change and mature, but the reality is that eradicating bullying from our society is unlikely.

Let’s work under the premise that bullying will always exist and the bullied will always be suffering as a result. We can try and be punitive. We can confront bullies with fists or we can sentence them to detention and never change the behavior of others. It’s futile. We aren’t going to win playing this game. We need to change the rules of the game. We need to change the game itself.

To be honest, the bullies aren’t where we need to be spending the majority of our energy. It’s the bystanders at whom we need to take a hard look. So many of us watch people getting harassed and never respond. If we do respond, it is to challenge or report the bully. All too often, we forget to support the bullied student. We need to counteract anger with love. If there will always be premeditated acts of hatred, we need premeditated acts of kindness. Random acts of kindness are all well and good, but that’s not what this situation requires. We will never get anywhere in fits and starts. We need to take every opportunity to affirm the people in our lives. We need to build their defenses up before these incidents take place.

We all must realize that our words and action carry serious repercussions. Words carry weight. They can affirm someone or they can break them down. We need to build people up. We are losing far too many people to keep doing the same old thing. I doubt that we will ever “cure” depression, but we can bring an end to this senseless loss of life taking place in our communities and across our country.

I’ve seen people argue that suicide is without exception, a byproduct of mental illness. Speaking from someone who has gone through severe depressive episodes, it is important to know that the behavior is triggered by something. You may have a warped sense of reality, but it is in fact still reality that you are looking at. A rational person might look at being publicly humiliated and bullied and be able to cope with the ramifications. A depressed person might look at the same situation and thing that their world is over and they have no choice but to end it. That is what we are fighting. That is what we need to prevent. Tell your friends and family what they mean to you. Tell your classmates that you care. Tell your neighbor that they are important to you. Together, we can make this a better world to live in and one that our friends stick around to see.



  1. It seems to me there are three areas where continued education would be worth while. The self esteem of the person doing the bullying is obviously an issue. Then there are the bystanders that have their role as well. And the most important of course is the poor kid getting bullied. In my opinion all three suffer from the same deficit, low self esteem and trying to find the place in the world. Don’t we all struggle with finding that place, whether you have a mental illness or not? Ask the “most popular” kid in school if they didn’t struggle internally with fitting in. As a mom that has a kid that was bullied to the point we removed him from the school, my up close and personal experience was painful. Painful to watch my child suffer while the adults in charge did virtually nothing to remedy the issue. In our case all three of the participates lost out. They lost the teachable moments that were obvious, which could have helped shaped them into kinder more compassionate adults. This is an issue where education should be input into all areas of the school day. And then the parents should be required to attend the same education their children are getting at school. If bullying has been around since the beginning of time then it makes sense that many of these parents never learned what their kids need to learn now.
    Just my two cents!

    Comment by Julie Reese — October 6, 2010 @ 11:09 am

  2. Marc,
    Coincidentally, the organization I’m currently working with was founded on the premise of ending bullying. If you haven’t already, check them out. I’ve only been with them a month, but they give me great hope for real change on this issue. Roots of Empathy:


    Comment by David Monteith — October 6, 2010 @ 11:36 am

  3. […] take a look at the blog I wrote for BringChange2Mind on the epidemic of bullying going on in our country… My heart may have been irrecoverably […]

    Pingback by On Bullying « BIPOLAR REALITIES — October 6, 2010 @ 2:33 pm

  4. Mark….you are one of the bravest, most honest people I know. Thanks for a truly insightful post

    Comment by robert egger — October 6, 2010 @ 2:39 pm

  5. Marc, Thanks for your honesty, and for pushing us to take action in the face of hatred. It’s a very important message that we should all take to heart! Anthony

    Comment by Anthony — October 6, 2010 @ 2:59 pm

  6. I was heartbroken every time I saw the news about the young commiting suicide. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    Comment by Jee — October 6, 2010 @ 4:22 pm

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