October 8, 2010

Love Is Always Louder. Always.

Filed under: Resource, Youth — Tags: , , , , , , , — BringChange2Mind @ 2:20 pm

Last week our nation was rocked by a series of tragic events.  Within a matter of a week, five students – all under the age of 20 – took their lives because they were bullied due to their sexual preferences.  While no words can express the sorrow we all feel after hearing about these events, the BringChange2Mind team wants to extend our deepest condolences to the families of those that were lost last week.

Each of these men endured hardships that most of us can’t begin to imagine.  They were tormented because of their sexuality, their privacy was breached and their lives were destroyed by people who didn’t understand them.  Sadly, when they felt that there was no hope left they ended their misery by taking their lives.  What they didn’t know was that there was hope.  There was love.  There were people who cared deeply about them.

One fact is very clear in all of this.  We are in the midst of an epidemic of  bullying.  Kids as young as 5 are the victims of bullying that can continue all the way up through college and in the work place.  While some are able to endure and cope with the daily pain that comes with being the victim of bullying, others are not.  The saddest part about this epidemic is that it’s 100% preventable.  We can prevent it.

Bullying is not a new phenomenon.  It has lingered and been begrudgingly tolerated in the hallways and jungle gyms of our school systems for decades.   It often happens right under our noses – in our front yards and in the streets of our neighborhoods.  But we need to recognize that the big difference between today’s bullying, and the bullying of the past, is that bullies now use technology to tear apart their victims.  This form of bullying can be far reaching and devastating.   Bullies torment their victims on Instant Messenger, Facebook, and MySpace.  Some go as far as posting indecent photographs and videos of their victims on social media sites.  These avenues of bullying were not available in the past.

Thankfully, among all these tragedies, there is hope and help available for those in need. Love Is Louder was created by actress Brittany Snow, The Jed Foundation and MTV with support from Active Minds, Ad Council,, Liz Claiborne Inc.’s Love is Not AbuseReach Out, STOMP Out Bullying, The Trevor Project, To Write Love on Her Arms and Wired Safety.

The Love Is Louder movement strives to amplify the momentum of other inspiring online campaigns and invite anyone who has felt mistreated, misunderstood or isolated, into conversation. They are here to raise the volume around a critical message — that love and support is more powerful than the external and internal voices that bring us down, cause us pain and make us feel hopeless.

After these truly disturbing events, it is so important to support one another.  The growing negativity within our society stemming from abuses such as bullying might seem more powerful than the “good” in our society.  We are here to say that’s not true, and our BC2M community of over 14,000 tells us that.

There is more good than evil in this world.  There are more shoulders to lean on than there are bullies in our schools, workplaces and neighborhoods.  If you can’t find someone to talk to, remember you can turn to your fellow BC2M supporters or seek help through our Response Team.  Never hesitate to ask someone for a shoulder to lean on or a hand to hold as you walk toward help.

Be sure to visit Love Is Louder on Facebook to learn more about how you can help the movement.  We need as many people as possible to spread the love and the message: Love Is Louder.

~ The BringChange2Mind Team


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.

September 7, 2010

Self Advocacy

Filed under: Youth — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Linea @ 7:30 am

When it comes to mental health conditions and disabilities self-advocacy is essential. Though not everyone will reach a point where they feel safe telling the world their story, it is crucial for everyone to be able to demand quality care and accommodations.

Last year I had the honor of presenting at a conference for a group of young adult leaders for disability rights and empowerment. These young people were between the ages of fifteen and twenty and came together to talk about their experiences as youth with disabilities. They talked about the importance of speaking up for yourself and/or advocating for your needs. Here is a list of the things they found important when it came to self-advocacy:

  • Be honest with your doctors, therapists and care team. Tell them if you feel uncomfortable or unhappy with your medication or treatment and see if there are other options that are more in line with your wants and needs. Add your voice into the mix and listen if professionals have a different perspective because they might have good ideas too.
  • Be honest with your teachers and/or coworkers. You may not need to tell them what your diagnosis is (though with teachers this may be necessary), but do tell them that you have a disability or condition that needs certain accommodations if you feel it could make your life easier. Speak up for your needs even if it may seem embarrassing or scary because in the long run you may learn better or get more accomplished.
  • After you have tried these see how you feel about advocating for yourself and see if you feel ready to take it a step higher and share your story. Provide more detail and talk about your personal experience with people when these issues come up. This will allow others to better understand the illness and who you are as a person. Many times this can even create an ally that will do anything to help you if you need it. You can practice this with friends and family.
  • When it comes to stigma or bullying: Situations where there is discrimination and/or judgment are often the most important place for people to hear a personal story. Many times bullies or others may not understand what you are really going through. Judge the situation and if you think it is worth it speak up. Tell them why their words hurt and what you are really experiencing. Tell them what is really going on instead of letting them continue to spread the misinformation. This one is tricky of course, so always judge safety first. If you feel you are being bullied or harassed talk to a teacher, parent or other safe adult.

Listening to these pointers impressed and inspired me and I hope that you can take something away too. It is also important to know that because of your ability to advocate for yourself you are inspiring and helping others to do the same. You may even start a small movement!

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