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Let's work together against bullying and help bring the teen suicide rate down to zero

Posts Tagged ‘Mental health

Hannah Gabriel Myer, 17: Her “Bully” was Depression

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With “bully”, “bullying”, and “bullycide” now a part of our everyday vernacular, it’s easy to lose track of the real fact that bullying isn’t the only driving force behind teen suicide.  Depression, as well as other mental illnesses, also play a large roll in it.  Depression, perhaps, just as much as bullying.  In fact, some say that depression is the leading cause of suicides.

Hannah MyerI received word late last week that 17-year-old Hannah Gabriel Myer ended her life on Wednesday, March 13th after a long battle with depression.  The person with whom I spoke will remain anonymous, but she was a longtime friend of Hannah’s.  The picture she painted of the struggles her friend endured was heartbreaking:

We lived in Colorado Springs Colorado.  She loved to ski and was 6 in our league.  She was a beautiful girl who didn’t like herself.  Her family was very rich, and none of her parents ever paid attention to her.  Her nanny always took care of her. She also had bulimia, but I was the only one who knew.  She used to cut.  She loved her dog so much, and she told me Spencer, the dog, would be the only reason she stayed.  I have Spencer now.

Her parents weren’t around much before she died, so they have asked me a lot. Like, what would she want at her funeral. If she wanted a funeral.  Her favorite song, etc.  She had a 4.0 and was in 3 APs.  She was basically the perfect child but was cracking under pressure and couldn’t tell anyone.  I was the only one who knew, and I’ve told counselors etc.  But, no one did anything.  And, now she’s gone.  She was just so beautiful and should never have died.

This beautiful girl had parents who didn’t know who their daughter was.  I’m sure that, now that she’s gone, they regret having missed out on sharing in on more of her life.  That they can no longer make amends and get to know their lovely daughter is equally as tragic as the suicide, itself.  This beautiful girl had a friend, who was her de facto family, in the true sense of the word, who tried to save her friend but knew in the end that “…whatever I do was never going to be enough.” Hannah Myer2I don’t know which is more frustrating:  the fact that, at least in Hannah’s mind, her parents were too busy with their own lives, or the fact that her friend tried getting her counseling but no one did anything.  Either of the two is bad enough.  Either of the two could be enough, on their own, to lead an already-fragile person over the edge.  Together, they form a lethal combination that proved too much for Hannah Myers to overcome.  Now she’s gone.  Now, her parents are struggling to learn who their daughter was through her friend while coping with the devastation of  losing a child.  This is never easy for anyone.

For as beautiful as Hannah was, I find it haunting to see the level of obvious pain in her eyes.  I wondered if that was just my imagination working after the fact.  I was assured by her friend, however, that the pain I thought I saw was, in fact, very real and very visible to anyone who took the time to notice.  Her response to my question of whether it was my imagination, or was I able to see the pain in her eyes was:  “You can. I saw, but no one else did”.

It’s never easy to write about these teen suicides.  In fact, it gets harder every time.  Like most teen suicides, if not all, this could’ve so easily been avoided.  Hannah Myer didn’t have to die!  Once again, we see an instance where sheer negligence led to the untimely death of a young person. The attempt was made to get her some much-needed therapy and counseling by a trained professional.  Nothing was done.  Again.  And, once again, we’re left wondering what is it going to take to get people - adults!! - to realize that we’ve got a major epidemic on our hands!?  Why are so many young people dying by their own hands with nothing being done about it!?  That is what’s most infuriating!!  It’s almost as if the message that is being sent is that these young lives are expendable.  That’s a tough pill to swallow; however, the redundancy of the situations surrounding far-too-many of these teen suicides makes it easy for one to walk away with that impression.  Certainly, more can be done to prevent them from happening.  Obviously, more needs to be done to prevent them from happening.  As one parent of a recent suicide victim put it:  “…Look at the kids. They’re reaching out to us, and we owe them more than what we’re giving them.”  That, from a parent who lost a teenager to suicide.  We can do more.  We must do much more.

Through this blog, you, Hannah, will never be forgotten.  Though most of the people who will read this never knew you, they will never forget you.  Or, your smile.  Or, the pain in your eyes.  I hope you are now at peace.

******************************SUICIDE PREVENTION RESOURCES!!!!!!******************************

BEFRIENDERS

SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE

THE TREVOR PROJECT

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: the blog page

Andrew Mulville, 17, Death by Suicide

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On Thursday, March 22nd, 17-year-old Andrew Mulville ended his life.  According to the news releases following the event, he wrapped himself in a blanket and stood in oncoming traffic.  A horrific way to go, but a very graphic illustration of how serious the issue of depression can be.  I long ago got away from describing the actual suicide event for fear of influencing others:  copycats.  However, in this case, the graphic description was already provided in the local news.  Besides that, there’s also more to that, which I’ll get to momentarily.

Whereas Andrew’s suicide was from the previous school year, needless to say it’s still very raw to Andrew’s family.  Losing your teenaged son to suicide is traumatic enough.  The healing period can be years…if ever.   In far too many cases, and this one in particular, some of the details of the event, what led up to it, and the handling of its aftermath only makes matters tremendously worse for the grieving family.

  • The issue of bullying.  For reasons that are beyond my comprehension, bullying is looked upon and dealt with in such an ineffective manner, it’s as if people who bully are given carte blanche to simply continue business-as-usual.  In this case, the bullying came from ADULTS!  Parents from his high school were lobbying to have him expelled from his school.  His infraction?  Cheering for another school’s sports team.  These parents were calling the school, demanding that he be expelled.  He only learned of it by word-of-mouth from other students.
  • The issue of depression and mental health.  In many cases where bullying is the suspected culprit that pushed a person over the line to suicide, typically there are other, underlying mental health issues involved.  In many cases, it’s depression.  I’ve talked to several different families of these young victims who told me that, whereas bullying was a factor (to whatever degree), the depression had become so severe that the victim had reached their point of no return.  That was the case with Jamie Hubley.  That was the case with Andrew Mulville.  The problem is mental health issues are not properly addressed in schools, and in our society in general.

It’s proving to be an endless task of trying to temper the bullying that we’re seeing amongst school-aged children today.  However, when it’s the adults, PARENTS!, who are leading the charge, that task becomes next-to-impossible to meet.  The idea that adults, with children in the same school, would launch such an attack on one of their children’s peers is beyond reprehensible.  Their actions led to Andrew’s being egged, his car being vandalized, and even his younger brother being bullied.  I’ve said many times in this blog that in order to efficiently address the bullying problem we’re seeing in today’s schools, we have to first address the adults/parents.  It starts at home.  And, here is as clear-cut of a case as there ever will be.

When asked what she would like to see happen in response to her son’s suicide, Andrew’s mother had this to say:

Mental health education focused on with curriculum that is in-depth and age appropriate to age level…I want polices at schools as to how they address these situations. Some are left to handle it the way they see fit. I want mental health parity, don’t honor some and not others. Give kids more of a voice in the process.

That would be a great place to start.  Removing the stigma of mental health issues and addressing them honestly and effective will save lives.  Period.  As for the bullying, it cannot be stressed enough that we will continue to spin our wheel and, in the process, lose young people to bully-related suicides, until it is addressed honestly, seriously, and realistically with the adults.  The parents.  The major influences in these young people’s lives.  Says Andrew’s grieving father:

…Look at the kids. They’re reaching out to us, and we owe them more than what we’re giving them.”

Exactly how many more self-induced deaths will it take for people to realize this simple truth.

Sorry we, as a society, failed you, Andrew.  To the family of Andrew Mulville, I extend my most sincere condolences.

Suicide Prevention

Suicide Lifeline

Enough is Enough: the blog page

Depression Warning Signs

 

Unimaginable: 7-Year-Old Commits Suicide

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I am at an utter loss for words.  A year ago this time, no one could’ve ever convinced me that I would be writing about a 7-year-old boy who committed suicide.  Yet, that’s the report coming from Detroit, MI.

I don’t even know how to begin writing about a 7-year-old who’s committed suicide.  I’m still having a hard time wrapping my brain around the idea of a 7-year-old committing suicide.

According to early reports, the unnamed boy was distraught over the recent separation of his parents, with his father being gone from the home.  He was also reportedly being “continuously” bullied by students at school.  If my math is right, 7-years-old is second grade.  Second grade for me was Brighton Elementary, stickball in the field beside my aunt’s house, riding my bicycle up and down Potomac Ave, and just enjoying being ayoung kid.  I cannot honest even remember knowing what the word suicide meant; therefore, I certainly wouldn’t have understood how to successfully complete one.  We, as a society, are in a very bad place when 7-year-olds are even thinking about ending their lives.

Where do we begin?  This event screams for attention.  If the suicide of a 7-year-old, a 7-year-old whose mother has already stated that he had been “continuously bullied”, doesn’t make everyone, and I do mean everyone, sit up and take notice, then the problem is far more entrenched than any of us ever imagined.  Obviously, at age 7, we will not even begin to speculate over the “why” the bullying was occurring in the first place.  What matters is that it was occurring.  What matters is that, at age 7, he felt it was too much to handle.  That should be all we need to know.

I’ve seen far too many cases where a victim of bullying has stated clearly that “nothing was done” when the incidents were reported.  I’ve heard parents state the same thing far too often.  On the facebook blog page, I hear from both victims and parents of victims who say the same thing.  Over and over.  I’m going to state something that should, by now, be painfully obvious:  we’re allowing this to continue.

We’re allowing this to continue because, although more and more people are getting involved and making sure their voices are being heard, we’re not demanding immediate and definitive action.  We’re allowing this to continue by allowing “them” to continue to sweep it all under the carpet and hope it goes away.  Meanwhile, kids are dying at their own hands.

Let the suicide of this very young person be the wake-up call that’s sorely needed.  If nothing changes, nothing changes.  That’s not acceptable.  Let’s send lots of love and support to the family of this 7-year-old yet-to-be-named child.  Imagine for a minute, if you can, the sheer agony they are going through right now.

Valuable Resources to help end teen (and, pre-teen) suicide:

Befrienders

Suicide Support

Suicide Prevention Lifeline

The Trevor Project

Asperger’s and Being Bullied

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There was a very sobering video posted today on the facebook blog page, courtesy of Wipe Out Suicide and Wipe Out Homophobia.  Sobering because it was a mother telling how her 5-year-old son had been bullied to the point where he wanted to die.  Five years old!!!  There can’t be a more resounding wake-up call than that.asperger4The story of 5-year-old Aden is both heartbreaking and familiar.  Heartbreaking, for obvious reasons.  When you have anyone feeling so much emotional pain because of the actions of a few people who carelessly abuse them because they are “different”, that’s a problem.  When you have a 5-year-old saying he wants to die because of the treatment he’s getting, that’s a 5-alarm blaze.

I could connect with this because Marty, my 23-year-old surrogate son, deals with the same issue.  Like Aden, Marty is not your average Joe.  He’s uniquely Marty.  And, that’s okay.  He’s highly intelligent, as I’m sure Aden is.  He yearns to be accepted by his peers, like Aden; yet, because he’s perceived as different, it’s a constant challenge for him to gain acceptance .  As a result, he struggles with social anxiety.  Like Aden, all he yearns for is to be accepted, by his peers, by anybody…simply for being Marty.  That’s not asking too much.  Isn’t that what we all want?  Sure it is.  And, sadly, like Aden, Marty has voiced on occasions that “I don’t belong in this world”.  I’ve worked hard for 3 1/2 years to show him that he’s wrong.

Like Marty, Aden will grow into the understanding that there IS a place in this world for him.  He’s got an incredible mother who, right now while he’s still very young, is Aden’s “voice”.  On that, alone, he’s got a leg up on Marty.  But, that’s a whole different story.  Like Marty, Aden will grow into the understanding that Asperger’s is simply something he has to deal with in his life, but it’s not who he is.  In the 3 1/2 years he’s been with me, Marty has done nothing but grow.  It’s amazing what positive reinforcements can do for a person.  It’s sad, though, that he had to wait until he was an adult before he had someone who would take the time to give him that daily positive reinforcement.  And, that gives Aden a major leg up!!!  His mother, in speaking out with this video, should win “Mother of the Year” accolades!!  Asperger’s isn’t a death sentence.  It’s just extra luggage to carry as you embark on your journey through life.autism

Here’s the real problem.  How is it that five-year-old kids can be so intolerant and mean as to make one of their peers want to end his life!?  That’s a REAL problem!!  And, there’s no way you can blame a 5-year-old for that behavior.  I’ve said it a thousand times but, obviously, it needs to be said tens of thousands more times:  the issue of bullying isn’t just about the young people, IT’S THE ADULTS WE HAVE TO FOCUS ON!!  The young people are learning this level of meanness and intolerance from people much older than themselves.  Take that to the bank.  And, perhaps, it isn’t the parents, directly.  Maybe it’s the older siblings.  However, the link still goes back to the parents.  Adults are the root to this whole bullying problem, like it or not.  The issue with Aden makes that woefully clear.

I challenge every single adult and, especially, parent to monitor themselves.  Do it for a week.  How are the young people in your life seeing you deal with other people, people you perceive as different?  How are they hearing you talk about a different ethnic group than your own, about members of the LGBT community, about someone with a disability?  How they see and hear YOU deal with people you perceive as “different” is how they are taught to deal with them.  Plain and simple.  And, as is made obvious by this video and 5-year-old Aden, they learn young.

Spread love.

Embrace diversity.

Teach acceptance.

It’s the only way we’re going to change this culture of hatred and intolerance.  As Aden’s mother stated poetically in the video:  “Love…cures.  Hate…kills.  Be nice to others.  It starts with you.”  It’s really just that simple.AutismAwarenessHeader

Written by Ron Kemp

April 12, 2012 at 7:13 am

Olivia Penpraze, 19: Bullying and Depression Leads to Death by Suicide

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On the Jamie Hubley page that serves as my homepage, one of the regulars posted this yesterday:

I was hoping that i would never have to do something like this but it seems that that time has come. as of 9:20pm 3rd of April 2012 (Melbourne Australia time) a girl by the name of Olivia Penpraze died as a result of a suicide attempt. she was on life support for a number of days and her parents had to make the traumatic decision to turn it off as she was brain-dead. like Jamie, she used tumblr as her escape to post all of her thoughts and messages. she suffered from extreme depression and it really upsets me that I didn’t do anything to help her, even though there probably was nothing I could do.  She will be one of the many teenagers each year that goes unnoticed, not documented, not in the media. but all i hope is that she is in a better place now. it’s your time to shine Olivia, we all love and miss you ♥

No, Andrew, she won’t go unnoticed.  Not if I have anything to do with it.  I watched the video that she had made, and it just ripped my heart from my chest.  No one, no one should have to live such a life of unchecked turmoil.  Olivia had been screaming for help for almost a decade.  Finally, the demons of mental illness and depression won.  Depression that was brought on by bullying.200160-olivia-penprazeBullying.  Again.  Will it ever end?  Not as long as people keep talking about it rather than doing something about it.  According to a post her father made on her tumblr page, a photo and thought-sharing website used by many teens, people there had been bullying her, as well.  How on Earth does a person sit behind a computer screen and urge a person who is already obviously in crisis to kill themselves?  How does one think that’s cool or funny?  Or, do they just truly not care?  Olivia’s dad’s letter said that this had gone on before she attempted suicide for the last time:

To all of my daughter’s followers, this is to let you all know that on Thursday, 29th March, Olivia attempted suicide, as a result she is on life support and this will be terminated shortly due to her being brain dead.  So, to all of the people who posted support of this outcome on this blog, you can be real proud of yourselves.  As a father who witnessed her first breath of life and now to witness her last, I thank you for your utmost disregard for life.  If this sort of activity gets you off, you are nothing.  To those of you who offered her support to refrain from killing herself, thanks.  You should all try to make contact with family even if it is against your wishes.  At least leave a contact somewhere on your blog in times of need.  I know that you all need somewhere you can vent your anger and feelings and that these blogs can help, but in reality family must always come first…Olivia Penpraze

I talked to someone else just tonight, as I was writing this actually, who had someone on that same page telling her that she, too, should kill herself.  Who is teaching these young people such a deep level of hatred?  Is it hatred?  Or, is it simply an ambivalence of human life?  Do today’s youth just not give a rat’s ass about the next human being?  Have they become desensitized to human life?  Look, it’s become painfully and frighteningly clear that the change in our culture has got to start with the adults since that’s where young people learn from.  No teen, anywhere, should ever feel so helpless and hopeless that they feel the only way out is to end their life.  At the same time, no teen, anywhere, at anytime!, should feel that it’s perfectly okay to bully another person for any reason.  Hatred and intolerance is taught.

When I asked Andrew, the young man who posted the original post about Olivia’s lost battle, if he had anything he wanted to say about her, he had this:

she loved her friends and always seemed happy. I remember once at choir she said she was changing schools. That may have been when she quit school like she said in her video. As i have said before, I wasn’t close with her.  But, on the outside, she was happy; on the inside, it seems she was screaming for help.  We all miss her, and I personally am going to do everything I can in my power now to put an end to bullying and teen suicide.

We need more Andrews.  Families and friends should now be forced to go through this kind of trauma…this level of pain.  May you rest in peace, Olivia.

Written by Ron Kemp

April 6, 2012 at 7:07 am

Rest In Peace, Lennon Baldwin, 15: Suicide from Bullying

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Wednesday was a bad day.  In addition to the 12-year-old in West Virginia who ended his life due to bullying, Lennon Baldwin, 15, of New Jersey ended his young life as well.  Police in Morristown are investigating the suicide for the possibility of bullying.lennon-baldwin2-300x199

By all accounts, Lennon was a very well-liked, happy young man with an infectious smile.  I’ve witnessed, as well, that he was a very gifted, blooming artist.  A friend of Lennon’s posted this video as a tribute to his fallen friend.  A rising star now dimmed by suicide.

Unlike some other jurisdictions, the authorities in Morristown are on record as saying they are doing a “full investigation” into the suicide.  At this point, it is unclear whether bullying was the cause or not.

Teen suicide, whatever the reason, regardless of their sexual orientation, is an issue that absolutely has to be addressed with the same urgency as a recently reported “epidemic” of teen smoking.  If not moreso.  After all, we can get teens to stop smoking.  No one has figured out how to stop anyone from being dead.  Once the suicide attempt is successful, that’s it.  A young life is senselessly and needlessly snuffed out.  Dreams are extinguished.  Families and friends are left with hearts ripped as they try to make sense of it all.

What is the solution?  I wish I could answer that.  Right now, no one can.  However, there are things we can do to put a serious dent in what’s going on.

For starters, we can work as one in convincing the people who lead that teen suicide is a very serious issue in our culture, not only in our country but worldwide.  It is a plague that deserves the full-attention of every politician, every religious leader, every school administrator across the board.

The scourge of bullying, which is at the root of far too many teen suicides needs to be met head-on and dealt with.  In some ways, that’s easier said than done.  Why?  Because on one level, it’s very easy for us all, including myself, to call for the heads of those who bully another human being to the point where they feel the only way to make it stop is to end their own life.  And, indeed, I do feel that those who continually and willfully bully a person should be held accountable if that person commits suicide because of their actions.  It’s no different than the bully holding a gun to that same person’s head and pulling the trigger.  They are just as dead either way.  The difference is, in this case, the one who pulled the trigger is obviously charged with murder.  So, why should bullying someone to the point where he or she feels the only way out is commit suicide be any different.  Why?  Because it’s more complex than that.  See, on another level is the reality that we, as humans, are not born to hate.  We are not born intolerant.  The exact opposite it true.  That means that they are taught these emotions and behaviors.  And, unfortunately in this case, a young person’s brain is a sponge.  They learn well.  So, to get at the root of bullying, it is imperative to start with the adults.  If Johnny constantly hears his dad, his religious leader, or political leaders constantly express their disdain, their intolerance and hatred of certain groups of people, whether it’s different races or people of a different sexual orientation, he’s learning from them that it’s ok to treat these people like they don’t belong.  It’s ok to call them the most degrading names.  It’s ok to bring physical harm to them.  No!!  It’s NOT ok!!!  And, everyone, from the adults to the young ones, needs to understand that.  Every single life is precious.

Another big contributor to teen suicides is mental health issues.  Leading the way in this area is depression.  Knowing the symptoms of depression is a crucial first-step.  Knowing how to deal with teen depression can be life-saving.

We can only hope for a speedy solution, one that will lead to a reduction and eventual end to the bullying/teen suicide epidemic.

Unfortunately, all of our efforts will be too late for the family and friends of Lennon Baldwin.  All we can do for them now is wrap our arms around them and support them as they struggle mightily to make sense of this.  We can go to the facebook page set up in Lennon’s honor and leave our condolences.  And, we can pray that he now finds the peace he was denied while he was here with us.

IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS BEING BULLIED, SEEK HELP IMMEDIATELY!!  DON’T STOP SEEKING HELP UNTIL YOU FIND SOMEONE WHO WILL LISTEN AND TAKE ACTION.

IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW ARE SUICIDAL, PLEASE SEEK HELP IMMEDIATELY!!  THERE ARE MANY, MANY RESOURCES AROUND FOR YOU.  

Suicide Support 

STOP Teenage Suicide  

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  

UPDATE:

I erroneously stated earlier in this that Lennon was an artist “as seen in this video”. The artist in the video is his friend, Andrew, who drew the picture of Lennon as a tribute.  Sorry for the confusion.

Written by Ron Kemp

March 31, 2012 at 4:10 am

Ignoring It Doesn’t Make it Go Away

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I read story after story, comment after comment about how some teen was bullied, they report the incident to the proper authorities, only to have it treated as it’s a non-issue.  Too many suicides have resulted from this.

In one high-profile case recently, a spokesman from the local Sheriff’s department went on record as saying that despite media and online reports of the teen’s suicide being a result of bullying, their “investigation” concluded that “that was not the case”.  Yet, my own personal contact with someone very close to the family and the situation told me exactly the opposite.  And, of course, it was later made know that bullying was, indeed, at the root of the suicide.  This wasn’t the first instance.  In the trailer for the controversial, and very necessary, movie, “Bully”, a teacher foolishly goes on camera to say that she’d “ridden on that bus” where a young boy was allegedly bullied and the kids “…were as good as gold”.  Ultimately, this boy committed suicide because of the bullying.

Sometimes, in some cases of bullying against LGBT teens, the victim is blamed for the bullying!!  In the case of one high-profile LGBT teen suicide from a couple years ago, the parents were told that if their son didn’t act [gay], he wouldn’t get bullied.  How is THAT acceptable?  That’s not “not taking bullying seriously”, that’s turning a blind eye to what’s going on.  Worse, that’s essentially sanctioning the violence because this boy was simple being himself.  The sad end result was him taking matters into his own hands and ending his life.  

On my facebook blog page, read comment after comment from real-life people who were bullied, went to the authorities, and nothing was done about it.

I was bullied in school for being “different”,”odd”, and my school did nothing about it. Often, they ignored it cuz the kids who did bully me were kids of pta and parents who supported and gave alot of money to the school. My dad fought hard to get me help because other stuff was going on due to bullying, like my academics. I was not sent to a private charter school till I was a junior in high school, and that was due to case workers and an advocate, because i tried to commit suicide more then 3 times in less then 2 yrs. While being at that special school, they (the school) found out I have autism. Had the school I attended prior would have taken the time to listen to my father, I would of been put in the right classrooms and would have gotten the help I needed from day 1. Even when I was in 9th and 10th grade, people where horrible to me. I wonder, now that we are adults, how they would feel if they found out they bullied a girl with disabilities to the point of trying suicide.  I wonder how they would feel, especially if they had kids…bullying needs to stop on all levels.  I just wanted to share my story.

That’s one of the comments left recently on my facebook blog page.  This is but one example.  Unfortunately, there are more.

Problem with schools, I’m a senior in high school, and in all my years in middle school (6-8) I was bullied and fighting back each year leading me to get kicked off to a new school each year….kinda sucks how “they who purposely care” really don’t…..well until until you’re pushed too far.

“Until you’re pushed too far” is 10 steps too late.  Bullying needs to be taken seriously, on all levels:  not only against LGBT teens, but against anyone who’s perceived different, anyone who doesn’t “fit in”.  School officials, elected officials, adults in general!, all need to be re-educated.  And, part of that re-education process needs to be making them acutely aware that ignoring the bullying issue doesn’t make it away.

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