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

Lara Burns, 12: Cyberbullying Claims Another Victim

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I need to put this in perspective…for myself:  I host a weekly Open Mic locally.  On a couple of occasions, the 12-year-old daughter of my band’s bassist has come and performed there.  Very talented.  To look at her, my first thought was “my goodness!  Twelve years old is so young!”  And, that, it is.  That’s what makes this so heartbreaking.story images_Lara_Burns_684400751Over the weekend, 12-year-old Lara Burns-Gibbs, from Kilcock in Co. Kildare, in Ireland, ended her life.  It is believed that she had endured cyberbullying.

I’m just going to say right here that if I had a young teenager, male or female, in today’s world, they would have one of two options:

  1. Only use the Internet on a computer that is in an open, common room where anyone, at any given time, could be able to monitor what’s going on.  And, the computer itself would have every parental control available to me in use;  or,
  2. They simply wouldn’t be allowed to use the Internet for anything other than school work.  Cell phones?  No texting capabilities.

Too much is at stake in today’s world for me to handle it any other way.  I just heard from a mother, just today, of a beautiful young girl who committed suicide earlier this year after enduring cyberbullying, and she told of how tough of a time she was having right now.  It’s her first holiday season without her beautiful young daughter since she arrived in this world 14 years ago.  My heart broke when I read that, but I can certainly understand.  No parent should be going through what she, and (unfortunately) many other parents of teen suicide victims are going through.  Yet, here I am once again, writing about yet another young person who ended their life after being bullied.  Where does it end?  Where do we begin?

At Lara’s funeral, Father David Halpin had this to say:

suicide is not the answer to pain and only causes greater suffering.  Those feelings do pass. We are here today because a very young girl did not know that.  She was too young to know that the pain does not last, too young to know that whatever was troubling her was not permanent.  She was too young to know that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

He added: “Perhaps by planning to die by suicide she was bringing an end to pain.  But it has had the opposite effect — it has multiplied pain, hurt and suffering and brought devastation to her family.  Suicide should never be seen as an answer because it’s not an answer.  Please, please do not ever think suicide is the answer. Seeking help is the only answer.  She was too young to understand that suicide cannot be reverse.

That sobering statement holds validity.  On the other side of the coin, even as we make every effort imaginable to protect these young people from being bullied, both online and in their daily lives, at some point we have to stop coddling the perpetrators, as well as the enablers, and start holding people accountable.  Period.  In the cases of bullying where it leads to a suicide, well, that’s no difference than getting into a physical altercation with someone, having that someone fall and violently bang their head on the concrete, and subsequently dying from that injury.  Your actions lead to that person’s death and, as such, you’re held accountable.  This is no different.  If the actions of the bully, or cyberbully, ends with the bullying victim committing suicide, that person (or, persons) is just as culpable as the person is who threw the punch that caused that person to fall, bang his/her head on the concrete, and subsequently die from the injury.  It’s really just that simple.  Someone needs to be held accountable!!!  The perpetrator(s) needs to be held accountable; the enabler(s) need to be held accountable.

Let’s get real:  there is absolutely no way that anyone with even a single working brain cell doesn’t know by now that bullying is causing enormous harm and, in many cases, death; therefore, for these people to continue with their bullying actions is for them to say that they flat-out don’t give a damn if the person they are antagonizing kills themselves.  It’s really as simple as that.  And, that is absolutely not okay.

Lara’s grieving mother delivered this message, through the parish priest, Father Liam Rigney:

 Never be ashamed to go for help.  We just do not know why, and we will never know why, Lara took her own life. We will never know what was in her poor head. What we do know is her decision has devastated so many people, especially her family. So many lives have been torn apart and devastated.

This is real.  Parents are grief-stricken.  Families are often torn apart.  Friends are shattered.  And, what’s really troubling me, personally, is that it’s showing no signs of getting any better any time soon.  We’ve got a lot of work to do if we’re to reverse this trend:

  1. It’s essential that we devise a way to protect these young people from being constantly bullied and/or cyber-bullied.  If that means severely restricting their telecommunications access, so be it.  Having them alive and pouting trumps what we’re seeing as an alternative; and,
  2. It’s time to start holding some feet to the fire.  There has to, has to, has to!!!! be some accountability.  It’s really that simple.

My heart goes out to Lara’s grief-stricken family and friends.  And, to you, Lara, may you rest in peace.

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4 Responses

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  1. this ep[demic of teenage suicides must br syopped ,bring criminal charges against the bullies and i dont mean a slap on the
    wrist ,throw the book at them and their parents

    robertmccambley

    November 30, 2012 at 9:39 am

  2. My son is still very young, but I think of him every time I read about cyberbullying and its terrible consequences. I agree with both of your conclusions. I hope that more parents will do the same so that these tragedies become fewer and fewer as a result of vigilance on both ends, so that fewer will mourn losses that should never have been.

    Deborah the Closet Monster

    November 30, 2012 at 5:27 pm

  3. At the start of the school year I remember sitting here thinking…soon, there will be the first suicide of the year…that happened in August, before our schools had even started. Now, not even up to Christmas break yet, Lara Burns is the 39th suicide THAT I KNOW OF. I know there are many many more that have been hushed up and kept out of the news. My heart breaks for these parents, families and friends…the ripple effect of the pain of 39 suicides (not counting the HUNDREDS previously) is unimaginable.

    Carol

    December 1, 2012 at 7:57 am

  4. R.I.P Lara Burns<3 You meant everything to me</3 just a few more years and i will be up in heaven with you ❤ God bless your lil heart. You were to young for all that pain:'( im so sorry i wast half as good of a friend to you like you were to me. 😦 I would do anything to see you one more time and hold you close and tell you who much i love you. The one question going through my head is " What if..?." I hate seeing your locker in school. Its killing me. I feel like you went away for a while and im just waiting for you to come back. Bye bye my beautiful friend sleep tight<3 X Love you, forever<3

    Chloe Tracey

    January 12, 2013 at 8:41 pm


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