We need to tackle bullying before it's too late

Claire Dickie reflects on the lessons to be learned from the recent death of a boy at her school.




Recently, a young boy in my area died by suicide following years of bullying and torment. He was just 17 years old and about to start college. 


Upon hearing the news of this death, hundreds of fellow students and community members posted on social media expressing their grief and offering condolences to the family and his friends. Many said that this boy was "a good guy", "always really nice" and that he was "taken too soon". While all of these are true and the boy will be dearly missed by many, these posts sparked something in me that I have to express. 


I did not know this boy personally, and like many others, I wish I had taken the time to get to know while I still could. We spoke every so often when I saw him in our school library but our conversations never lasted long. As he was a few years older than me, I didn't know much about him but since his death, I have learned more about who he was and what he suffered. I learned that, although a somewhat quiet boy with few friends, those who would talk to him occasionally said he was a nice, happy boy.


A lot of people knew about his troubles, knew those that bullied him and to what extent he was suffering. My question for them is why didn't you say anything? My question for the people that say he was "a nice guy" is why did you wait until now to express that? My question for everyone is why did no one try to help this boy?


We turn a blind eye when someone is bullied or left out for years on end, and as soon as it becomes too much, as soon as it's too late, we all express our regrets and talk about how "nice" they were. But no one was willing to stand up for this boy when he was alive. No one was willing to be his friend. And now, they only blame his bullies. 


In reality, we are all responsible to some degree. Everyone that shrugged past him in the corridors, everyone that left him out of group conversations, everyone that cancelled plans with him, everyone that ignored him. We didn't try to be his friend even though we knew he was lonely, we didn't try to stand up for him even though we knew he was being bullied. We didn't do enough to help. 


Of course, I don't know all the details or the reasons behind his tragic decision. But to me, this is an example of how bullying, and failure to address it properly, can have fatal consequences.


While his bullies should be punished for what they did, we should all feel a certain level of responsibility for what happened. As a school, as a community, as a species, we should all be nicer to each other. Instead of bowing to peer pressure and excluding those who society deems as "weird", we should actively make the effort to include them, make them feel liked and appreciated. Our reputations, our prejudices and our pride get in the way of basic human decency. 


His death was a tragic and avoidable loss that could have been prevented. So my message is this, to anyone that is reading this who knows someone who is getting bullied: tell someone.


Inform a teacher, parent or even the police. Make sure you do everything you can to make sure that person doesn't feel alone. Help each other out, make friends with the person you always see by themselves. If we all try to help each other, things like this will happen less and less.


The solution is not a heartfelt RIP message on Facebook. It is friendship, inclusion and general kindness.


If you need someone to talk to, contact the Samaritans free, 24 hours a day, on 116 123.



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