Monday, December 14, 2015

Guest Post : ­ New Young Adult Novel Explores Suicide Due to Bullying‏

 ­ New Young Adult Novel Explores Suicide Due to Bullying‏

Two years ago, on a day off from work, I thought I’d have a relaxing day watching TV and playing with my dogs. But as I was flipping through the channels, I ended up on the Dr. Phil Show watching a mother talk about the suicide of her daughter. This girl’s name was Rehtaeh Parsons and she was assaulted and then bullied and cyber bullied until she committed suicide. Something struck me about her story and my heart went out to the family. I immediately went on the computer and started researching the statistics on teenage suicide.

The results I found were horrifying. Every year, approximately two million adolescents attempt suicide in the US. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in young people, with approximately 4600 deaths annually. Victims of bullying accounted for as much as half of those deaths. I couldn’t believe that I had never heard these numbers before. Hundreds of families are going through unspeakable pain, while the rest of us are not even aware of what is going on with our youth.

I started writing Santa; shortly after watching Leah Parsons on the Dr. Phil Show. I didn’t know I was starting a novel; I just wanted to get the thoughts in my head on paper. I wrote the first chapter about a girl on a TV show talking about how she was bullied in school and online. She described in detail the physical and psychological effects she endured from that. I tried to think about how I would be feeling if that happened to me. And then I realized that I could pull from my own experiences. Even though they were different from Rehtaeh’s, I was bullied at a very young age and those memories have never left me.

I was only four years old when the bullying started in school. A girl stole from my locker every morning and terrorized me all day long because I was shy and refused to talk in school. I remember going home every afternoon crying, unable to explain my feelings to my parents—unable to make sense of them myself. I think my parents, like so many parents, thought bullying was just a part of school life. Though they tried to comfort me, they didn’t understand entirely what I was feeling. This is part of the biggest problem today. Bullying should not be seen as a coming-of-age behavior. Bullying should not be tolerated. Bullies should understand that their actions have consequences and those penalties will be enforced.

Every day after writing the first chapter of my novel, I went to the library and wrote another chapter. Pretty soon, I had a whole book about a girl who is desperately trying to survive high school, even though she is being bullied and cyber bullied to the point where she contemplates suicide. When the book was done, it wasn’t enough for me to have written it. My own feelings had resurfaced, and I had the story of Rehtaeh in my heart. I knew this book needed to be published. It needed to be available to all to raise awareness to the problem of bullying this country faces.

How many more children need to suffer so deeply until something is done? There is currently no federal anti-bullying law, making it easy for bullies to feel like there will be no consequences to their actions. Creating awareness, implementing laws, and seriously talking to our children about bullying is the only way we can begin to rid our country of this epidemic.

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