Have you ever noticed how loving and well-grounded the parents of bully victims appear to be when interviewed by the media?
It’s fair to wonder just how much of this is what I call stage poise, not to mention some rehearsed lines.
After all, it’s Psych 101 that an adolescent or teenager who’s ridiculed at school won’t be driven to die by suicide if that individual has a loving, stable, supportive family to come home to every day.
Is it a coincidence that the girl who gets called “stupid” and “ugly” at school (and is unable to defend herself in a way that shuts the bullies up, and I don’t necessarily mean with physical force) also gets called these names by her own mother?
I was once in a store and heard a mother say, “You’re ugly!” to her daughter who appeared to be about eight.
The girl had not been doing anything wrong, either (though what could a young child possibly do to deserve being called ugly by her mother?).
It’s easy for the layperson to imagine this girl (let’s call her Rosemarie) feeling quite ugly and defective on the inside by the time she hits junior high.
This internal instability will be picked up by the mean girls in Rosemarie’s school, and they’ll swarm her.
Bully Victim Dies by Suicide; Parents Shocked
A few years later Rosemarie takes her life. Her mother appears on TV, and we get the impression of a woman who has always been loving, emotionally supportive, stable, empowering. But we don’t see what happens behind the scenes.
In the past several years there has been a lot of publicity about teens and adolescents dying by suicide—allegedly as a result of relentless bullying by classmates.
What are these tormented kids going home to after school, such that they feel so hopeless that they decide to kill themselves? Shouldn’t their home life be a sanctuary? A place of calm, serenity, uplifting words, empowering messages?
What kind of emotional baggage are these kids picking up at home from their parents or possibly abusive older siblings and bringing to school, such that the bullies can spot their vulnerability a mile away and continue shredding them to pieces?
Reminds me of a coworker I once had. He related to me the story of a buddy he knew who, as a child, would get beaten up nearly daily by classmates.
The boy would go home with evidence of the beating, and this enraged his father—but his dad wasn’t furious at the bullies—he was furious at his son for attracting the bullies.
So what did dad do? He’d beat him. He’d tell the boy that whenever he’d come home showing marks on his body, he’d beat him.
Maybe this deranged man believed that the threat of a beating would give this boy the courage to stand up to his bullies, maybe punch them out.
My coworker told me of the boy, now grown, “To this day, this man shakes. You can just see it: He’s so messed up he shakes.”
What if this bullied boy had chosen suicide?
And what if his father had been interviewed by the media, appeared on a talk show?
We’d likely see a loving, heartbroken, tear-stricken man who was skilled at convincing viewers that he was a great father. And I say we’d “likely” see this, because sometimes…the parents are pure evil and never loved their child.
I know a woman who was infuriated that her young daughter was excluded from a classmate’s birthday party—she was infuriated at her tearful daughter for being “such an oddball that nobody wants you at her birthday party!” !
Can you imagine what this woman’s emotional abuse will do to the girl’s psychological development?
If come high school this girl is bullied relentlessly (or BECOMES the bully!), would you suppose her mother might have played a role in establishing the foundation? ? ?
I’ve seen interviews of bully victims’ mothers and, I have to admit, they sure did come across as great moms.
There was one in particular, whom I won’t name, but her daughter’s suicide got national attention. This mother seemed perfect. She had all the right responses, said all the right things, when interviewed.
I could not grasp that someone this seemingly together could have produced a daughter who was so unhappy, felt so hopeless, so full of self-loathing, that she’d kill herself—several years before she was even old enough to drive.
I dug a little deeper into this story and learned some startling things about the girl’s mother—things that explained why the girl felt that suicide was the only solution.
In short, the mother was highly dysfunctional, not the Mother of the Year she portrayed herself to be.
Some people are quick to point out that clinical depression is the overriding factor in these kids. So what’s more powerful, then? A pre-existing depression caused by wayward brain chemistry? Or the torment at school, which is inescapable?
These poor kids must face the hell eight hours a day, five days a week—and possibly face it all over again when they go home–yet somehow brain chemistry trumps all of this?
Does emotional abuse (from family and school) cause this disrupted brain chemistry?
Or does the haywire brain chemistry come first, creating a “different” child—who then becomes a bully magnet—who then is made to feel worthless by the bullies?
Or could it be that the bullying, coupled with a corrupt family environment, leads to hopelessness and such profound sadness that the young mind sees no way out but to jump off that bridge, hang themselves or put that gun to their head?
Hopeless, Suicidal Ideations Stemming from Life Circumstances, not Brain Chemistry
Is it so hard to believe that maybe brain chemistry has absolutely nothing to do with many, maybe most, of these cases? And that instead…it simply boils down to ongoing emotional abuse taking its toll?
Maybe…just maybe that adolescent or teen had reached a point where they were so disgusted with life, had repeatedly tried to win people over but were rejected, were sick and tired of being “different” or being dislikeable, were fed up with being shunned by peers, picked on by teachers and de-valued by their own family…that they finally one day just decided to check out. This situation does not require abetment by a psychiatric illness.
And the difference between those who check out and those who stick it out is the absence or presence, respectively, of just one adult in their life who gives them validation—perhaps a neighbor down the street who every so often invites them in for some cookies and personal edification.
Though the vast majority of kids who are bullied don’t succeed with suicide, a striking number DO think about it, even plan it out, but then change their mind. We don’t hear about these cases.
A Yale University study says that bully victims are two to nine percent more likely than non-victims to consider suicide. A study out of Britain says that bullying is a factor in at least half of youth suicides.
We also don’t hear about all the bullied kids who grow up to suffer from wounds that will never heal, crippling their ability to have healthy relationships or make friends, forcing them to battle lifelong bouts with depression and maybe substance abuse.
My cousin was bullied growing up and had an absent father. He struggles with substance abuse as an adult. Coincidence?
So just because only a tiny percentage of bullied kids actually die by suicide, doesn’t mean that all the rest did just fine and “got over it”! And it can’t be said too much:
We really need to look deeper into the parents of the victims.