The new documentary "Bully," which shines a light on a problem affecting millions of young people, makes its Michigan debut Friday, opening at movie theaters in Birmingham and Livonia.
The film has already attracted some local notoriety due a letter-writing campaign started by Katy Butler, an Ann Arbor teen who persuaded the Motion Picture Association of America to lower the documentary's rating from R to PG-13.
Filmed in 2009 and 2010, the movie documents the lives of five children and their families over that school year, and also touches on the stories of two families that lost children to bully-related suicides.
Dr. Marlene Seltzer is a physician who is developing a bullying treatment program called NoBLE (No Bullying Live Empowered) at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak. Although Seltzer has only seen the trailer for "Bully" at this point, she told The Huffington Post she found it to be very moving.
"It's extremely powerful. It showed one of the children being bullied and it's incredibly violent," she said. "It sends out a strong message that this can't be tolerated."
She says the impact of the practice here in Michigan is troubling.
A Michigan Department of Education report turned up 34,242 incidents of bullying in state schools during the 2010-2011 school year, a number Seltzer believes is low by at least 50 percent.
Seltzer, whose background is in gynecology and obstetrics, became interested in treating bullying after hearing an account of high school students who had planned to post footage of them beating up a fellow student on Youtube.
Seltzer said bullying often leads to physical symptoms that such as stomachaches, headaches, dizziness, bed-wetting as well as problems like depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, eating disorders and substance abuse, adding that these issues can affect witnesses and perpetrators of bullying as well as victims.
She has been developing NoBLE with Alonzo Lewis, Vice President of Beaumont's Women's and Children's Services. The two of them hope to make it financially accessible to all children and to pick up where school bullying prevention programs leave off.
"We're trying to fill the gap on the other side, so when these kid are suffering they have a place to go. Schools don't have the resources to provide counseling on a regular basis."
The program launches on May 4. More information will soon be available at the Beaumont Children's Hospital website.