I have always prided myself on being the optimistic sort, confident that there is no challenge that can't be met in some way. I've always felt that nothing is impossible.
But I have to confess that it is hard -- damn hard -- to feel hopeful about the bullying crisis in this nation, not when it continues to take kid's lives.
Not when 17-year-old Katlin Loux of Bossier Parish in Louisiana fatally hangs herself because the cruel and chronic bullying at school became just too much to bear.
Not when 12-year-old Rebecca Ann Sedwick of Lakeland, Florida, throws herself off a tower, dying on impact, after being bombarded day after day by online bullies with taunts like "You should die" and "Why don't you go kill yourself."
Not when we know that three out of four children will witness bullying during the course of their day, and, more often than we'd care to admit, not lend a hand.
But hope is on the way. Because for every Katlin and Rebecca in this country -- for every child who feels so desperately hopeless that suicide is, inconceivably, the only answer -- there is someone who is taking action.
Like high school football coach Matt Labrum of Roosevelt, Utah, who suspended all 80 members of his team after learning about an outbreak of cyberbullying that involved his players. "The lack of character we are showing off the field is outshining what we are achieving on the field," Labrum admonished his students. And his message shot around the world.
Or San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, whose second annual "Bye Bye Bullying" contest offers a $250 gift certificate and a signed baseball from the San Francisco Giants to any local middle or high school student who can make the best 60-second video about cyberbullying. The winner will be announced in December.
Or film director Lee Hirsch, whose bracing -- terrifying -- 2012 documentary "Bully" threw down the gauntlet once and for all, revealing to parents, guardians and educators everywhere their own complicity in this national scourge. As long as they remained on the sidelines, the film boldly suggests -- not getting involved, turning a blind eye to the crisis -- they are no better than the bystanders who witness the bullying itself.
"We wanted the audience to discover for themselves how they can make [anti-bullying] their cause," Hirsch said after the film's release. "It is a simple call to action which says: 'Find a way to make a difference.'"
In recognition of National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, Hirsch partnered with the Ad Council and DDB to create a new public service ad as part of the anti-bullying campaign that we launched in 2012, in partnership with the Ad Council, the Department of Education and committed companies like AOL, Facebook, Adobe Foundation, Arcus Foundation, Johnson and Johnson and the Free to Be Foundation. The campaign urges parents to talk to their kids about how to be more than a bystander and directs them to visit www.StopBullying.gov for tips and resources. I hope you'll watch the ad here, and see once again how children who are bullied in America are issuing a silent scream for help.
It is up to us to listen for that scream. And to act. Tragically, it is too late for Kaitlin and Rebecca Ann, but their deaths should compel all of us to make the fight our own.
"This is why we are forging a war against bullying," Katlin's mother, Evelyn, wrote in a heartbreaking post on her daughter's Facebook page (now a memorial page), beneath a photo of Katlin's grave. "We will always miss our Katlin, the pain will never go away. Together we can keep this tragedy from happening again."
What a loving heart this woman has -- to suffer the deepest loss a parent can experience, yet muster the strength to care for and protect all of our children.
I hope you'll take a look at the clips we assembled below. They are drawn from the many conversations about the bullying crisis that we have had on this website with people in the know over the past few years -- from Anderson Cooper and Rosie O'Donnell to experts like "Seventeen" magazine Editor-In-Chief Ann Shoket. What they have to say about this ongoing problem is thoughtful and enlightening -- and hopefully it will inspire you to take a stand.
We must remain hopeful. We must remain committed. Because we are all in this together.
When I spoke to Rosie O’Donnell on Mondays With Marlo, she explained why fighting the bullying epidemic is so important to her. As a child, she said, she experienced bullying firsthand because her mother had passed away and her father was too overwhelmed to make sure that she and her siblings were properly dressed and groomed. Rosie also stressed that parents must police the Internet themselves in order to protect their children.
Psychologist and talk show host Dr. Phil explained that the number one tool of bullies is isolation. Don’t let your child feel alone when he or she is under attack, Dr. Phil said. Enlist the aid of a teacher and let your child know that telling someone about bullying is not tattling – rather, they need to know they have an adult they can go to for help.
When he appeared on Mondays With Marlo, actor Jon Hamm reminisced about standing up for victims of bullying as a child. It just takes one person to say, ‘That’s not okay,’ Jon observed. This will make other people confident enough to chime in and help stop the bullying. Bottom line: the only way to stop it is to stand up to it!
When comedian and talk show host Kathy Griffin joined me on Mondays With Marlo. she revealed that she used her sense of humor to fight bullying. Kathy was beat up twice in grade school, she said, so she worked on her verbal skills. Eventually, she was able to put the bullies in their place -- with words -- and it felt great!
When award-winning journalist Anderson Cooper joined me on Mondays With Marlo, he spoke about the importance of changing the dynamic in schools to prevent bullying: Kids have more power than they realize, Anderson said, so instead of being bystanders, they can prevent other kids from getting bullied by intervening.
Psychiatrist Dr. Gail Saltz joined me on Mondays With Marlo and spoke about what to do if your child is a victim of bullying. If he or she won’t talk to you, Gail noted, ask another family member or trusted friend to speak to your child. You should also call the school and let them know that you are concerned. That way, your child’s teacher will be able to keep an eye on what’s going on in the classroom.
Sometimes it’s about opening your heart to the bully, according to fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi. When Isaac appeared on Mondays With Marlo, he discussed how bullies often taunt other people because they are hurting inside. This sense of powerlessness can lead them to act out against others.
When Ann Shoket, Editor-In-Chief of “Seventeen Magazine,” appeared on Mondays With Marlo, she offered tips on what parents can do when they discover that their child is a cyberbully. Ann said that parents should punish their child by cutting off his or her computer access, at least temporarily. You don’t need to reach out to the parents of the children who were cyberbullied, Ann added, but you should keep a vigilant eye on your own child.
When Chief Medical Editor for NBC News, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, joined me on Mondays With Marlo, she told me that parents should have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to bullying. As a parent, Nancy said, you need to be the bulldog and insert yourself into your child’s life. It can be embarrassing for your child, but it may be the only way the bullying will stop.
You can refuse to accept bullying, according to parenting expert and author of “Bullied,” Carrie Goldman. When she joined me on Mondays With Marlo, Carrie commented that catching the bully off-guard is often a successful strategy. If the bully is putting you down, Carrie said, asking him or her to help you will often confuse them, and get them to back off.
When he joined me on Mondays With Marlo, Peak Performance Strategist Tony Robbins weighed in on how to overcome bullying. Tony revealed that he was bullied himself as a child, and that he discovered that he had to make himself stronger. He used bullying as an opportunity to learn how to stand up for -- and protect -- himself.
When talk show host and comedian Joy Behar appeared on Mondays With Marlo, she spoke about her personal childhood experience with bullying. She was threatened by girls from her neighborhood, she said, and she had no idea why they didn’t like her. Getting parents and teachers involved, she added, is crucial to stopping bullying before it goes too far.
Boys and girls are bullied differently, according to Ann Shoket, Editor-In-Chief of “Seventeen Magazine.” When she appeared on Mondays With Marlo, Ann said that girls often compete for guys, which leads to bullying. Girls also focus on isolating people socially, while boys are much more physical and confrontational.
When Carrie Goldman, parenting expert and author of “Bullied,” joined me on Mondays With Marlo, she discussed how parents can help prevent their children from becoming bullies. Bullies see their targets as “the other,” Carrie noted, and not as people. Therefore, you should teach kids empathy training and social/emotional skills early on. Bullying should be addressed as soon you notice it, Ann said. It should not be allowed to persist.
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