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Looking for heroes: Stand up to bullies

Bullying should not be taken lightly.

Tolerance sends mixed messages and many of them are not good.

Were you ever bullied? How did you feel? What did you think? What did your parents say? What did they do?

Or was your friend the one who was bullied? What did you do? Did anyone ever stand up to the bully because it was wrong to pick on someone perceived to be smaller, weaker?

White River Academy (www.whiteriveracademy.com). reports that a 2015 study published in the Lancet Psychiatry online medical journal advises, “Children who are bullied by peers in childhood had generally worse long term effects on young adults’ mental health than children who were victims of domestic violence.”

Anxiety, depression and overall mental health problems are effects of bullying and sometimes those effects follow the victims into adulthood.

Cyber bullying and related teen suicide are a huge problem that bring home even further the damage done by hatred and the need to teach compassion and kindness rather than spewing vitriol that destroys other people. Maybe the mantra needs to be, “Do no harm.”

A meta-analysis study at Yale School of Medicine in 2008 “found that there were strong correlations between bullying and suicidal thoughts and/or actions among children and adolescents,” reports White River Academy

“Cara” and her younger sibling were bullied by an older boy in their neighborhood. When she spoke up the boy’s mother laughed and said he didn’t mean anything by it. He was just teasing in fun. But Cara wasn’t amused by the ‘name’ he addressed them with which followed them to school where there was more “teasing in fun.” And, she said, it really wasn’t amusing when she found her brother pinned to the ground by bullies with one straddling him and beating his head against the macadam street. She did not understand why those kids hated her and her brother so much.

Her mother didn’t understand why Cara wouldn’t go to the public pool on hot summer days. She did not articulate to anyone that someone had come up behind her in that pool, dunked her under and held her there. The lifeguard didn’t notice. Nobody helped her. She fought against the hand that held her until she got free. She left the pool and didn’t care if she never went back. She never did know who tried to drown her that day, or why.

To this day, she says, when anyone attacks one tiny flaw she goes over the mental list of flaws she perceives in herself and feels like a slug.

“I didn’t realize that my bullies still had that kind of control over me,” she said, “until the day I ran into my high school bully, 20 years later. I was terrified to approach him. Would he humiliate me in front of the men he was working with? It was my job, though. I had no choice but to step up and speak to him. Surprisingly, he could not have been more respectful toward me that day. And a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. But I still have trust issues.”

Everyone doesn’t get 20 years to change the effects of bullying. There is so much meanness, hatred and cruelty out there that people, devastated by the attacks on them, end their lives just to get away from it.

“Mom taught us patience, tolerance,” Cara said. “She said hate was an ugly thing we knew nothing about. ‘If they’re picking on you they’re leaving someone else alone,’ she’d say. ‘Just look through them like they aren’t even there. When you don’t give them the reaction they are looking for they will leave you alone.'”

One day in class the male teacher was bullying one of the other girls. Cara told him to stop, drawing his attention to her. She went to the principal to complain. She got detention. But the teacher didn’t bully again when Cara was in class. The principal knew she would go home and tell her mother what had happened. “Mom also taught us to do the right thing, no matter what.”

“Heroes don’t think about the risk to themselves,” Cara said. “They just step up and do the right things. When it comes to bullying, everyone needs to be a hero.”

Family Recovery Center promotes the well being of individuals, families and communities with education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues. For more information, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. FRC programs are supported, in part, by United Way of Northern Columbiana County.