It’s any parent’s worst nightmare. Your child comes home from school in tears and heads straight to his room. He won’t tell you what happened because he’s terrified you’ll call the school or, worse, call the parents of the classmate whose torment has brought him to this state. Your heart is breaking and you feel helpless. Add in the fact that you keep seeing stories in the news about kids just like him who ended up taking their own lives—bullied to death. You can’t help but wonder if your child will be next.
This scenario was all too real for Jacob and his mother. Tormented by his classmates for years, he eventually reached his breaking point in the eighth grade, writing a suicide note and handing it to his mom.
Jacob’s mom did what any parent would do; she sought professional counseling for her son, even going so far as to having him treated with drugs for depression. But still nothing worked. Jacob remained sad and depressed and saw no way out. Eventually, Jacob’s mother made the hardest decision she had ever made and sent her son to Boys Town.
Though it was difficult for him at first, Jacob eventually warmed to his new surroundings. Slowly but surely his confidence grew as he was nurtured and supported by his Family-Teachers and classmates. He even joined JROTC, rising in rank to second-in-command, with authority over 90 cadets – something that would have been unimaginable just months earlier. (You can watch Jacob’s story here.)
In the end, Jacob was fortunate; he found the help he needed to break the cycle of bullying that nearly cost him his life. Sadly most kids aren’t so lucky.
The kind of verbal and physical bullying Jacob experienced has been around as long as there have been children. But today, in the age of social media, a whole new avenue of terror has been opened up to the 21st-century bully. Now kids are stalked online by bullies harassing and shaming them using a variety of social media platforms, meaning that their torment no longer ends when the school bell rings. Like TV news and online shopping, bullying today is a 24-hour phenomenon.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month, but we need to keep it an ongoing conversation by talking to our kids about it. Let’s be vigilant in recognizing the symptoms of bullying in our kids. Let’s do everything we can to prevent another Jacob from carrying out his suicidal plans.
For more on this important topic, check out the Boys Town Guide to Dealing With Bullying.