You might think you know what bullying looks like, but today, bullying comes in countless forms – and with innumerable consequences. Unfortunately, it’s a hard truth that nearly a third of America’s students grades 6 to 12 have experienced bullying, while nearly 70 percent have witnessed bullying at school.
Chances are, they’re not all wearing black eyes.
Today’s bullies aren’t the beefy, leather-jacket wearing jocks of old movies and cartoons. Today’s bullies lurk in unexpected places – like your child’s social media inbox or his incoming texts. And today, bullying has ramifications that go way beyond broken bones and bruised egos. In fact, newscasts are frequently dotted with stories of teens and young adults who complete suicide after enduring bullying at school or online. In my book, “R U OK? Teen Depression and Suicide,” I speak of one teen driven to suicide after bullying made her feel isolated, alone and terribly depressed.
No teen should ever feel what so many of our youth face every day. If you suspect your child (or one you love) is being bullied, it’s time to talk about it. Knowing the signs of bullying is the first step to saving a teen’s dignity, her self-esteem and possibly her life.
Warning Signs of Bullying
Risk Factors for Bullying
Make no mistake, bullying is everyone’s problem.
It could happen to the poorest kid on the street – or the richest. A shy tuba player in the band could be the target; so could the captain of the cheerleading squad. Bullying can happen to anyone, and that’s why it’s so important to recognize the warning signs that your child or one you love is experiencing bullying. That said, there are several reasons a teen might become the target of bullying. These “risk factors” include:
Too often, parents learn that their child experienced bullying too late. While your teen may not be considering suicide, if he’s being bullied, it’s undoubtedly affecting his confidence and self-esteem. If you suspect bullying, your first step is asking a simple question: R U OK? This question graces the cover of my book because, too often, teens think they have to face their challenges alone. Asking the question opens a dialogue that in turn can help save your teen from the isolation and pain she feels. For more information on how to talk to your teen, check out “R U OK? Teen Depression and Suicide.”.
You might already know that suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24. You might even know that one in five U.S. teenagers seriously considers suicide annually. But these statistics are just that – statistics. Until they’re not anymore. Today, teen suicide isn’t just the subject of TV shows and newscasts. Today, it’s happening in our own backyard.
In the last two weeks, two teens completed suicide in South Orange County. Today, two families are left with inexplicable heartbreak, while friends, peers and communities are left reeling and wondering, “what can we do?”
As a community, we can write trite condolences on social media to their friends and family – or we can actually do something to prevent this from happening in the future. With so many teens considering suicide each year, it’s impossible to think this could never happen to your child. That’s because mental illness, bullying and depression can happen to anyone – and they’re major players in suicide ideation. In fact, mental illness is the leading cause of suicide, and it’s also where we can make the biggest difference – that is, if we take action.
The teen suicide epidemic requires just that – action. Proactive education is the only way we can save today’s youth. Fortunately, suicide prevention education is now mandatory in all California schools, thanks to the bill AB2246 passed in late 2016. But unfortunately, there is still no date on which schools are required to meet this mandate. While schools drag their feet, students in need of understanding, education or even just a listening ear are continuing to feel hopeless and alone. Our teens need our help now.
Teens need to know they matter. They need to understand what mental illness is and how it can be treated. Above all, they need to know they’re not alone and that there is help .They need to know there is hope.
Again, they need our help now.
I wrote my book, “R U OK? Teen Depression and Suicide” in order to provide a complete toolkit for teens on mental illness, suicide and everything else they face on a daily basis. The book includes warning signs and risk factors of depression and suicide, tips on identifying high-risk groups for suicide, and various stories of teens struggling with bullying, self-harm, substance abuse, gender confusion, anxiety, depression and PTSD. Above all, the book shows teens how to cope with these challenges – what to do, where to go, how to recognize them and, above all, shows them that there is help and hope out there.
Recently, a local parent purchased 100,000 copies of my book to donate to schools and organizations working with teens across the nation. Now, I’m working to get this important toolkit into the hands of teens who need it most.
SIGN YOUR SCHOOL UP TO RECEIVE FREE COPIES
I need your help to give our teens the opportunity for the future they deserve. Help me to save a life, whether it’s yours, your child’s or that of someone you love. Please visit thegriefgirl.com to find out how to order books (free!) for your school or youth group.
Kristi Hugstad | The Grief Girl
The most wonderful time of the year… is over. The decorations are finally packed away and in many parts of the country, it’s a cold, dark, dreary season. If you’re grieving, the aftermath of the holiday season can feel like more than just a let-down; it can seem completely devastating.
Even though the holidays might bring back memories that can exacerbate your grief, they also provided visitors, parties and celebrations, countless tasks to keep you busy and myriad events to look forward to. Now that the gifts are unwrapped and the parties are over, it’s easy to feel isolated and alone. And when grief meets the post-holiday blues, you could feel trapped without a lifeline. In my experience, overcoming these “blues” takes conscious action. Start with the steps I’ve outlined below.
“Thank” beyond Thanksgiving
A day of Thanksgiving is fantastic; practicing gratitude on a daily basis is a priceless tool to help you overcome your grief. In my book, “What I Wish I’d Known: Finding Your Way Through the Tunnel of Grief,” I explain how gratitude helped change my life after my husband’s suicide. My day begins and ends with gratitude. Each morning, I start my day by listing five great things that will happen today – I say these out loud and, consequently, I feel grateful for the day.
Every day, I remind myself of all the people and things in my life for which I’m grateful. I list these (out loud or in my head) each day, even as I’m on “autopilot” – driving, cleaning or cooking. My list changes from day to day, but it always includes my family, my health, my friends, a career that makes me passionate and a world that allows me to learn and grow – and recognize that grief is not the enemy; it’s the teacher.
There’s nothing wrong with recalling happy memories of holidays past, but living in the past won’t help you forge a happy future. When you’re grieving, it’s important to have something to look forward to. With the holidays behind you, you may feel like there’s nothing left to anticipate. Mark your calendar with events or occasions that excite you. If you can’t think of any, it’s time to make a plan. Enroll in a class you think you’ll enjoy, plan a vacation or buy tickets to an amazing play. Looking forward will help you move through each day with excitement.
Take care of yourself
It may seem simple, but one thing many of my grief counseling clients neglect is, well, themselves. When you’re grieving, it can be easy to become apathetic about what you eat, how well you sleep or whether or not you take the time to relax and unwind. Make small, attainable goals each day in order to practice self-care. Get moving – whether that’s a hardcore gym session or a walk around the block. Be conscious about what you eat and make sure it’s wholesome and nutritious. If you’re not sleeping well (or sleeping too much), set sleep goals that include a regular bedtime and regular wake time.
Make a list
…you might even want to check it twice. Now that the holidays are over, you can spend time getting your life and home in order. Make a list of those tasks you’ve been avoiding and gain the satisfaction of crossing them off one by one. Start with something simple – like organizing your storage closet or stocking the pantry. Whether you’re paying bills, scrapbooking an old vacation or remodeling a bathroom, completing these tasks will help give you a sense of accomplishment.
by Kristi Hugstad
Each of us has attached ourselves to something or somebody, and when you lose that special thing or person, you grieve. Always. You can try to run from it all you want, but it will always find you and tackle you when you’re not looking. My blogs, along with my books, will give you the tools to help you learn to live with your new self as you journey through your grief.