How do you tell a child or a teenager who is being bullied in school that it gets better? When everyday these children go to the same place and are treated the same way, day after day, month after month? The scope of a child’s life revolves around school. They spend a huge chunk of their early life surrounded by the same kids, and if they are being picked on, it can feel like a living hell. So much so that the thought of suicide seems like a better option. Many of our young LGBT look for a way out among the angst of bullying.
I was having lunch today with one of my friends and she told me the son of a friend of hers killed himself because he was tired of being called a faggot at school. At first I didn’t know what to say. It’s easy to look at a situation like this from the outside and say stock things like “thats so sad, what a loss.” But then it lingered in the air. We didn’t say anything in the moments that followed her telling me this, then gravity of it hit me and I got mad. I didn’t know the boy, who was 17 when he took his life, but I was that boy, at 17. I was picked on in high school. I was called a fagot. I was called many things during those four years of school.
There were no slogans for kids coming to terms with there sexuality back then. I went to a small school. There were 98 students in my graduating class. Somehow I knew I just had to make it through high school and get the fuck out of that small town. Which I did, and I haven’t looked back since. I always knew I’d get out of there as soon as I was done, thats what kept me going everyday. The thought of ending my life because a couple nasty people in my class didn’t like me never crossed my mind. I knew there was light at the end of the tunnel.
But today more and more young folks are turning to that as a means of escape. Their world is so small, dark and hopeless that there is no light shining through. They can’t find another way. This is what really got me thinking. How do you tell someone who is in such a dark place that it does get better? What if there are no signs that your child or a child you know who is facing this battle? As an adult, we talk to kids in a certain way and as children they respond in a certain way. How do you know what is being said is getting through? There are more outlets for young folks today to turn to when they are feeling down and out but are these programs working?
It’s going to take more then some American celebrities telling these young folks that things will get better. We have to show these kids that it will get better. High school will never change. There will always be bullies and people bigger and nastier then you to put you down. So how do you get them to see the bigger picture? To see that this is such a small piece of a large life that will exist way outside the realm of those classrooms and hallways. How do you reassure a child with no hope?
I’ve thought of what I would do if my child came to me with hopeless loss. These are ideas that I think I would start with. Expand their realm of life. Get them involved in something outside of school. This country is filled with diversity. Let them know that they can grow up to be anyone they want. Listen to what they are saying and ask questions. Be informed on what interests them. Be an outlet for them. Give them many outlets to be who they are.
In a small town they may not have someone to relate to. They may feel alone. I feel this would be the hardest place to start. Travel out of your area. Let them see a different enviroment then their own backyard. Push them to be strong and brave.
This is by no means a say all in how to prevent suicide among the LGBT youth but it’s a starting point. If you have anything to add please leave a comment. If you are reading this and are having feelings of sadness, please reach out to someone, reach out to me if you feel alone. I may not have all the answers but I can point you in the right direction.