You have to question the kind of world we live in when a teenage girl can see no light at the end of the tunnel - so much so that she sees no choice but to end her life.
This is exactly what happened to Irish schoolgirl Phoebe Prince earlier this year. It is reported that on the day she took her own life she was taunted in the school library, in the canteen, and corridors by fellow students at her new school of South Hadley High in western Massachusetts. She was found, later that day, hanging dead from her stairs at home, by her 12-year-old sister.
There is no doubt that this was and still is an overwhelming situation for her family and friends.
And what is equally shocking is that this week the district attorney for the area announced that six teenagers, four girls and two boys aged 16 to 18, have been indicted in connection with Phoebe’s suicide on criminal charges of statutory rape, assault, violation of civil rights resulting in injury, harassment, disturbance of a school assembly, and stalking.
What were these students trying to achieve with their constant tormenting? One would hope not her suicide. However, that was in fact the end result of what seems to have been months of torture at the hands of her peers.
Stories would suggest the bullying started after she dated a footballer on the school team; he is now one of the six being connected to her suicide.
In all respects this is a totally horrendous story, one which surpasses country of origin; this is an international story, one which needs to be dealt with full on. America isn’t the only country in the world to have issues with bullying. There is a lesson to be learned here for everyone, whether you are a teenager yourself, a parent, an educator, or someone who is being subjected to bullying and disrespect in your daily environment.
For too long it has been seen as a taboo, as something that only happens in schools. First off it’s something that should never happen in schools. Children should be taught simply what is right and what is wrong, and from what I see of Phoebe’s tale, the parents of these six children are as much responsible for this horrific outcome as the teenagers themselves. Parents have a basic duty as guardians to show minors what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. This goes for teachers too. The sad fact is that some teachers in Phoebe’s school were aware of the bullying but did nothing to stop it, for whatever reason, and trust me, no reason could be good enough.
It’s upsetting that some of these children who bully others grow up to be bullies too, and adults are just as likely to be subject to bullying as adolescents. It’s a vicious circle, and one which must not be tolerated.
Next time you’re rude to a co-worker, or feel like making a sneering comment, think what you’re actually doing to that person, how you’re emotionally bullying them. And think of Phoebe, a beautiful 15-year-old girl with her whole life ahead of her, who unfortunately couldn’t see a way out of a horrific and tortuous situation and so ended her life. And think about her little 12-year-old sister who found her hanging.
It doesn’t kill you to be polite or to show respect to those around you, but your rudeness and bullying might just kill someone else.