Stand up for the silent

Today’s world is a scary place in which to live. Wars are being fought. The national debt is at its highest. And one’s well-being is continually on the chopping block. Still, nothing is more frightening, or more deadly, than what’s going on across America: bullying.

Today, bullying — of any kind — is unprecedented.

According to bullyingstatistics.org, “77 percent of students have admitted to being the victim of one type of bullying or another,” “one out of every four kids will be bullied sometime in their adolescence” and “gay and lesbian teens are two to three times … more likely to commit teen suicide than other youths.”

In 2010, more than half of all bullying took place while at school. In fact, about one out of every 10 students either dropped out or changed schools because of it. Recent statistics reveal that about 282,000 students are reportedly terrorized in high schools each month, according to bullyingstatistics.org.

All of these numbers are frightening — and they don’t seem to be going down. In a world full of different people, it’s still not uncommon for anyone to feel like a social outcast.

Sometimes the signs of being bullied aren’t always clear. I remember my experiences with bullying in grade school: I was harassed and made fun of, and even though I wasn’t hit or mocked every day, I still recall the pain of having no one to call a true friend.

Sometimes, I would spend my time at recess crying underneath the playground equipment, safely hidden from my peers’ and teachers’ eyes.

While those days are a distant memory, I’m reminded of them whenever I hear about or see someone being bullied.

For example, I recently saw the movie “Bully.”

“Bully” is a 2011 documentary about bullying in U.S. schools. It follows five students during the 2009-2010 academic year.

From catapulting me into the lives of those who were being bullied, to pulling at my heartstrings during the victims’ interviews, “Bully” was an emotional ride for me.

One person with whom I particularly connected was Alex Libby.

Many of the kids in Libby’s school would call him “fish face”; others would beat him up, strangle him, or stab him with pens or pencils while on the bus.

The saddest moment of all, though, was when Libby’s mom told him that anyone who “pounded on him” wasn’t his friend.

“If you’re telling me that these kids who like to hit me aren’t my friends, then who do I have?” Libby responded.

Today, kids know where to hit and where to hit hard. They know what names will have the greatest effect, how damaging a few jabs can be and how far they can go without being disciplined.

Why is it that people are belittled just because they are … whatever?

And why is nothing being done about it?

When someone is so afraid to go to school — the place where he or she is supposed to be safe — then something needs to be done.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year.

Bullying has to stop.

How would you feel if someone you knew committed suicide?

What if you were the person who caused someone to kill him or herself?

While the memories of my being bullied are far in the past, they’re still there, forever reminding me of what could have been — or what couldn’t.

Who knows? Maybe if things wouldn’t have gotten better, one chair would now be empty.

My life today is a far cry from the one I had in grade school. I have a multitude of friends and a loving family, and I always remember that, whenever a rough patch comes, we all have to go through the bad times to get to the good.

So look for that one person — the new one, the one who’s all alone, the one who doesn’t fit in — and talk to him or her. Stand up for him or her. Make him or her know that he or she has a life to live, as well as others with whom to live it.

Everything starts with one and builds up.

If we all do it together, we will change the world.

And we’ll make it so that every seat has someone to fill it. 

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