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AIDS Alliance Asks: What Can We All Do About Bullying and Teen Suicides?

By Carole Treston

October 8, 2010

As a youth provider, advocate and membership organization of youth and youth providers, we share your sadness at the recent number of teen suicides that have come to light. Five young men (Asher Brown age 13, Raymond Chase age 19, Tyler Clementi age 18, Billy Lucas age 15, and Seth Walsh age 13) killed themselves as a result of bullying. Thirteen years old! Homophobia, bullying, isolation and hopelessness are issues that we must continue to address in our professional and personal lives. The recent cases in the media are an outrage because they stemmed from homophobic bullying, and there are other cases reported in the media of adolescent girls (Phoebe Prince, age 15) and three other students (whose names weren't even reported) who were bullied and committed suicide in Mentor Ohio in 2007, just as heartbreaking. There's even a term, "bullicide" now being used. And we know that these cases that make the media are just a tip of the iceberg. Imagine the number of youth who deal with this everyday -- not driven to suicide, but enduring a miserable existence and depression in what should be an awesome time in life.

We all have an obligation to confront and stop this phenomena. How many times have you heard on the street or amongst a group of kids "Oh, that's gay." as a negative description and just ignored it? How do we as providers, parents, family members, youth and friends get involved to stop bullying and cyber-bullying?

Be informed and then have the conversations with your family, clients and friends:

  1. Tune in to Anderson Cooper 360 tonight Friday, October 8th, at 10:00pm ET for a special report "Bullying: No Escape."
  2. Get more information at: www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2010/bullying

Have resources posted or readily available for your community:

  1. The Trevor Project, established to promote acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth, and to aid in suicide prevention among that group. The Trevor Lifeline 866-488-7386 is the only nationwide, around-the-clock crisis and suicide prevention lifeline for LGBTQ youth. The Trevor Lifeline is a free and confidential service that offers hope and someone to talk to, 24/7. Each year, tens of thousands of calls are fielded from young people across the country.
  2. It Gets Better: A positive role model and virtual community for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth.
  3. Connect with your local LGBT community center. Have their flyers easily accessible at your service site. You may not view yourselves as an LGBT youth provider, but youth in your program may not be ready to self-identify to you but would benefit from this information.

What other strategies are you using in your community? We'd like to hear about them and post them to our larger community.

Founded in 1994, AIDS Alliance for Children, Youth & Families (AACYF) is a national non-profit organization whose mission is to advance the partnership between consumers and providers -- they are the voice of women, children, youth and families living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. AACYF works to enhance and expand access to quality, comprehensive, family-centered care to America's women, children and youth affected by HIV/AIDS. For more information on AIDS Alliance, visit www.aids-alliance.org.

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