BASS: Talk and talk and talk to your kids — and listen, really listen
Anyone remember David Wright, a 17-year-old Ottawa teen?
How about Hamed Nastoh of Surrey?
Jamie Hubley, an Ottawa teen?
Marjorie Raymond of the Gaspé? Akash Wadhwa of Mission?
Let’s try Daron Richardson of Ottawa and Mitchell Wilson of Pickering, Ont.
Ashkan Sultani, who used to live on Vancouver Island?
Maybe Brendan Deleary, an Ontario teen?
Every one of them killed themselves in the past decade.
Every one of them was a Canadian teen who was bullied.
Add to that list Amanda Todd — and you can be assured the list will continue.
Absolutely nothing we as adults do will ever rid the world of the evil that is bullying, nor will we find the cure to save those fragile souls that finally break from it.
A report released in April by researchers at the Public Health Agency of Canada said youth-suicide rates in our country have been declining since 1980.
However, if you look at the actual numbers, while the overall trend is downward, the decline has happened just for the guys.
The suicide rate for girls has continued to rise.
The report speaks for itself: “In 1980, a total of 249 males and 50 females between ages 10 to 19 committed suicide in Canada, according to the study.
“By 2008, that number had fallen to 156 for males, but rose to 77 for females.”
Every time the media reports on a teen suicide, the inevitable reaction from the public follows the same agenda.
We all condemn it. We all demand government do something to stop it.
Someone in government — usually on the opposition side — condemns the governing side for failing our teens.
Teachers and school administrators say we must all work together to end bullying. Memorials pop up with tender remembrances of the dead teen.
And, then, something else comes along to take over the news agenda.
We all go back to our homes, safe in the smug belief our family will never have to endure what the grieving parents, siblings, relatives and friends will now live with every single day.
And, we forget.
We forget Jamie and Marjorie and Ashkan and all the others we cried for just weeks or months before.
Maybe that’s one way we can actually start to do something to have some sort of impact on bullying and suicide.
Maybe if we as parents and caregivers realize the teen years are tough, that maybe we pamper our kids too much and create self-indulgent, entitled children who have lost that spark of true humanity in them — perhaps that might help.
Children aren’t born hateful.
They learn it.
Maybe they learn it at home or from their peers but, ultimately, somehow, they decide they have the right to judge others.
We can criminalize bullying, we can create anti-bullying programs and we can tell our teenagers it will get better, but the simple fact is for some, it never will.
For some, the bullying will continue — on both sides of the conflict.
So, here’s a suggestion.
Let’s not just rise up and rail against bullying and teen suicide after the next headline — and then move on with our lives.
Let’s not politicize it or do more studies into it.
Let’s talk about it with our kids — really talk about it. Talk and talk and talk. Then listen. Really listen.
Don’t just ask if they’ve ever been bullied and then smile when they tell us no. Talk to them about it, even if they say it’s not an issue for them.
Teach them — really teach them — not to judge others because someone might also judge them.
And, let’s not forget all those youngsters we’ve lost.