Daniel Fitzpatrick was a young boy, age 13, who lived in Staten Island with his family until he killed himself. He was the victim of bullying by his classmates and teachers alike. First it was about being heavy, then about his grades, and eventually about his depressed and anxious state of mind. Even though he and his family reached out for help, the bullying was dismissed by authorities and his school. Wracked by hopelessness and self-loathing, Daniel hung himself in his closet. This was a good kid by all accounts. Happy, playful, and doing all the right things including talking to an adult when the bullying became too much for him. But nobody seemed to get just how horrible and desperate he felt. It cost him his life.
Bullying is a social scourge. It leads to depression, anxiety, acting out behaviors, self-harm, and suicidal and homicidal behaviors. This is not a new phenomenon. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, leading to 4,400 deaths per year according to the CDC. Bullying victims are up to nine time more likely to consider suicide compared to non-victims according to a study by Yale University.
As a parent, I’m deeply concerned for my son about bullying as he has a learning disorder that affects his conversation skills. I’m concerned for my nephew who is in that awkward pre-pubertal stage when boys become chubby prior to a massive growth spurt. I’m worried for my friend’s son whose interests skew to the more artistic side when his peers are veering off into sports and girls. And yet they are all unique and wonderful kids possessing the kind of personalities and gifts that as adults will be celebrated. But it’s that time of life when they can’t see that far into the future, only what’s immediately in front of them.
As adults, we need to pay attention to their needs, stop the bullying, and educate our kids, their parents and loved ones about all the resources they have to get help. Hopelessness and the disease of self-loathing are powerful monsters in the soul of bullying victims. Let’s be sure to eradicate those beasts.
If you or someone you love needs help, please call the Suicide Prevention Hotline 24/7 at 800-273-8255.
By Andrew Walen, LCSW-C, LICSW, CEDS - Founder and CEO at The Body Image Therapy Center. If you would like to get in touch with Andrew please call 877-674-2843 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.