‘Kind and Caring’

Yesterday on This Morning was broadcast an interview with Lucy Alexander – the mother of 17-year-old Felix who, in April of this year, was driven to suicide by continual bullying. She decided to take action and wrote an open letter to not only the bullies, but also teachers and other parents who might find themselves in similar situation at some point. The reason why I am writing a post about it from the point of view of an aspiring teacher, is mainly because I find it extremely important to raise awareness of such issues. If a mother of a child who committed suicide finds the strength to publicly speak about it, I would consider it our duty to contribute as individuals as much as we can and help to spread the message.

[1]

(In order to watch the second part of the interview, access the link from here. [2] I do not want to move over to another topic, but I would just like to point out, from my point of view the title of this part – Mother Who Lost Her Son To Bullies Breaks Down – is not too appropriate. I will, however, leave the judgement up to you once you’ve watched it and will focus on the actual topic of this post, which is not ‘Influence of Social Media’.)

In her letter, she mentions, how after having changed schools, Felix was able to make new friends and the teaching staff found him to be ‘bright, kind and caring’, yet he was ‘so badly damaged by the abuse, isolation and unkindness he had experienced that he was unable to see just how many people truly cared for him’.
This statement made me look up some statistics of the life-long effects bullying can have:

  • Those who have been bullied are more than twice as likely to have difficulty in keeping a job, or committing to saving compared to those not involved in bullying. [3]
  • People who have been bullied are at greatest risk for health problems in adulthood, over six times more likely to be diagnosed with a serious illness, smoke regularly, or develop a psychiatric disorder compared to those not involved in bullying. [3]

What we should take from that is, even if many cases of bullying don’t go “far enough to result into suicide”, it doesn’t mean there isn’t any lifelong impact on bullied person. And knowing that 7 in 10 young people aged between 13 and 22 have been a victim of cyberbullying’ [3] , imagine the overall effect on the whole forming generation.

Another interesting findings were highlighted by Seldon, when he interviewed 100 university students and the results turned out to be as follows:
83 per cent said they believed there was a serious issue with the lack of pastoral care at university, 97 per cent thought adult care could be more meticulous, while 89 per cent believed that universities were turning a blind eye and condoning excessive drinking by undergraduates.’ [4]

The figures show that in 2014, there was over 130 suicides in England and Wales among full-time students aged 18 or above, (Interestingly enough, according to the statistics published by ONS [5], 97 of these were committed by male students.) and 201 among people aged 10 to 19. Although in some cases the reason behind such action may never be revealed, according to BBC, bullying is the 4th most common factor contributing to the decision of committing suicide.

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Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-36380910 (Accessed: 6 October 2016)

The reasons for suicide are, in my own opinion, simply horrifying. According to Fernandes, it is the parents who are number 1 cause of student suicide. Whether that be family issues, pressure on children in relation to exam results or lack of attention and love. We teachers have such an immense influence on children, thus it is essential we do everything in our power to reduce (in ideal case stop) the amount of times this is happening.
As Alexander points out, ‘I do not expect teachers to be psychologists but they have a unique overview of children’s lives and they are able to recognise a difficulty early and help signpost towards help.’

HOW CAN WE HELP?

I found this resource to be extremely helpful. You can have a further read there, so I will not copy all of the suggestions, but I found this one particular note worth pointing out:

  • Refer. Do not take sole responsibility for the situation. Sensitively indicate that you are concerned enough to arrange for further help, even if it means breaking a confidence. [7]

But most importantly, be kind. Offer help and NEVER dismiss situation that seems wrong to you.
In Alexander’s words, ‘I am appealing to children to be kind ALWAYS and never stand by and leave bullying unreported. Be that one person prepared to stand up to unkindness. You will never regret being a good friend.’

REFERENCES:

[1] This Morning (2016) Bullies Drove My Son To His Death | This Morning. Available at: https://youtu.be/OkDAdNFyRxo (Accessed: 6 October 2016)

[2] This Morning (2016) Mother Who Lost Her Son To Bullies Breaks Down | This Morning. Available at: https://youtu.be/BbU-x5T5Pmw (Accessed: 6 October 2016)

[3] AntiBullyingPro (2015) Facts and statistics on bullying and cyber bullying. Available at: http://www.antibullyingpro.com/blog/2015/4/7/facts-on-bullying (Accessed 7 October 2016)

[4] Seldon, A. (2013) Higher Education: Why do so many students commit suicide?
Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/higher-education-why-do-so-many-students-commit-suicide-8522843.html (Accessed 7 October 2016)

[5] ONS (2016) Total number of deaths by suicide or undetermined intent for Students aged 18 and above in England and Wales, 2014. Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/causesofdeath/adhocs/005732totalnumberofdeathsbysuicideorundeterminedintentforstudentsaged18andaboveinenglandandwales2014 (Accessed: 6 October 2016)

[6] Fernandes, D. (2015) Student Suicide – Daniel Fernandes Stand-Up Comedy. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMIAZiOkEYE (Accessed: 7 October 2016)

[7] Counselling (no date) A Guide for those with Welfare Responsibilities. Available at: http://www.counselling.cam.ac.uk/staffcouns/leaflets/suiciderisk (Accessed: 7 October 2016)

Alexander, L. (2016) Open letter. Available at: http://www.itv.com/thismorning/hot-topics/bullies-drove-my-son-to-his-death (Accessed: 6 October 2016)

2 thoughts on “‘Kind and Caring’

  1. M MackieM Mackie

    Thank you for this post. I also watched the segment on ‘This Morning’ and was saddened to hear about yet another tragic loss of a young person. I completely agree with you that we, as teachers, need to be aware of this issue and must make it a priority to be kind and compassionate towards the children. I think that it is also our job to promote and foster a supportive and safe classroom environment where children value themselves and each other. As a second year student – this seems like quite a challenge to me, but is something that I strive to keep at the forefront throughout all of my teaching experiences.

    Reply
    1. Barbara Post author

      Thank you very much for reading and for the comment. I couldn’t agree more with you on how important it is to provide such an environment for children, that will make all of them equally feel safe, secure and valued. But I, too, feel the challenge this presents, on so many different levels. Whether that be that we have to make sure we always control what we say, so that not to unintentionally hurt anyone, that we manage to balance the time dedicated to education on knowledge and ‘moral education’, or that we never miss any signs that might be saying something’s not quite alright within the classroom. Either way, just like you said, no matter how challenging all of this might be, it will always be the very priority of mine; not only within school setting:)

      Reply

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