On Friday state Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica) released a teen bullying and suicide pamphlet to raise awareness about an increase in social media bullying — just three days before another national tragedy.
Information covered includes how to recognize signs of depression and the results of bullying among children.
The pamphlet was coincidentally released just before another school shooting occurred — this one at an Ohio high school, killing three and injuring two others. Investigators are still attempting to conclude if the violent attack was the result of either school or online bullying by the shooter’s fellow students.
Whether bullying played a role there, suicide is now the third leading cause of death among young people in the United States, with an estimated 44,000 fatalities per year, according to the information in Huntley’s pamphlet.
An unknown number of those are caused by bullying, something Huntley seeks to prevent.
“After visiting Albany University, where there have been several student suicides this year, I started getting letters from young people who needed to talk about their social anxiety and I realized a lot of them were thinking about suicide,” Huntley said. “For one reason or another, young people are taking their lives when they have so much ahead of them and it needs to be discussed.”
In a student survey cited in Huntley’s pamphlet, 58 percent said they had been harassed substantially online.
This past January, Amanda Cummings, a high school student from Staten Island, committed suicide by jumping in front of a bus. Police realized later that heinous notes were posted on her Facebook profile even after her death was made public.
According to iStrategy Labs, a website detailing social media demographics, 54.3 percent of Facebook users are ages 13 through 24, the prime age for bullying. The site suggests this demographic is least likely to report an incident to someone who can help, a fact that Huntley says must change.
“Young people today are pressured from their parents to get good grades; ridiculed for being gay and for the way they look,” she said. “They result in these tragedies that just do not have to happen.”
Over half the students surveyed admitted that they have ridiculed someone else online without giving it too much thought.
Huntley said she is working on an anti-bullying bill resembling New Jersey’s “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act,” which passed with nearly unanimous support in both houses on Nov. 22.
The bill will call for strict school punishment for bullies, situational training for school staff and prompt reporting of an incident.
Huntley is also highlighting that prevention is the key to avoiding further incidents.
Further assistance and information can be found by calling The Samaritans hotline at (212) 673-3000 or the National Suicide Hotlines at 1 (800) SUICIDE (784-2433) and 1 (800) 273 TALK (8255). q
More than 133,000 people have joined a campaign by a bullied high school student urging the Motion Picture Association of America to change the rating of the new film “Bully” from R to PG-13.
Katy Butler, a high school student from Michigan, launched her campaign on Change.org after the MPAA by one vote rejected an appeal from the film’s distributor, The Weinstein Company, to lower the rating of the film to PG-13. This would allow the film to be screened in middle and high schools across America.
Butler, who endured brutal bullying in middle school, says that by maintaining an R rating, the MPAA is essentially banning the film from those who need to see it the most.
“I can’t believe the MPAA is blocking American teenagers from seeing a movie that could literally save thousands of lives,” Butler said in a press statement.
“Bully,” a film by Lee Hirsch, documents the epidemic of bullying in American schools. According to the film’s website, more than 13 million kids will be bullied this year alone.
The film is scheduled for release in select theaters on March 30.