Today’s post is written by Megan, a 13 year old girl from Oklahoma. She helps run a Twitter account, @Help4Teenagers. Megan was kind enough to share a story with us about a time she decided to speak up for one of the best friends who was being bullied. Instead of being a bystander who witnessed the harassment and didn’t say anything, she decided to speak up and talk to a guidance counselor at school. While the decision to talk to an adult wasn’t necessarily an easy one (one of Megan’s other close friends’ boyfriend was the one doing the bullying), she decided to go with her gut and take a stand against something she knew was wrong. Read Megan’s story below! :)

Hi — My name is Megan. I’m 13 and from Oklahoma.

I’ve never personally been bullied very much and it doesn’t matter to me as much as my friend’s story does.  He’s a boy, and you know how they often are about ‘you have to be sporty’ and dress this way and act this way, but for my friend, it was completely different.  He talks different, not because he’s from another country or anything, but it’s just how he talks.  Some boys and yes, even girls say that he sounds “Like a girl on their period”.  It broke my heart to see that the awful way these people were treating him. My friend is on the heavier side and they make fun of him for that as well. His hair is naturually dirty-blonde, but he bleached it blonde in the front and it’s longer there.  A lot of boys will come up to him and say “Why don’t you just keep it one color you fag?” and all he does is walk away. A lot of people call him gay for the way he walks, talks, and dresses but what is the point? At one time he told me “Sometimes I don’t feel safe in my own home because I’m attacked. I want to die..” It broke my heart.

On day, our school counselor came to talk to us about how to help out a friend if they are suicidal. He showed us a video of survivors who have tried to harm themselves and showed families of children who have killed themselves. He warned us that if your friends are being bullied and are telling you, “I rather die than go to school today” or “I want to die at times” that we needed to tell someone right away. Well, I started to freak out because everything I saw in the video was what my friend was acting like. I mentally broke down in class and was asked to leave. The counselor took  me down to his office and told me to spill out.

Our counselor has now been talking to my friend for 3 months for me and because another friend reported to our principal that my friend was being bullied. Our counselor sat me down and told me that the way I feel about it is normal and that my friend  is in pain because of the way people bully him. He asked us both to come down to his office during our elective classes and I brought along our other friend, who is also bullied and very much involved in my friend’s situation as well, we talked it out and things got better.

You see telling someone and talking to someone brings light into your life very quickly. My friend has been a fighter and has been dealing with this since he was in Kindergarten and yes, I’ve been with him every step of the way. If you see someone being bullied I advise you to tell someone even at the risk of them disliking you. When I had to report his bullying, I lost my best friend because her boyfriend was the main person bullying him. It hurt, I’ll admit, but at times I look back and say “I saved his life. He would have killed himself without this kind of help”, and I’ll be the first to tell you it didn’t just change his life, it changed mine. Whenever I see someone being picked on I walk right over to the bully and set them straight. I “kill them with kindness”. I take the victim in my group of friends and make them know I’m here and they have someone to rely on. Bullying is SERIOUS and it needs to stop. But we need everyone’s help. If anyone sees bullying happening you must report it not for your sake but for your teachers sake,your principals, and the victims. It makes their job and the victims life so much better. Believe me.

If one of your friends is being picked on, please do what Megan did and tell an adult. Sometimes it can be really hard for people to seek out help for themselves. They might be embarrassed or think that the problem will just go away if they ignore it. Be a friend and get help! School guidance counselors, teachers you trust, and your parents are all great people to talk to, and if they don’t do anything about it, go to the next adult! Thanks again for sharing this story, Megan!!

photo source

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Words to Live By

March 30th, 2012 | Posted by Jessica in Inspiration - (0 Comments)

Words to live by.

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You are loved.

You are valuable.

You are crafted with beauty & purpose.

I treasure you and this world needs you.

There is no one else like you.

You don’t need to look like the rest

    or talk like the rest.

    or be like the rest.

There is NO truth in the lie that you don’t matter.

This world needs you as you are.

You are loved.

You were put here for a reason.

You were not an accident.

You are not a mistake.

–Curt Mega

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Good morning! Today, my guest blogger today is Wesley Davidson, a health and parenting writer whose blog: http://straightparentgaykidblogspot.com gives advice on raising GLB teens. Wesley is currently writing a book with a Manhattan psychiatrist on the issues that straight parents face while parenting gay teens and how to solve these concerns. Check out her post below, leave some feedback, and be sure to visit her blog!

Sticks and Stones May Break Your Bones,” but Names are What You Remember”

It all started in middle school which my son Alex called “dark and depressing.” It was a forbidding stone school, with a cafeteria in the basement. But the building itself wasn’t the only depressing drawback, it was the atmosphere created by a small group of boys who called my son a “faggot.”

Although I suspected at times that my son was “gay,” as he hung out with girls and didn’t like contact sports, I dismissed it and attributed his popularity with the opposite sex due to his sensitivity, kindness, and good looks. Perhaps the so-called macho boys were jealous of these attributes in 1996 in a suburb outside of New York City in the so-called “liberal Northeast.”

The school never told me of the tauntings although my son, I later learned, had spoken to the guidance counselor about the bullying. This is not unusual. A 2005 Harris Interactive GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network) found that 69% of junior and middle GLBT high school students report being assaulted or harassed in the previous year and nearly 1/3 said that the school staff did nothing to intervene. Alex’s teachers were more concerned with his homework, and managed to find the time to write notes to me about the tardiness of Alex’s assignments. Our son hated school, but then again, he didn’t even like nursery school. Could this non-compliance be teenage moodiness and rebellion? It’s hard for a parent to know.

By the time, he was in his freshman year in high school, his mood was beyond flirting with depression. He was depressed. The teasing continued, and even his new “troublemaker” girlfriends couldn’t protect him. Nowadays, if you are harassed at school and the educators don’t come to your rescue, you can have LAMBDA Legal, American Civil Liberties Union or Transgender Law Center on Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defender to assist you(Refer to my blogpost”When the Fail-Safes Fail at Your Child’s School,” September 7, 2011 at http: //straightparentgaykid.blogspot.com

He went to the school nurse frequently, and got excused from class. Many GLBT students (one out of three) skip school at least one day a month to avoid facing the slurs of their tormentors. To combat this truancy as well as other social ills, GLSEN’s anti-bullying programs for all school grades, educators, communities, are getting the message out that harassment of any group is not to be tolerated. If your bullying is found to be a “hate crime,” you can be sentenced to prison, as in the case of former Rutgers University student, Dharun Ravi who spyed with a webcam on his gay roommate Tyler Clementi having sex and then sent the images virally. As a crime stopper, recently, an anonymous Cyber Bullying Reporting Service was launched by SchoolReach, an automated parent notification service used by public, private, and parochial schools throughout the United States.

These support groups were not around when I was coping. I wish they had been when I later found out the root of my son’s depression. I discovered in a letter what confirmed my fleeting thought a year earlier: he was, in fact, gay. He was not “out” to us, and may have been in denial to himself as well. I think he must have internalized the homophobia he experienced at school. His self-esteem was low. He was unhappy and had psychosomatic illnesses. For a while, he thought he had mono. He, divorcing himself from his father, younger sister, and I, would spend hours in his room with the door shut. It pained me to see him isolating himself. In the past, he had enjoyed family activities.

He consented to seeing a psychiatrist, but that doctor couldn’t read between the lines and was hoodwinked by my son who told this mental health expert that he wasn’t “gay.” He had “fallen through the cracks.” Wasn’t there anyone who could help? I, of course, was at wit’s end. How do you help someone who claims that “there is nothing wrong?” There was a Gay-Straight Alliance at his School, but as he confided in me years later, “If I joined, the kids would have have known for sure then that I was gay.”

Even with my lesbian grandmother who died in the late 6o’s, I felt as if I had no role model so I would stand in bookstores reading parenting books for advice. Most parenting-a-teen books had scant information on how to deal with issues raising a gay son. Of course, now there are many more books out on the subject such as Kevin Jennings’s (the former director of GLSEN)and social worker, Pat Shapiro, M.S.W.’s classic, Always My Child. A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Your Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans-Gendered or Questioning Son or Daughter.(Fireside Books: 2003) or the more recent Coming Out, Coming In. Nurturing the Well-Being and Inclusion of Gay Youth in Mainstream Society by school guidance counselor, Linda Goldman, Ms. (Routledge: 2008).

With teens in contemporary society “coming out” in middle or high school, there is definitely more openness and more publicity about the gay community. It used to be that gay and lesbian kids waited until after they were out of high school to tell Mom and Dad.

Because there was not this openness in our house, I felt ineffectual as a parent as I wasn’t much help to our son. Eventually, he stopped going to school altogether and choose to watch “The Price Is Right” in his pajamas. What a trajectory for a bright adolescent!

The next year, he transferred to another school in another town. He was no longer one of a few gay kids whose reputation preceded him at a new school. His outlook was better than the previous year. When he was old enough, he moved to California where there was a large gay population who embraced him. In the interim, we joined PFLAG (Parents for Lesbians and Gays) with nationwide chapters and learned how to deal with issues unique to raising GLBT kids.

But, strange as it seems, children are not just bullied at school. Parents can be the culprits, too. Hate begins at home. If teens aren’t respected and loved unconditionally despite their sexual orientation, they may take to the streets. Gay and lesbian youth on the street make up between 20 and 40 percent of the 1.6 million homeless and runaway teens according to some studies.

To make sure you are doing your due diligence at home, see tips on my blog “Parental Homework for Anti-Bullying Defenses,” and “Antibullying Tactics Begin at Home,” September 21, 2011.

I’m happy to say that our son never ran away from home. Time worked magic and now our son is happy and comfortable in his own skin. Sex columnist Dan Savage who conceived of the internet video, and now television program, “It Gets Better” is truly right.

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Alyssa Duffy, Will McPherson, Maddie Marino, and Susannah Benjamin are four college students from New Haven,  Connecticut who work as team coaches with an organization called, The Future Project. The Future Project is a really fantastic organization that aims to encourage and inspire teenagers to turn their passions into realities. To do this, college students from around surrounding cities are assigned to work with a small group of students at their local high schools. Together as a team, students and coaches come up with an idea of what they’re passionate about and what they can do to carry out their passions. Alyssa, Will, Maddie, and Susannah’s group of high school students, awesomely named Team SWAG, decided that bullying was what they were most passionate about and to address it, they would create a documentary highlighting this issue. Through countless emails, Alyssa and I have been thinking that it would be really cool to have Team SWAG be a reoccurring subject on MyKindnessCounts, so count on hearing more from these students and their coaches as they create their documentary. In the meantime, read Alyssa’s email below and watch the short video made the students of Team SWAG (Nick V., Alisha, Mallorie, Nick M, and Taylor) to hear them describe why this issue is personally important to them! Really looking forward to hearing more about Team SWAG!

My name is Alyssa Duffy, and I am a junior in college. I am currently part of an organization known as The Future Project. This organization is dedicated to inspiring high school students, helping them find their passions and to turn those passions into projects. I am one of four “coaches” that work with 5 students to make their ideas a reality. Our team, TEAM SWAG, is determined to direct, film and edit a documentary on bullying. We think that a documentary would be a great way to provide a multilateral view of bullying that will increase understanding of why it happens and from a range of perspectives. The students will be interviewing bully victims, bullies and bystanders as well. Each of the 5 students, in our group have a reason for why they are passionate to make this project a success; whether they have personally been bullied, or not. Together we hope to create a “mini-movement” that shows why just in the past few months there have been more than a half dozen suicides, some of whom did not even reach their eleventh birthday. They also plan on having a blog that has pictures and writings that go along with the entire process.

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Have you ever experienced workplace bullying? Are you familiar with the term? Well, no matter your prior experience with this topic, I have an awesome post to share with you all today. Workplace bullying is something I really never considered to be real when I was a kid — I just didn’t think adults could act the same way kids sometimes do. As Kathy, our wonderful goest blogger, states in the post below, I’m starting to really believe that it’s some kind of taboo issue or one people don’t really talk about out of fear for their job or reputation in the workforce. It’s really too bad because like any other form of bullying or harassment, the consequences can be dire. How can we stop situations like the following one Kathy experienced? Leave some thoughts in the comment section below!

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WORKPLACE BULLYING

I was ignorant and naive about bullying in the workplace until it happened to me. In common with many I thought it was about weak people not being able to accept firm management, or bad tempered bosses making things tough for staff. Such behaviour does exist but workplace bullying can be so much more than this. It can involve deliberate attempts to destroy someone’s career, income and mental health, and can entail behaviours such as spreading malicious rumours and lies, ostracising, undermining, and trumping up ridiculous disciplinary charges to try and get someone sacked. Often the targets are whistleblowers or employees considered to be more competent or popular than an inadequate boss. Often the bully has personality defects up to and including psychopathic traits such as a complete lack of conscience or regard for another person’s feelings. The following video from Gary Namie, the Director of the Workplace Bullying Institute, might help you to understand what is involved…When I saw this video for the first time I wanted to hug Gary Namie. It was as if he knew what had happened to me.

I raised some concerns about practice at work. Shortly afterwards I was suspended. I am a union member and they represented me at the disciplinary hearing and continued to support me throughout the whole ordeal. I survived the first attempt to get me sacked but then had to endure an eighteen month campaign to hound me out of my job. My first reaction was bewilderment. This turned to depression, anxiety, self doubt and then to hurt as friends in the office were intimidated and bribed into supporting the bully. My relief when what had happened came out into the open was short lived. Rather than punish the bully, a senior manager decided to cover up what had happened even if this meant rewarding the bully and continuing the efforts to get me sacked.

This, I discovered, is not unusual, nor is employing an HR consultant at great expense to help hound someone out of their job. I naively thought an HR consultant would be neutral and concerned about fair play and justice. I was wrong and now know that HR professionals often refer to the business of helping unscrupulous managers as the ‘dark arts’. What shocked me most was the use of lies, deception, broken promises and the threat to withhold a reference in order to deliberately stress me. Targets of workplace bullying frequently suffer severe depression and other psychiatric symptoms, many have had to spend a period in a psychiatric hospital, many have thought of, or completed, suicide. In December 2011 a major news story about workplace bullying featured a hospital consultant awarded a record four and a half million pounds in damages because she has been left with permanent mental health problems and will never work again. (An HR consultant made £59,000 out of assisting the bullies who hounded this poor woman out of her job.)

Work is an important part of our lives and being a target of bullying makes you question everything about yourself – all your relationships, your abilities and even who you are. I have always prided myself on being a hard working, caring and conscientious person able to get on with everybody but I started to wonder if I knew myself at all. For eighteen months I suffered constant headaches and stomach upsets and felt anxious and tearful all the time. I suffered badly from insomnia. It really was the worst experience of my life. However, apart from two short periods off sick with stress, I continued to do my job. The effort of remaining cheerful and supportive with the vulnerable people I was working with was exhausting but it really mattered to me that they did not suffer because of what was happening to me.

I didn’t want to give up. I was determined to expose what they had done to me and take my case to an employment tribunal, but they turned up the psychological pressure and, for the sake of my physical and mental health, I eventually succumbed to the workplace bully’s final ploy. To avoid being sacked on further trumped up charges and to avoid the prospect of never working again, I agreed to sign an agreement that prevents me identifying the organisation, the individuals involved, or even the part of England where this occurred. This is also typical. They treat you terribly and then get you to sign a legal document that means they can take you to court if you ever reveal the truth about what they did.

Workplace bullying has been described as the hidden epidemic. It is widespread but unacknowledged. I was one of those who knew nothing of this epidemic. I now know the cost of this epidemic not just to the target but to the organisation. For a year and a half my workplace bullies devoted a huge proportion of their working life to obsessively scheming against me instead of getting on with their jobs. Workplace bullying costs the economy millions every year. Like all bullying, like all forms of abuse, it must be stopped. The parallel is often drawn with domestic abuse. Fifty years ago wife beating was hushed up but was considered an acceptable part of marriage. It is now considered a crime. The suggestion that a husband could get away with assaulting his wife and that this wife would be punished rather than him is unthinkable. We must all work towards this change in attitude occurring in the case of workplace bullying and abuse.

The effects of workplace bullying do not just disappear once you are away from the bullying. After the initial euphoria of leaving the situation I still felt very low in mood and anxious. I had flashbacks to some of the experiences and lacked confidence in work and social settings. Now I am feeling so much stronger I am determined to do everything I can to raise awareness of the problem and support others who are affected.

You are welcome to contact me if you would like to talk about your situation. kathydpidgeon@hotmail.co.uk

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Have you heard about the new movie, “Bully”? It has been receiving A TON of press not only because it’s a well made and important film, but also because the Motion Picture Association of America has given an “R” rating to “Bully”. Why is this a problem? In America, people under the age of 17 are not allowed to go see a movie that is rated R unless they have an adult with them. It’s also a problem because an R-rated film will not be able to be shown in schools, which is where many people believe this film NEEDS to be shared. The reason it’s been rated R is mainly due to strong language, however many believe the language consists of words kids hear on a daily basis. Why not promote awareness that such words are hurtful, mean, and downright unnecessary?

A Michigan high school student, Katy Butler, decided to take matters into her own hands and used the Change.org site to create a petition to convince the Motion Picture Association of America to change this film’s rating to PG-13. Katy Butler was also invited to Ellen’s show and in the clip below, Ellen talks about why she decided to sign the petition and why you all should, too.

A MKC reader, Alyssa, contacted me asking if I would do a post on this issue and share the petition link with you all.  The petition already has 264,210 signatures and Katy is trying to get 300,000. Let’s do it!

You can find the petition and a beautifully written short article by Katy on why she feels the MPAA must change to rating here, so please please do YOUR part and sign it.

Related post: Watch the “Bully” trailer here!

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Spread Love!

March 8th, 2012 | Posted by Jessica in Thoughts | Your Voices - (0 Comments)

Happy (almost) Friday!! I have been SO excited to share this post & video with all of you. I received them from a remarkable girl on Twitter — we’ll call her @SpreadGlitter.  She is an 18 year old from Spain who is on an awesome mission and has a fabulous Twitter name to boot! When @SpreadGlitter first joined Twitter, one thing she became aware of were the number of young people going through really tough times. She decided to contact friends, followers, and other people from around the web and request that they send her images that were meaningful to them regarding bullying, depression, self-harm, and not loving themselves. She then used every single person’s input and put all the images together to create a touching YouTube video. @SpreadGlitter hopes that people realize they are loved and good and that they feel inspired to take time to help other people. Please watch her awesome video and read her testimonial below!

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First of all I wanna thank My Kindness Counts for give me the opportunity to talk about the ‘Spread Love Video’. Ever since I made a Twitter account, I have seen a lot of negative stuff about suffering with things that don’t have importance. It isn’t right and all my people have told me that it isn’t right. Thanks to Miley Cyrus I learned how to ‘Radiate love’ :) That last sentence is so important to me, as it has a real meaning in my actual life.

It’s so important to make people feel good because it also makes you feel good. On Twitter, I’ve seen so many people wanting to commit suicide, cut themselves, and ultimately, hurt themselves. I wanted to end everyone’s pain forever, but I know they have to try hard to say goodbye to the mean things people have said to them. So, I decided to do a video ‘Spread Love Video’ to show love. I know how people who have been bullied feel because I have friends who also have been horribly bullied. I had people who bothered me during a few days but thankfully, I could fix the problem (I feel SO blessed).

I think actually some teachers don’t care about bullying because they don’t get involved at the core of the issue: students. They only wanna finish the day, without care if a student is dying inside. Other times, teachers truly are the only people who can help you, they have power to create a good atmosphere. So, if you have any problem in your class, just let them know, they’ll help you!

I think it’s so important to inculcate (instill) in children’s minds to do good things to help others.  Right now it seems as though kids are like: I give you, you give me, when it should be: I give you, and you say ‘thanks’  We should be nice to everybody!!

In conclusion I want to thank all of you who have taken part in my Spread Love Video.  In the comments section of the ‘Testimonies of people who have faced the bullying or they are doing now’, tell me your your history in a few sentences :)

Stay strong!

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