Everybody is weighing in on the the suicide of Amanda Todd, so I’m going to add my opinion also.

I don’t like the old phrase “kids can be so mean to each other”, because it’s incorrect. It’s not that they can be, it’s that they are mean to each other. They always have been and always will be, because they aren’t fully developed people yet. They need to learn things about social interaction that unfortunately require mistakes to be made, often at the expense of somebody else’s mental or physical well being.

I look back on my own childhood and think of of the awful things I said and did to other kids, and the awful things that were said and done to me, and the awful things that I stood by and watched be done to others. It makes me uncomfortable, and sometimes I want to phone people to apologize for things that happened 40 years ago.

My old friend Mark and I discussed this not long ago. He’s a “visible minority”, so I’d think a lot of really gnarly stuff was said to him. However, he said that as an adult he understood why it was said (because kids are dicks), and that he has pretty much forgotten most of it and moved along. He’s currently living a pretty nice life with an awesome wife, a nice house, and a thriving business.

When I was in grade 11, a girl I barely knew marched up to me and said “wow! you are ugly!”. That’s a pretty tough thing for an insecure 16 year old to hear. It bothered me for weeks. I can look back on it now and understand it though. She probably got dared to do it. Or she really believed it but didn’t yet have the social skills to know that you don’t say stuff like that to people. Whatever the case, I bet if I found her today she’d either A) not remember the incident or B) if she did, she’d feel awful about it.

My point is this; we all said and did terrible things to other kids, and we all had things said and done to us. Sure, there are degrees of intensity, and obviously everybody is unique…but none of us killed ourselves. Suicide isn’t a bullying problem, it’s a mental health problem. Bullying might be a factor, but a person who is feeling suicidal is going to find a reason to die, and no reasons to live. If it wasn’t bullies, it would be the death of a pet, or bad grades, or some combination of things. When I was a teenager, Ozzy Osbourne and Judas Priest got blamed for teen suicides. That’s seems ludicrous in hindsight…because it IS ludicrous. You don’t have to be a doctor to understand that suicide is a mental health issue, pure and simple.

Even her own mother said Amanda was getting a lot of support from friends and family and school staff, and that she was only alone in her own mind.

Is bullying a problem? I guess so, but it’s a problem that’s been around since the dawn of civilization so it doesn’t seem like we’re having much success in preventing it. That doesn’t mean we stop trying. There are many many things we need to work on as a species.

I’ll admit I have done zero research into anti-bullying programs, but everything I hear in the media about fixing bullying sounds like an adult solution to me. It doesn’t seem like anybody is thinking like a kid, and starting from that point. You can’t treat kids like adults, because they aren’t adults. That seems self-evident, but nobody seems to be starting there.

So many people complain about how kids are growing up too fast these days, but then they also want them to think about things like bullying as an adult would. It’s a mixed message. How does a 15 year old process “be a kid, act like a kid, enjoy being a kid…except for this one thing where I want you to be an adult.”?

I don’t have a solution. I’m sad that Amanda Todd chose suicide. I’m heartbroken for her family and friends who have to live with this. But let’s lay the blame where it belongs; with Amanda’s mental health. You can’t fix a problem if you don’t find the root cause. If you don’t address the root cause, then all you’re doing is putting a bandaid on the problem.

A lot has been made of how Amanda was bullied by many kids, usually in big groups. Kids are pack animals. Almost none of them have sufficient strength of character to take a stance on what constitutes good music, much less stand up for someone who has been ostracized. They don’t want to risk their own social position. Hell…most adults are like this. I bet most of the kids who picked on Amanda are feeling sick about her suicide. If they aren’t now, they sure will when they’re 25 or 30 and beyond, when their brains are fully developed. I’m not excusing them, but I am for sure suggesting they are now in a terrible position that any one of us could have ended up in if we’d picked on someone with underlying mental health issues.

And so to Rob H. and Karen H., I’m truly sorry I was such an asshole to you for so many years. Julie, I’m sorry I ripped up your birthday party invitation right in front of you and everybody else in grade 4, and then laughed at you. Brian, I’m sorry for participating in the events that made you think your mother’s car got stolen, and I also wish I hadn’t stood by and watched while someone verbally humiliated you in chemistry class, and I was an asshole for laughing just because everybody else laughed. I’m glad you all had good mental health. I hope you still do.

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ADDENDUM

When I was in grade 7, my parents went camping for the weekend with some friends who lived a couple of doors down from us. There were no cell phones or anything in 1977, and it took the RCMP a while to find the campsite as their original destination was full so they went somewhere else. The result was that it wasn’t until they returned on Sunday that our neighbour’s found out that their son Terry (who was a couple of years older than me) had killed himself Saturday morning. He put a pistol in his mouth while he was on the phone with his ex-girlfriend.

I still think about that at times like this. I never, ever want to see the look on anybody’s face that I saw on Terry’s parents. I can’t imagine what kind of scar was left on his girlfriend.

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ADDENDUM REDUX

My good friend Deb wrote a post too. You should go read it.

I don’t think I ever bullied her, but I for sure have mocked her at some point or another…and likely with good cause.