Words have the power to affect the lives of youths

February 21, 2012

By Olivia Spokoiny

By Olivia Spokoiny Skyline High School

In September 2010, 18-year-old college student Tyler Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge after being outed on the Internet without his consent. The tragic event made headlines all across the nation, but was not, unfortunately, a one-time occurrence.

It could happen to anyone, anywhere, and it doesn’t always make the headlines. Suicide is the third-leading cause of death among young people from ages 10-24, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

With the rapid increase of teens using social media in just the past few years, there has been a spike in bullying in the most severe form.

Just last month, an anonymous Skyline High School student created a Twitter page called “SHSgossipgurl,” and used it to publicly bash and humiliate his or her peers where everybody could see it. Fortunately, the page was taken down within a few days and the cyberbullying was put to an end before it could get worse. Sticks and stones may break our bones, but sometimes words hurt even more.

Millions of people are already suffering from depression, but only about 20 percent will receive professional help, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. A large percentage of these sufferers are teenagers, many of whom feel ashamed of their circumstances and are too afraid to speak up.

While there are a handful of teenagers who are more than willing to help a friend or lend an ear, there are also many who completely lack empathy and do not understand that their behavior can have a massive impact on other people’s lives.

Get help

If you need help, call Teen Link, a service for teens in King County, at 206-461-4922 or 1-866-TEENLINK toll free.

Depression is a serious mental illness, and bullying certainly never helps. You simply cannot get into the mind of one of your peers and know how he or she is feeling. The scariest part is, you may not even know if and when a friend or classmate is contemplating suicide. It is all too common, but not always taken as seriously as it should be.

A nationwide survey was conducted in private and public high schools in the United States, and it indicated that 15 percent of the students reported seriously considering suicide.

To put this into perspective, if you are sitting in a classroom of 30 students, it is likely that four or five of them have thought about taking their own lives. Eleven percent of the surveyed students reported that they had made a plan for suicide, and 7 percent reported that they had actually attempted suicide.

Be nice. You never know what someone else is going through. Use the Internet wisely, think before you speak and stand up for people when they are being mistreated. You may even save a life.

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