What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

How does this old adage relate to bullying?

In the past decade, headlines reporting the tragic stories of a young person’s suicide death linked in some way to bullying — physical, verbal or online — have become common.

There is pain and suffering associated with these events. It affects individuals, families, communities and society as a whole. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other violence prevention partners and researchers have invested in learning more about the relationship between these two serious public health problems with the goal of using this knowledge to save lives and prevent future bullying.

According to the CDC:

• Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-age children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally and excluding someone from a group on purpose. Bullying can occur in person or through technology.

• Bullying has serious and lasting negative effects on the mental health and overall well-being of youth involved in bullying in any way including those who bully others, youth who are bullied, as well as those youth who both bully others and are bullied by others, sometimes referred to as bully-victims.

• Even youth who have observed but not participated in bullying behavior report significantly more feelings of helplessness and less sense of connectedness and support from responsible adults than youth who have not witnessed bullying behavior.

• Negative outcomes of bullying — for youth who bully others, youth who are bullied, and youth who both are bullied and bully others — may include depression, anxiety, involvement in interpersonal violence or sexual violence, substance abuse, poor social functioning, and poor school performance, including lower grade point averages, standardized test scores and poor attendance.

• Youth who report both bullying others and being bullied (bully-victims) have the highest risk for suicide-related behavior of any groups that report involvement in bullying.

So, according to the CDC, it’s not just the bullied that are killing themselves, it’s the bulliers. This is a no-win situation. What is the climate that created this unbalanced societal behavior?

To think bullying only happens on playgrounds would be naive. There are plenty of adult bullies, and some of them have children of their own. Behavior is learned. Defense mechanisms are created, and maybe those defense mechanisms display themselves as bullying: “I am tough. You can’t hurt me. See how mean I am?” That may translate to: “I am scared. I am vulnerable. Please do not hurt me any more.”

I do hope the bullying — for the abused and the abusers — makes people stronger. I also hope a spotlight on it helps create a kinder, more supportive society.

I will share a little bit about myself, and whether my philosophy has any meaning or use to you is for you to decide. I don’t care.

Let me repeat that: I do not care.

I do not care if you like what I do or what I wear.

As Billy Joel said, “Go ahead with your own life, leave me alone.”

Amy Oberlin is the news editor at The Herald Republican.

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