The recent surge in bully-related suicides among teens has prompted parents, churches and a number of states to tackle the issue before another student takes his or her own life.
Youth groups are being encouraged to serve as a place where students can feel accepted and safe to share about any brushes with bullies.
Though churches can conduct anti-bullying campaigns or create no bullying zones, ultimately, getting students to talk about the issue or their experiences is best, according to Missy Wall, a former United Methodist youth pastor and director of Teen CONTACT.
“I think the biggest thing is to talk about it. Ask questions. How do we rate our youth group? Is this a safe place? How do we make this a safe place?” Wall said, as reported by the United Methodist News Service.
Wall noted that bullying has become more pervasive with advanced technology, including the Internet and cell phones. Children are now facing constant verbal, mental or emotional bullying at school and at home through text messages and social networking sites, whereas before the bullying only occurred on school grounds.
According to the United States Department of Justice, cyber-bullying is at an all-time high with 43 percent of teenagers having reported being victims of harassment through electronic means.
“Students don’t ever have a break,” Wall lamented, according to UMNS.
In a widely reported case, 15-year-old Phoebe Prince, who relocated from Ireland to Massachusetts, was bullied for months in person and online before she hung herself in her home in January. Along with verbal taunting, she was shoved into lockers at South Hadley High School and encouraged to kill herself on her Facebook page.
More recently, 13-year-old Jon Carmichael also hung himself after enduring taunts from other children at Loflin Middle School in Joshua, Texas, for two years.