Often after a loss, we seek to find someone to blame it on. It’s difficult to understand the circumstances which led someone to take their own life, and we seek to place blame on the people who were cruel in their lives, and the situations which pushed them to the brink. This is especially true when it comes to bullying.
On Jan. 10, twelve-year old Gabriella Green was found dead in her parent’s home after she had hanged herself. Following her death, it was discovered that she was being bullied by several of the other kids in her school. The bullying included spreading rumors about her promiscuity, vulgar name calling, and privately messaging her to further cause duress.
The two twelve-year olds responsible for bullying Gabriella Green have been charged with cyberstalking, which classifies as a misdemeanor in Florida. In previous cases, this has at most meant that the accused teenagers will be required to take anger management classes. Often cyber-crimes such as bullying can fall into a legal gray area, and many are calling for harsher punishments for Gabriella’s bullies.
The real issue with this case is determining just how much impact words, especially the words of pre-teens, have on physical events. Demeaning a person, especially someone who already is facing mental health issues, is never acceptable, no matter the age. Yet, persecuting and arresting pre-teens for being cruel to a fellow student does not seem like the answer to stopping this from happening again. Therapy could be helpful, but they should not face criminal penalties.
Bully victims are between two and nine times more likely than their fellow student counterparts to commit suicide according to studies by Yale University. Bullying is not just something that kids should have to go through in their adolescence, and it should not have to be a part of growing up. Bullying can have serious mental repercussions for its victims, including low self worth, depression and thoughts of suicide.
The statistics make it obvious that words can create harm, often in ways that physical harm cannot. Words cannot hold a gun up to a person’s head and make them pull the trigger, but they can reduce a person’s self worth to the point where suicide seems like the only option.
That being said, name calling and defaming posts online are not the same as actually killing a human being. They are destructive and their harm is evident, but they should not be handled in the same way. Millions of kids are bullied every year and don’t take their own lives. A person’s decision to commit suicide is a combination of the person’s mental health and their surroundings.
Over 90 percent of people who have commited suicide have suffered from mental illnesses. People who suffer from illness are more likely to suffer from suicidal thoughts. Yet, with so many mental illnesses going undiagnosed, and many young people in these situations not feeling as if they can talk about their illness, it can create a dangerous situation.
Mental health issues can be hidden well by those who have them, especially by those who are bullied. The fear of being ostracized or judged can push those who are affected further away from finding help. This can be especially true if the victim is being cyberbullied, in which they can feel as if they cannot escape from near constant torment, even in their own home.
There were many points along the way in which Gabriella’s suicide could have been stopped. If she had been diagnosed earlier and had found help, if teachers and counselors had noticed how cruel the other students were to her and if she hadn’t been bullied, she may still be here today. It was not any one of these factors that was responsible for Gabriella’s death though, it was everything she was enduring, and everything she feared she would endure.
Gabriella Green’s bullies should not be pardoned for their actions. They were cruel and merciless, but they also did not have any intention of killing her. They are very young and likely did not know the effects their actions could possibly have on Gabriella’s mental health. In such a tragic case, seeking blame can be a way of coping. Yet, this strategy should not condemn other children for creating a harm which they likely cannot fully understand.