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Phoebe Prince’s suicide – after unforgiveable bullying – strengthens call to action

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This week, nine teenagers who attend South Hadley High School in Massachusetts were charged in the bullying death of freshman Phoebe Prince, who hanged herself after a particularly brutal day at school that followed months of torment.

Phoebe’s crimes? She was pretty, she was the new kid (she had recently immigrated from Ireland) and she had apparently captured the interest of a high school boy with a jealous girlfriend.

Phoebe’s death and the death last year of an 11-year-old Massachusetts boy have forced the Massachusetts legislature to speed up its action on a state anti-bullying law. There are 41 other states that have similar laws.

And yet kids are still mean to one another, and other kids are still killing themselves, unable to cope with the hell of going to school each day to face ridicule and threats.

A new public service ad campaign launched this week hopes to help, at least a
little. It focuses on all teen suicide, not just the ones that result from bullying.

From USA Today:

“Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds, following accidents and homicides, according to government data.

“In an effort to reduce such tragedies, the government worked with the Ad Council and the Inspire USA Foundation to create "We Can Help Us," a national public service advertising campaign. It includes TV, radio and print PSAs as well as posters in schools and malls.

"Our goal with this national multimedia campaign is to provide support and resources for teens who are experiencing mental health problems," said Kathryn Power of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, part of the Department of Health and Human Services.

“The aim is to help teenagers cope with very normal feelings of stress, loss and confusion, she says.

"Ultimately, our goal is to reduce the incidence of suicide and suicide attempts among teenagers, especially those between the ages of 13 to 17 who may be particularly vulnerable."

The ads urge young people to visit reachout.com, where they can watch videos of other teens who have had similar struggles. It emphasizes the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255).

If a teen goes to the website, they see a graphic layout with large headlines like this:
• Can’t figure it out? Reach Out can help.
• Have a friend in need? How to help.
• When you need support, Reach Out is with you.
• Hear from others who have been there and made it.

The site features videos and stories from teens who’ve been through rough times, facts about suicide, ways to get help and how to help others. It includes information on mental health problems, family and relationship issues, drugs, alcohol and self-harm, loss and grief, school pressure and violence, among other things. There are blogs, email updates and community guidelines, as well as polls asking such things as “Have you ever been bullied by someone on text or Facebook?”

So far, 22% say yes.

Think about it. That’s 1 in 5 kids.

Phoebe Prince’s family is now devastated. Her town in Ireland is in mourning. And the families of the nine children who are accused in her death will never be the same.

The USA Today story:

A video of one of the commercials, plus more details about the campaign, from PR Newswire:

The reachout.com home page:

Add a Comment10 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I've researched bullying for a number of years now; and while I am no longer stunned by the savagery and illogic of bullies, both old and young, I still find it incredulous how others can stand by, sheep-like, when bullying/mobbing is taking place and do nothing about it. THe desire to belong, to be liked is inherent in all of us; and to assume that a young vulnerable adolescent can 'handle' the rigors of classmates picking relentlessly on them, and that this is indeed necessary to establish a pecking order, proves the ignorance of those put in charge of this pathetic environment. Everyone ever having gone through school knows full well that while technical knowledge, (math, social studies, etc) is the initial reason for the school's existence, it is the social behavior between students that usually takes center stage; and what goes on during those years has a strong influence on each and every one of them then, and throughout their lives. Systematic harassment of a student(s) is an absolute violation of that individual's rights and a mockery of civilized behavior. Bullying/mobbing should be banished at the first moment it rears its ugly, primitive head.
Bullying escalates; and if you were to draw a line to represent it, on one end you would have piggy-tail pulling and on the other end, you would have genocide. So at what point along that line, do we step in and call bullying wrong?
Phoebe, I wish I could have been in those school halls to protect you. That others were there, witnessed it but did not take action, proves their lack of character and outright cowardice. They justify their apathy before the media but they can not deny it.

May 12, 2010 - 4:07pm
(reply to Anonymous)

Beautifully written and well-said, Anon. Thank you.

May 13, 2010 - 8:54am
EmpowHER Guest

Jealous bitches!

April 12, 2010 - 1:27pm
EmpowHER Guest

parents may close attention to your children if they are bullied or are bullying others talk and moniter the teachers principles supervisors of the school, of course many of these people are idiots Phoepe"s principal case in point. iF SO TAKE YOUR CHILDREN OUT OF THAT SCHOOL? SYSTEM NOW" thier lives depend on it. It hurts to believe our public schools have become such cespools of local terrorism.

April 7, 2010 - 5:55am
EmpowHER Guest

the school officials should be punished

April 5, 2010 - 9:22am
EmpowHER Guest

Bullies are like human feces. They emerge from the orifice of family character and find acceptance in the cesspool of community character.

April 4, 2010 - 1:52pm
EmpowHER Guest

This is something that really is out of my understanding. How was this possible to happen? I'm sad and enraged at the same time.

A new start, a new country, a new school, new people, a new mentality.... These changes are quite challenging, and an adult person would need easily no less than a year to fully adapt to their new environment. During this time, the individual is prone to fragility, until they find his/her marks.

Phoebe and her family arrived recently to America from her native Ireland. She had no friends. She was new in a school and she was beautiful. And she went to a public school where it was supposed, she would be ok. Yes, she would need some time for adapting but well, it was normal, isn't it?

Competition at teenage life is high. Who is the beautiest? Who is the most charming girl? Who has the nicest body? Who is the most popular? Phoebe was possibly "the girl" at the schoold and this was unforgivable for some of the other girls. Jealousy is a human feeling... who has not experienced yet? But, how do we humans deal with it? Phoebe was not guilty for being beautiful. She was not guilty for being nice and charming. But she paid for that with her life. She was raped twice in a day. She was segregated. She was humiliated every day, in every sense. Her mother asked for help, and her plead was ignorated. She had to endure all these horrors everyday. She was H A R A S S E D and I do not understand why the school authorities did NOTHING to help her. Her mother asked for help TWICE. Why her plead was left unattended?

Is this a matter of incompetence of public schools? Nobody though that Phoebe was to commit suicide. Is this a matter of human respect? Certainly. Everybody deserves respect for being who they are. Being different is not a matter of segregation but of respect. But the most shocking thing, is how the other teenagers arrived to do what they did. What did they learn at their homes? What is the example their parents gave them? How they arrived to rape a girl, to humiliate her just because a member of their band hated her because of what she representated? They didn't even got to know her.

I pray for Phoebe's family, and I really wish, with all my heart, that they find peace and acceptation to these awful facts. And I wish also, with all my heart, that the guilty people get the punishment they deserve.

April 4, 2010 - 10:51am
EmpowHER Guest

It is very hard to put into words how I feel about the horrific cruelty, torment and suffering this child had to endure from this group of jealous and vicious classmates. What was about this dating incident that drove these mean and bullying teenagers to punish her with such unrelenting hatred, and hostility? And how could any decent staff member of this school with any conscious just close their eyes to all of this and do nothing? It breaks my heart as I attempt to comprehend the incredible pain that Phoebe had to endure and the incalculable number of kids all around us being treated in the same manner.

April 1, 2010 - 11:12am

I am both saddened and enraged by this. Such a beautiful girl just trying to fit in. Where are our morals? Where are our ethics? Where are the parents? This should be a zero tollerance issue. First time caught bullying you are suspended for a week. Second time you are kicked out of school. Force parents to be involved. Are we all just too busy in our personal lives to care about what our children are doing to others at school. Teachers who knew this was happening. Shame on you all! Why did you not step in? Principals that know, why did you not do anything? Now you all wait until it is too late to step up and speak out. Are we in denial? Or do we really care what happens to others. I guess as long as it is not our child who cares? Is that our attitude. This issue needs to be discussed in schools on a regular basis. Let these kids know that your actions have consequences. It is not ok to treat others like that. You will be dealt with if you are bullying others. Your parents will be notified. Put some fear in these bullies. Make them accountable for their actions. Help our kids help themselves. Don't be silent and stand on the sidelines while other are being beat down either verbally or physically. We need to stand up for our children now before it gets worse. Can it get any worse than suicide?

April 1, 2010 - 10:25am
EmpowHER Guest

This school and teachers should be held accountable as well. It's time that we as leaders of our children get a backbone. The parents of the children that created this should be held accountable. No excuse for this anymore. Society is growing numb of it's moral compass, and our children are suffering. All these lives have now been stained. It pains me so to know our great country is so free, that we have the freedom to kill. 1st CAV vet, OIF, SSG.

April 1, 2010 - 8:36am
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