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: