Sunday, December 30, 2012

No Time For Bullying... RIP Jessica Laney

Part of the Cestrian Dreams Project
Article author: Alwyn Ash

Call for closure of websites like following the death of an American teenager. Online bullying needs to be highlighted - there needs to be more awareness...

Guess I was one of the lucky ones. Though bullied at school, it was no where near as tough as the pain that others have been forced to endure. Yes, I was humiliated at times, and my confidence and emotions had been battered, but no matter how bad it could be there were never any thoughts of taking my own life because of it. Thankfully. However, bullying does have that most heartbreaking of results - the need to stop the pain...

Over the years we have read news reports of young people, so desperate to overcome the torture of bullying, who commit suicide. Tragic actions that damage whole families. I have begun to do some research - not enough yet to write a detailed article - and am shocked by what I read. While some website reveal "statistics" and try to inform, some miss the greatest urgency of them all: bullying!

According to one site, factors that may be a cause for teenage suicide are the "divorce of parents", "violence at home", "Substance abuse", "an ability to be successful at school", "rejection by friends" etc. The list does, astonishingly, fail to recognise bullying as another possible trigger, whether it be in the real world (i.e. at school) or online. And there is no doubt that online bullying - Cyberbullying - is the modern-day threat to every vulnerable person. And it just has to stop! Imagine the heartbreak, of losing that one special person in your life, a child perhaps, to suicide only to then find trolls targeting a tribute site too (known as RIP trolling)... The word "cruel" isn't sufficient enough.

Jessica Laney, 16, of Hudson, Florida

We have read how some celebrities including former X-factor contestant Cher Lloyd have experienced first hand the pain of online bullying, with Cher commenting at one point, "I think I must get at least 10 tweets a day saying I'm a dirty pikey. There's been many times where I've cried myself to sleep".

But just imagine how persistent and increased bullying can get under the skin of an individual, turn their days into a nightmare and cause them so much pain that they would rather escape by any means necessary... Quite frankly the anonymity of the web makes it all too easy for someone to create username with a temporary email account and cause maximum damage to a person's life.

Recently the death of sixteen-year-old Jessica Laney touched my heart, how a young beautiful girl, a pupil at Fivay High School in Florida, could be brought to such an end after suffering torment from those who don't even have the right to share the same world as their victim. Like all teenagers she spent most of her free time online, updating her blogs and answering questions on the website, which I refuse to use for its danger and anonymity - do you even need an account to ask a question?

While many of the entries to her account were innocent enough, there were some that were insulting, others extreme: "Can you kill yourself already?" and "nobody even cares about you". Jessica's friends are convinced it was the online treatment that led her to her death, however it had been reported that both the girl's parents and boyfriend weren't so sure, saying that they were unaware of any bullying. But, isn't that sometimes the way, that an individual, scared and feeling lost, will carry these burdens, alone, without finding the strength to share with those closest to them?

A Facebook page has been set up in Jessica's memory, who died on Sunday 9th December 2012 after hanging herself. There has also been a call for the website to be shut down, and I cannot help but agree. Although cyber-bullying is alive and thriving on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, there are, at least, ways to block and protect yourself in such places, I believe. There is the problem though of whether forcing the closure of a site is indeed possible, and what other sites will spring up in the following months and years - Formspring is another Q&A website that permits people to ask whatever they like, remaining unaccountable.

And there are other forms of bullying too, like in the case of Canadian Amanda Todd, who died after being hounded by an online stalker. We should all remember that words have the power to kill as much as any knife or gun...

Surely the answer lies in education, understanding the dangers of social networking (how many people share way too much personal information to complete strangers, "friends" on Facebook etc?), and tackling online bullying head on by allowing schools to share stories of those already lost? There must be other ways, too, and I just hope that something changes enough to save lives that would otherwise have been taken from us...


Cestrian Dreams was founded by Alwyn Ash in December 2012, with the aim of highlighting mental illness, raising awareness, and helping to overcome the stigma associated with the disease. Originally set up with its very own website, Cestrian has now been incorporated with Alwyn's personal site.

"1 in 4 will suffer with some form of mental health issues"