Teen suicide is not a new problem. The way the media has been covering the recent surge might make it seem otherwise, but kids have been getting bullied and driven to drastic measures for as long as anyone living today can remember.
There can be a silver lining to all of the recent, highly-publicized tragedy, though – if it raises awareness nationwide and leads to serious, concerted changes in the ways we all deal with homophobia and discrimination in general. If it means no kid will feel ostracized and alone because of their sexual orientation or differentness.
Dan Savage (he of Savage Love fame) started the “It Gets Better” project in response to the rash of teen suicides as a way to spread the message to young people who might be feeling hopeless that, if they just hold on through high school, their life can and will improve. They’ll be able to choose their peer groups – people who love and accept them for exactly who they are – and live full lives.
It’s a marvelous movement, and the positive response to it has been overwhelming.
But I’ve been glad to see many people taking the idea a step further and recognizing that grade school shouldn’t have to be such a mine field in the first place. That students and school administrators alike bear the responsibility of fighting against bullying, of enforcing rules that make the learning environment a safe one for every student.