Help proclaim Seneca County a bully-free zone

The 2016 Seneca County Health Assessment revealed that 44 percent of area youth reported being bullied in the past year. Youth violence/bullying was identified as one of the priorities to be addressed by the Seneca County Health Alliance’s Community Health Improvement Plan. For that reason, a Seneca County Bullying Prevention Coalition was formed to research bullying in Seneca County and determine effective means of prevention. This coalition is made up of concerned citizens, community leaders and local organizations involved with youth. The coalition is gathering information from local entities to help the community become more aware of the practices that are currently in place to prevent bullying behaviors.

The following is by Michelle Clinger, site director, and Karen Goshe, outpatient mental health coordinator, at Firelands Counseling and Recovery Services.

A 13-year-old girl walks into school wearing the hand-me-down blouse her mom picked up for 50 cents at a thrift shop. It is all they could afford for her birthday.

A popular classmate recognizes this blouse as one she recently threw away, and she laughingly tells everyone the girl is wearing her “old trash.” What was once a prized gift from her mom now becomes another source of humiliation. She cries all the way home and throws the shirt in the garbage.

A 14-year-old girl is called atrocious names every single day due to severe acne. Her parents would love to get treatment for her, but they simply can’t afford it. School becomes harder and harder for her. She begins to skip class, and is filled with a sense of worthlessness and sinking depression.

A young man with prominent parents feels anxious and distressed. He dresses well, and his parents can afford all of the luxuries craved by today’s teenager, but he is still an outsider. Young men in his school play sports, and he prefers dance and theater.

Although today’s teens verbalize the value of being different, in reality, “different” can lead to degrading and derogatory comments, acts of humiliation and social isolation. Tearful, lost and alone is frightening for an adult, but it can have devastating consequences for our youth.

Sadly, the 2016 Seneca County Health Assessment revealed that 44 percent of area youth reported being bullied in the past year, and as a result, youth violence/bullying was identified as one of the priorities to be addressed by the Seneca County Health Alliance’s Community Health Improvement Plan. The Seneca County Bullying Prevention Coalition, made up of representatives of various children-serving agencies who have witnessed the detrimental effects of bullying on its victims, was formed as a result, and is asking the residents of Seneca County to take a stand at preventing any further bullying from occurring in our community.

The Bullying Prevention Coalition is hoping to jump start a movement whereby Seneca County is awarded the designation as being a bully-free zone. The coalition is planning on posting billboards and creating T-shirts which will proclaim Seneca County as a bully-free zone. We currently have occurring a logo-creating contest open to sixth, seventh and eighth graders who reside in Seneca County.

A contest sheet can be picked up such locations as attendance offices of the area Middle Schools and Firelands Counseling and Recovery Services. In addition, members of the coalition are asking that if you should come upon a situation where one person is engaging in the bullying of another, please say something to the bully along the lines of “I’m sorry, bullying is not permitted in Seneca County; only treating others with kindness is.”

As a wave of intolerance of bullying permeates throughout our community, there should be fewer victims of bullying and an overall improved mental health and well-being of our entire community.

One final thought is that bullying does not occur solely between two minors but can also occur between two adults, or a minor and an adult. A bully-free zone means no form of bullying will be permitted in our neighborhood.

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