The art of being kind

I hardly ever watch TV, and since arriving in Australia I haven’t watched any TV other than the period before work when I am at work and trying to chill out. Today I was watching the news and the terrible story of a teenager that killed herself as a result of bullying last week.

Her name was Amy Everett and she was only 14. I don’t know how she took her own life but that doesn’t really matter. The point is that she did, and it was because people pushed her into doing it. Cowardly people going out of their way to make sure someone else suffers for no reason other than some kind of deranged self-fulfilment. I instantly fill with rage when I read this kind of thing, because I too suffered at the hands of bullying as a child. I can only try to imagine how bad the bullying has to be to end it all in this way. I never reached a point that I ever considered suicide and thankfully I was able to escape it with the help of family and friends. Some people don’t have that escape. The only escape is to take that giant leap from it all, not too different from those jumping from the towers in NYC back in 2001, except these flames are in the form of hatred burning in the minds of evil individuals. An entirely avoidable death if people could learn that being mean is an option and the option of kindness is much easier and much more respectable.

Could you imagine a world in which people decided against being mean? Instead of using their precious time to cause suffering, decided to write a song or learn an instrument? Take a walk on the beach or write a blog post? It seems like, taking this into account, people really feel the need to bring others down. It takes conscious effort to set the laptop up, switch it on, type in the password, log onto the internet and find someone to insult. It isn’t just a passing comment in the street. Some people clearly possess a great urge to cause distress and whether or not this is made easier by online anonymity is irrelevant. If anything the ease in which people can lead victims to suicide and log out without a trace makes it a much bigger concern.

I can only assume those doing the bullying are going through some kind of trauma themselves. Whether it is a repercussion of mental illness or being a victim of bullying themselves, there will be a reason. There has to be a reason. Unbelievably, as I get older I still see typical characteristics of a bully in adults. Adults! Whether it is my place of work or on the street, bullies are everywhere. Some of them simply don’t grow out of it and keep the same psychopathic behaviours on display. I am sure many of you still suffer these individuals. The hatred I feel building up as I hear such a story dies down as I try to understand the nature of a bully. Some people are no doubt born with this unfortunate urge. Others give it out as a mental release for their own suffering. It could be argued that a bully needs help as much as the victim.

As I type these words, I hear people claiming this suicide was an overreaction. ‘It is only online trash talk, don’t take it so seriously’…. ‘Why take your own life because of random people on the internet? Just block them and move on’. I admit, I find online bullying something foreign to me. But then again as a guy in his late twenties, I did not grow up with social media being a huge aspect of my life. Social media is a huge part of life now, this is something we have to accept. A quick Google tells me that teens spend more than one third of their day on social media, up to nine hours. That is a huge chunk of the day, and a huge part of life. If hours upon hours of the day are spent receiving insults and threats, that cannot be good for mental health.

This story got to me. It got to me as the nephew of an uncle and auntie that I lost to suicide and someone that knows mental illness very well. The only comfort I get from the suicides in my family is that they weren’t brought on by people. The illnesses my uncle and auntie endured weren’t consciously going out of their way to cause misery. Instead they are conditions that are still we are still trying to learn about and find cures for.

The art of being kind is one that so many people are unskilled in, I say ‘art’ as it seems like something that many people need to be taught. The nature of bullying is tragic as it involves people trying hard to bring people down when there is the option to be kind. A cure for this cannot come soon enough.