Fr Paddy ByrneEvery child has the right to grow in an environment where they are safe and free to enjoy the very gift that is youth itself

Being a young person is not easy. Growing up, can be a very challenging and at times most difficult. I often wonder why so many young people are sad, lonely, depressed and yes even suicidal. I have no doubt, that bullying is a major factor why so many young people are overburdened by fear and anxiety.

Fr Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Carlow Nationalist
This column appeared on 14th March 2008

Bullying is a real and dreadful problem in society. Bullying can take place in many different places and times throughout our life, in school, the workplace, amongst our peers, even within our families. Bullying is a repeated action which causes deep hurt and lasting emotional, physical or psychological wounds on its victim. Bullying can be both verbal and physical. Bullying is particularly prevalent within our schools, and because of this many young people live lives of fear, anxiety, intimidation and isolation.

Being a young person is not easy. Growing up, can be a very challenging and at times most difficult. Young people live in such fear and hurt every day because of repeated actions of aggression and offensive behavior inflicted by their peers. A recent suicide letter, by a young person revealed a harsh and brutal story, of repeated verbal abuse by her peers over a number of years. Victims of bullying, are often silenced by the fear and deep hurt that they carry every day. Because of this silence the bully often is allowed continue to manipulate and offend. I often wonder why so many young people are sad, lonely, depressed and yes even suicidal. I have no doubt, that bullying is a major factor why so many young people are overburdened by fear and anxiety.

It’s interesting that most bullies are also victims themselves. Family instability often has a huge impact on a young persons life. I believe that marital breakdown, unstable relationships, addiction and violence often shape the mindset of a young person who engages in bullying activity. In this regard this issue will continue to present itself in every school within our communities.

Bullying behavior can be challenged and stopped. Often it takes someone else to speak up on behalf of the victim. Every primary and secondary school and most workplaces have a clear and definitive anti-bullying policy. It is very important to promote a positive culture where young people have confidence in coming forward to report occasions where they feel threatened or put down by any other individual. Most of our schools have excellent structures in place which deal directly with bullying, however these mechanisms can only be realized when they are made aware of bullying. I think as parents and indded teachers it is so important to affirm our young people on the need to report any incident of bullying to a teacher, parent or friend.

Every child has the right to grow in an environment where they are safe and free to enjoy the very gift that is youth itself. Many of the dreams and gifts contained in young peoples hearts and lives can never be realized where they feel afraid, isolated and intimidated. It is all our responsibility to protect and create a happy environment where young people can grow and realize their unique gifts and talents. So don’t be afraid to speak out against harmful actions that cause others to feel embarrassed and hurt. Above all may we create a positive environment especially within our schools where young people feel empowered to disempower the bully.