PHOEBE PRINCE. Suicide. Bullying victim. Depressive.
As Emily Bazelon wrote in a sensitive series for Slate (and, presumably, in her soon-to-be released book about teenage bullying, “Stick and Stones,” reviewed in today’s Wall Street Journal), the path that led 15-year-old Phoebe Prince to take her own life was not filled solely with bullying, but it was interlaced with Phoebe’s episodes of depression, mood disorder, cutting and promiscuity. She chose well-meaning but ill-equipped boys as confidants rather than trusted adults who may have been able to help her deal with her problems.
It is serendipitous that FAN will have two experts in successive weeks talking about depression and mood disorders and then teenage bullying. We will start with Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison on Feb. 26 and follow with Emily Bazelon on March 6. As in the sad case of Phoebe Prince, there are sometimes uneasy connections between the two subjects.
When headline-making suicides and bullying incidents become top of mind, parents often want to point their fingers somewhere: the schools, Facebook, those mean kids. (Bazelon, according to the WSJ review and another in The Atlantic, examines those culprits in her book.)
But we were taken with Bazelon’s plea, which the WSJ says was only “glancingly” addressed: “We have to instill in kids the paramount value of kindness — to show them that it’s more important to come together than to finish first, that other people’s feelings can take precedence over one’s own, that relationships matter more than tasks.”
The WSJ reviewer goes on to conclude that “what children need most, surely, is a proper upbringing. After all, charity begins at home.”
That seems a little simplistic to us, but bullying expert Stuart Tremlow has said many times is that schools and communities can have all the anti-bullying programs they want, but they will not work until parents become an integral part of a comprehensive solution.
“Bullying is a social process, not a person,” said Twemlow in an article called “Can We Eliminate Bullying from Schools and Communities?” “Working intensely with parents as active participants in the education of their children and creators of future citizen leaders makes the school as closely knit to a community as a mother is to her infant.”