Working with youth at Mosaic, we regularly come across bullying and its effects. To gain insight and strategies, a group of us went on a collective outing to see the movie Bully.
Following the recent outcry against bullying and the highlight of a rash of bullying-related suicides in the media, this movie responds to a social desire to witness and understand the bullying phenomenon. This movie documents the experiences of a handful of kids and families whose lives have been affected by youth-on-youth violence. Included in these, are two families who have recently lost children due to bullying-related suicide, and we witness the steps these families take to transform their experiences into a message of hope and help. The central protagonist is an endearing student named Alex whose developmental differences have framed him as an outcast. Footage of him on the bus tormented by other children and his anxiety about this daily ritual are a part of the most heartbreaking pieces of the film.
Bully attempts to show the complicated pain and consequences of bullying, and it does this well. But, there are many questions that this film does not answer about the psychological and social determinants that allow for bullying, or even what we as educators and community members can do to be part of the change. Watching the film, however, reminded me to think through some of my own beliefs around intervention, and I compiled a short list of what I feel are some important basic strategies:
- Educate. Talk to kids and teach them about what respectful behavior is and how to respond to negative behavior.
- Don’t be a bystander. If you see behaviour that looks questionable, share your concerns respectfully.
- Work to make yourself a safe person to talk to. If kids know you respect them and wish to listen, they are more likely to share their distress with you should it arise.
- Don’t be a bully yourself! Try to model the same kind of behaviour that you wish kids to emulate, and help create a warm positive environment.
All in all, Bully helped to start an important conversation that will hopefully continue as all those involved with young people work to support their health and happiness.