Bullying is everywhere, but it thrives in schools. It feeds on youths and their self-conscious nature, lack of identity and sensitive emotions and hormones. Bullying is a hungry monster, and we can’t starve it forever, but maybe we can stop feeding it. Maybe we can make it go hungry, for just a little while.

Friends, if someone tells you they’re being bullied, take it seriously. Too many people just brush it off or tell the person being bullied to toughen up. Ask the person for the details. What happened? What did the bully say or do? Who is the bully? How long has this been going on? These are important details needed for action to be taken and the problem to be solved.

Adults, you are the authority, the role model and the savior in a bullying situation. Don’t ignore it. Ask questions and take action. If you don’t, no one can and no one will. You have a responsibility to the youth in this community to help them in their times of need.

I know that sometimes there isn’t enough time or authority to do something about the bully, but there is always a way to help the one being bullied. Keep an eye out for that person in the halls, in the lunchroom and, depending on the severity of the situation, encourage him or her to meet with the guidance counselor.

The most important thing for you to do is comfort a person who is being bullied. Be the person that he or she can talk to — and feel comfortable talking to. If the bully’s target doesn’t speak up, then bullying wins. And we cannot allow that to happen.

Also, as adults, set an example. Show younger people that it’s not OK to bully others. Stay positive. Encourage others, don’t bring them down.

Students, if you are bullied, tell someone. It doesn’t matter who that person is. Tell the person who is bullying you to stop. And if you can’t do that, don’t be afraid to tell someone else. Tell an adult — a parent, a teacher, a principal, anyone who can help. Or tell a friend who can go to an adult along with you if you’re too nervous to go alone. It’s OK. You don’t have to just live with it. And you shouldn’t have to. And hopefully you won’t.

Bullying doesn’t just hurt feelings. It can traumatize the victims. That monster can change how someone sees other people and, more important, themselves. Sometimes people don’t realize how much emotional and physical bullying can hurt, even if the bullying doesn’t last for an extended period.

As adolescents, how our peers feel about us is a huge part of our self-esteem. So if someone hears negative things, especially from a friend or someone they know, then they start to view themselves negatively, even if only for a second. Every second that they doubt themselves is one second too long.

So let’s all work together, as a community, to stop the bullying monster. All it does is destroy, so all we need to do is build. Don’t fuel its fire. Let’s stop it in its tracks or, better yet, push it back.

Perrin Dean is a senior at Willsonville High School. She is contributing a regular column to the Spokesman this school year.

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