Many support groups promote healing by allowing members to share painful experiences. But a group called the Bully Stompers at Moorhead High School has taken this idea one step further. The five students in the group are talking publicly about their experiences as victims of bullying to groups of younger students.
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12/29 Bully Stompers News Story Transcript
Many support groups promote healing by giving members a safe place to share painful experiences. But a group called the Bully Stompers at Moorhead High School has taken this idea one step further. The five students in the group are talking publicly about their experiences as victims of bullying to younger students.
Producer Meg Luther Lindholm has this story.
Narr: Being a teenager has never been easy. That’s often because the desire to fit in and be accepted socially is so strong. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder then it can feel impossible to ever be good enough to make the grade. And for kids who are bullied, the hurt of rejection can be intolerable.
HI I'm Chris..
Narr: Chris is a bright, friendly 16 year old. He comes across as comfortable with himself and others. But like most kids who are severely bullied, Chris, suffered a lot – especially in middle school.
Chris: I was always tormented because of my height and my weight and i'm not the skinniest person i'm not the tallest person and for some odd reason people found that easy to get after me for.
Narr: Chris responded to the bullying like many others. He began to withdraw and turn the bullying against himself. His shame kept him from confiding in anyone else.
Chris: Every single day I said I was fine. I came to school with the brave face and said yeah nothing's bothering me, which made my depression even worse and pushed me further and further into the deep hole.
Narr: The results of the most recent youth risk behavior survey in North Dakota paint a bleak picture. 25 percent of all high school students surveyed said they had felt extremely sad or hopeless for two weeks or longer in the past year. 25 percent of those surveyed also said they had been bullied at school. According to NDSU psychology professor Wendy Troop Gordon it’s hard to know what the correlation is between bullying and severe depression or suicide. But she says thoughts of suicide often occur when a young person sees no way to change the situation and no one to turn to for help.
WTG: What we know is that the pain of peer rejection is so great and when there’s no sense that there’s going to be any way out. And the humiliation that comes with peer victimization. There’s a sense of being worthless. That’s going to lead to a general sense of what other choices do I have?
Narr: Three of the five Bully Stompers contemplated suicide as potentially the best way out of their pain. But someone came along who made a difference. That was their school counselor Scott Matheson. He empathized and offered his unconditional support. And over time he helped them form into the Bully Stompers – to support each other and educate younger kids. Brittany says speaking personally and publicly about the pain of bullying is the best way to help others feel less alone.
Brittany: When you're bullied you feel like you're the only one who's going through it. You don't really look at how many other people are walking down the hallway with their head down like you are. Just knowing that the older kids go through the same things. Even though they went through it they're ok. you don't have to give up.
Narr: Counselor Scott Matheson says the power of the presentations is in this power of connection.
SM: By using peer mentors to share personal stories - others who hear say if this person can do it i can find courage to do it too.
Narr: Life for teens – even in the worst situations can get better. That is the moral of each student’s story says counselor Scott Matheson.
SM: There's always a light at end of tunnel. It’s a painful time - we adults minimize - but we have to emphasize that if you take these steps if you continue to get the help and reach out it will get better you will get through it and there's always hope.
Narr: if you’re an educator interested in starting a Bully Stompers group at your school you can send a note of interest to email@example.com. Put Bully Stompers in the subject line. For Prairie Public I’m Meg Luther Lindholm.