You Have the Power! (Bullying and Suicide Prevention) By Wendy JO Bradshaw
Many of us have seen first-hand how the bullying epidemic has led to an increase in youth suicide rates. Here in the United States, suicide is now the second leading cause of death in youth ages 15 to 24, according to new data released by the National Center of Health Statistics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. LGBTQ+ youth are especially vulnerable.
According to Reuters Health, one in four pre-teen suicides may be LGBT youth. “Suicide is not caused because of their LGBT identity, but rather by how the world reacts to their identity,” said John Ayers, a researcher at the University of California, San Diego who wasn’t involved in the study.
It’s not only the at risk kids who are bullied, that are vulnerable. Increasing numbers of Veterans and adults of all ages and ethnicities are also at risk. No one is immune from its repercussions! I have witnessed relatives and friends lose their loved ones to this tragedy, and almost lost my own mother to depression and suicide. That’s why I decided to use my talents as an author and songwriter, to do something about bullying and suicide prevention.
“For Everyone Who Has Ever Felt Like They Didn’t Matter or Belong”
Because of my own childhood and life experiences, I am able to help my family, and other kids and parents navigate some of these difficult issues.
When my 6th grade granddaughter came out as bisexual at school, she was bullied for it. My daughters and I raised our families to be inclusive and to respect diversity, which is why my 12 year old granddaughter felt safe to “come out as bisexual” to one of her friends. That friend then told other girls at school, and they all cornered her on the playground, bullying her viciously. The girls did not face any consequences for their actions. Instead, they carried their bullying behavior into Junior High School, enlisting other students to join in their cruelty. Neither the schools nor the parents put an end to the bullying.
That wasn’t the first time she was bullied, either. When my granddaughter was in early elementary school she had a love of singing, and was blessed with an exceptionally beautiful voice at a very young age. I was so happy because she shared my love of singing and songwriting! I vividly remember the first time she sang a song for me that she’d been working on. It was so incredibly beautiful that it brought tears to my eyes.
Sadly to say, her love of singing didn’t last long. After a sleepover, when a couple of girls found out about her singing abilities, they became jealous and started bullying her. That same week I went to visit her so I could hear her new song, but she had lost her voice. She could barely speak. I thought it was a virus and that she would soon be well, but after 6 months, she still could not sing. That’s when I realized it was a symptom of a deeper problem and talked with her about it. I reminded her that she was blessed with a great gift, and not to let the petty behavior of others rob her of her dreams. We discussed famous singers who had faced similar bullying, including Lady Gaga, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, Christina Aguilera, Rihanna, and Britney Spears, but my granddaughter said she didn’t want to face bullying for doing something she loved. Her mind was made up no matter what I said. She had given up her dream of being a singer or songwriter. I was heartbroken for her and hoped that she would find her voice again eventually.
These events started my granddaughter on a downward spiral of anxiety, PTSD, and depression. At times, accumulated Dis-Ease and depression led her to feel self-destructive, even to the extent of thinking about taking her own life. Despite the efforts of her mother and I in talking to school administrators, nothing was done to stop the bullies. Unfortunately, because of serious threats, my granddaughter decided it was time to fight back. As a result of the minor altercation that ensued, the school suspended both girls; however, we understood why she felt that she had to take things into her own hands. We weren’t upset at her; we were proud of her for standing up for herself.
Because of the bullying in school, my daughter thought it safer to homeschool my granddaughter. She also decided to limit her contact with social media where the bombardment of negative voices, ratings, and cyberbullying lowered her self-esteem. Thankfully my granddaughter has the support of her mom, her grandmother and my wife, her step-grandmother, as well as her own strong will, and she is learning to cope and thrive.
It was because of the destructive effects of bullying by peers, politicians and even some church leaders, that I was compelled to help my granddaughter and others like her. It is my firmly held belief that all kids need to learn resilience, social skills, and to use the power of their voice in dealing with bullying and peer-pressure. As an LGBTQ+ person and a cancer survivor, I felt the need to share how I healed myself from my own Dis-Ease so that I might help others learn how to heal.
I understand what it feels like to face bigotry, to be shunned and excluded so that fearful and uninformed people can be made to feel more comfortable. My healing began with forgiving myself and others, and honoring my authentic self. There’s nothing more important than being true to yourself and expressing that truth through the power of your voice!
After much research and study, I focused my attention and talents on writing and publishing a middle grade children’s book titled A Very Important Power-Vippi Mouse Treasure Quests by Wild West Wendy Jo. It’s an illustrated chapter book about bullying prevention, diversity, inclusion, gender expression, and gender equality. In addition, I wrote an original song You Have The Power, to accompany the story all of which are designed to help kids realize the power of their voice, their choices, and to know that they have the power to solve almost any problem – including being bullied. Chapters of the book are dedicated to helping bystanders become Upstanders in bullying prevention, and it addresses bullies, as well! Research has found that kids and peers have the most power and influence in bullying prevention.
You Have the Power to help!
I took action by becoming certified in Bullying Prevention by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Suicide Prevention Gatekeeper Program at the QPR Institute and attended the Lifeguard Workshop from the Trevor Project. You can access these Continuing Ed courses and other resources in the list below.
As a children’s book author, I also give presentations to schools and at special events with the help of my grandchildren, and mascot, Vippi Mouse. Vippi is a life-sized, yellow and blue mouse who is a VIP Investigator and Treasure Hunting Navigator. Vippi inspires children to discover the most valuable treasures in the universe – THEMSELVES, the treasure that is greater than gold! Our mission and motto at vippimouse.com is “Helping Kids See They Are a Treasured VIP!”
After growing up all over the Wild West of the United States, I now live along the Rocky Mountains, very near my two daughters and nine grandchildren, with my wife and two little Dachshunds named Oakley and Jackpot.
As the mom and grandma of my own large, diverse, LGBTQ+ family, I’m here to help give kids and their families hope, healing, hugs, and the reminder that the most valuable treasures in the universe – like compassion, self-esteem and happiness – most often come from the most difficult and trying experiences.
“When you hit rock bottom, remember, bedrock is where you find the gold!” – Wild West Wendy Jo
- The Trevor Project Lifeguard Workshop (LGBTQ+) (Free)
- QPR Institute Suicide Prevention Gatekeeper Program (Nominal fee)
CRISIS HOTLINE IN UNITED STATES
- Trevor Project Hotline (LGBTQ+) 1-866-488-7386
- Veteran’s Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255-(Press 1) or Text 838255
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention 1-800-273-(TALK) 8255
- (At this time, a National 3-Digit Suicide Hotline is being proposed)
APPS (App store & Google Play)
- SafeUT For Students attending Utah Schools – SafeUT Crisis and Tip Line App (App Store & Google Play)
About the Author
Wendy Jo Bradshaw is a Nammy (Native American Music Awards) Nominated, singer, songwriter, recording artist and author of VIPPI MOUSE books and music for children. She loves being a mother, grandmother and serial entrepreneur. Wendy has founded, operated, and sold several successful businesses including a commercial recording studio. She is currently the Chief Creative Officer at her company, ThunderSky Media LLC/Vippi Mouse, and she is also a licensed real estate professional.
Wendy is certified in Bullying Prevention by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Suicide Prevention Gatekeeper Program at the QPR Institute and attended the Lifeguard Workshop from the Trevor Project. She is an advocate and activist for the LGBTQ+ community.
Wendy’s current projects include the development of creative content for the Vippi Mouse Treasure Quests series. She also recently published and recorded an original song You Have the Power, to accompany her new kid’s book about diversity and bullying prevention titled A Very Important Power.
Vippi Mouse, the main character in Wendy’s Treasure Quest Series, exists to inspire children to discover the most valuable treasures in the universe – THEMSELVES, the treasure that is greater than gold!