He was eleven, she was twelve. Different cities, but the same hell. Similar words written in letters left to the parents before jumping into the void; “I hope you’ll forgive me someday” wrote Diego, a Spanish boy died several months ago, but whose story was told only lately. “I’m sorry” was instead the legacy left by a girl who tried to kill herself, jumping from the balcony of her flat in Pordenone, Italy. The same desire, to jump into nothingness, to go from the asphalt to Heaven in a few seconds, without even hearing the “crack” of crushed bones blood nor feel the blood making its way into their mouth. They preferred the oblivion of death to the awareness of a life that was too difficult to deal with. Fear of going back to school made its way through their bowels every single day God grants to the Earth. “I can’t go back there and there’s no other way I can avoid it,” were Diego’s last words; “I hope you’re happy now,” were the words his Italian peer ideally said to her classmates.
There, in the classrooms, under the unaware gaze of the teachers, took place their daily torment: laughter, scoffs, mockery, perhaps even beatings. And a creeping threat “not to talk or there’ll be trouble.” An insult to innocence. Because bullying is a crime that takes no prisoners, it kills the spirit – and way too often also the body – from all sides.
“It is a complex phenomenon and it is difficult to get accurate data on suicides that are referable to it – Professor Anna Maria Giannini, Professor of Psychology at the University of Rome La Sapienza explains Interris.it – because behind some cases there is bullying , but we never find it out. Besides, it depends on the kind of persecution and on the effects it produces. “There is just one certainty: the consequences suffered by the victims who are entrenched in a deafening silence and do not communicate their discomfort even to their parents. “If they choose to commit suicide, it is because they see no alternatives – the teacher said -. They are ashamed of talking about it even to their loved ones. It is part of a complicated mechanism which the formation of their mothers and fathers is crucial. They must pay attention to sharp changes, especially when they see that their children do not want to go to school.”
But who is the bully and why does he act this way? “Often children are fragile and insecure and they transform their low self-esteem into use of force. They are problematic and far from being brave. “But this should not be an excuse because “the true victims are those who are exposed to violence, who are afraid to go out, live in anguish, and suffer from sleep disorders. They are the ones who need to be protected. “Protected, helped to get out of the tunnel, open up and denounce in order to avoid a vicious circle which is difficult break. Childhood and pre-adolescence, after all, are crucial moments in the life of a person, characterized by mood swings and great emotionality.
And it is no coincidence that the cases of youth suicide have increased over the last years. This worrying trend is influenced by many factors. “Serious depressions, existential angst… There are many reasons that can push a child to kill him/herself – stresses Professor Giannini -. In many cases it is also difficult to identify the root cause. The child is in the grip of a pain (s)he cannot overcome. (S)he cannot ask for help. Sometimes, before taking their own life, they leave a message that shows what has pushed them. But often this is not the case and many parents – especially when the child has decided, for example, to jump under a train – do not accept the hypothesis of suicide. They prefer to think that it was an accident.”
To kill themselves, children do not follow any specific score, they use what is available to them. In short, there is no method of suicide children use more frequently. “An adult who has a weapon at hand will use it in most cases. A doctor or a nurse who has access to drugs and know their effects, normally opt for poisoning. But children do not have these options, so they decide to hang themselves, jump out of the window or on the tracks.”
Parents role is of utter importance in avoiding such tragedies. “They have to grasp every change, obviously when it falls out of the adolescence standard variations. For example, if they do not hang out with their old friends, it may be a signal. I am, however, aware that, in the age of the network, it is not easy to have full cognizance of our children’s life. Especially if on the Web they come into contact with shady characters or people intent to enticing”.
According to experts, today’s teenagers are confronted with a society undergoing a crisis of values and follow plastic models – from athletes to soubrettes and reality show stars – that preach the achievement of maximum results with minimum effort. From an early age they are thrown into realities where there is very little room for listening, where the media and social networks replace gradually vanishing parental figures. And a “no” pronounced by Mom and Dad as an answer to a request or desire is no longer perceived as having an educational purpose (as our grandparents used to say, “It’s easier to say no than yes”), but as a personal defeat. Maybe because a peer has got what (s)he wanted. Their sense of inadequacy and isolation from the social context become a chasm that grows deeper every day. “Do not be sad,” was Pope Francis’ for young people. An invitation to face life, to not succumb to adversity. After all, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Just follow it.