In the past two weeks there have been a series of teen boys who have committed suicide because they were bullied at school because their classmates believed that they were gay.
Their names were Seth Walsh, Justin Aaberg, Billy Lucas , and Asher Brown. We've also been shocked by the case of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers student who killed himself after being recorded in his dorm room with another man and then the video was broadcast across campus.
It's happened close by too. There's the case of Carl J. Walker-Hoover up in Springfield last year.
Studies show that students who are being bullied hear anti-gay slurs about 26 times a day. That's once every 14 minutes during the school day. Other research shows 31% of young people who identified as gay or lesbian had been threatened or injured.
Being bullied for being thought of as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered is nothing new. There are people who step up and stop it, but there are people who ignore it, dismiss it or blame the student who is being bullied. And when you have 50 cent on Twitter yesterday saying if your gay you should kill yourself, that just adds fuel to the fire and makes the bullies think they are right. They are not.
But there are resources out there for teens who are struggling with being bullied.
Trevor Project has a 24 hour hotline (866-4 U TREVOR or 866-488-7386) for teens to talk to someone who will listen and help them through the dark times. On their website they have signs of suicide, how to help someone, confidential chatrooms and more. They've been around for years and they do a great job.
There's an iPhone app called Bully Shield. It has good common sense advice for kids, parents and teachers.
And here's a grass roots effort. It's called the It Gets Better Project, and it's videos posted by people who lived through the bullying. It was started by advice columnist Dan Savage and his husband and it's only a couple weeks old and already there's dozens of videos there of people talking about all the things they would have missed of they had taken their lives.
So if you are being bullied for being different, hang in there. Find people who care and will help you because someone will help you. It does get better. I'm proof.