Friday, September 14, 2012

Social Support: We Need Each Other to Thrive

In light of all the current media attention to bullying issues, it begs consideration about the well being of our society, on a very basic level. In an attempt at being hurtful (whether it be kids or adults engaging in it), we’re destroying the very thing we need – each other.

On one hand, we’re hurting one another, or in a worse case scenario, killing, such as the instance of Trayvon Martin, in our attempts at feeling superior in some way; yet on the other hand, we can’t survive with out each other, as friends, family, a community or society.

“We’re social creatures, and each one of us contributes to the larger picture. We need each other to thrive, not only in our daily endeavors, but also for the sake of our emotional and physical health” (“Social Connections,” Alive, 2010).  

Studies confirm that the greater our social support the lower our physical and mental health risks.

And according to Statistics Canada, Nearly two-thirds of those who felt a very strong or somewhat strong sense of community belonging reported excellent or very good general health. In contrast, only half of those with a very weak sense of belonging view their general health as favorable as those with a strong sense of community belonging.” 

So, if we need each other, why are we hurting each other?

Be it modeling negative behavior, wanting to fit in, feeling frustrated or angry and lacking a viable outlet, or any other reasons that many of us have heard about (or used), there’s always a justification. A more viable question might be about where we draw the line.

How do we go from being destructive, to kind and respectful to each other? That’s a big question that probably has many big answers to go with it. But any of us can start anywhere, at anytime, in tons of simple ways.

Some people live by the motto of “treat others the way you want to be treated.” Others enjoy the idea of “random acts of kindness.” The list goes on. Bottom line is that we are stronger together – collectively. “Having close relationships makes people feel valued, cared for, increases self-confidence…” ("Strong Communities," Healthy Living Magazine, Volume 7, Issue 3).

We’re more than just a FB page, or the recipient of a text or a tweet, taking up space somewhere.

John McKnight put it well when he said, “A community is commonly understood to be about relationships; it’s not a place. A neighborhood is a place, but community is about people’s relationships” (1990). Regardless of the venue – be it in person or online - we are a community, brought together by common goals.

We’re people, with real needs and feelings, not objects to ridicule and punish.

With the prevalence of issues like bullying, it’s time we exerted greater effort toward being a stronger network for each other, with more kindness, and less pain.

“As a society, we share the earth. Collectively we’re faced with issues, such as global warming, natural disasters, and the limited supply of our natural resources. In order to be successful in our collective goals, we need to be supportive of each other. We all have strengths and resources we can utilize to reduce the stress and chaos among us. We need to draw upon our strengths to contribute to the health of our society” (“Social Connections,” Alive, 2010).  

Related Links


1.Canadian Mental Health Association - Richmond, BC, Canada, “Maintaining Your Mental Health: Social Support,” 2009.

2. Statistics Canada, The Daily. “Study: Community Belonging and Self-perceived Health,” 2005.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Movie: “Bully”

Anderson had a young boy, Alex Libby, on his show today that was the target of bullying on his school bus (a situation my JK girl and I are also struggling with). And the beauty of this – if you can imagine any – is that it was recorded.

The daily experiences of Alex and four other students were recorded and made into a movie called “Bully.” According to ABC News, this movie covers the daily struggles that the five students faced – two of which committed suicide… Apparently it will be in theatres at the end of this week – the 30th.

If this seems like a plug for the movie, it’s because it absolutely is. This is such a prevalent issue, and it deserves all the attention and compassion in the world.

I hope “Bully” creates the awareness that the issue needs, so better strategies can be put in place in schools.

Anderson showed some clips of how bullying was being handled by some principles involved – making the victim of physical aggression shake hands with the bully, and reprimanding him because he didn’t show enough enthusiasm, but rather hesitation while doing so…indicating that he was hurting the bully and was now somehow just like him.

Another clip showed the principle referring to the bullying kids as golden during times she was on the bus, as if to discredit the parent’s complaints all together.

In some way I feel surprised and disappointed for the victims and parents. But simultaneously, I’m not surprised after having gone through similar problems.

Two weeks after I complained about the bullying conduct toward my daughter on the school bus, the driver gave her a slip (wrote her up for misconduct, instead of the bully), even though she went up to him with tears in her eyes, telling him the bully just kicked her.

And the principle suggested she might be lying, or that she was the one acting out on the bus because of my assumed reaction to her complaints of being bullied, even though I had witness feedback indicating otherwise.

So, the surprise here isn’t the bullying, but rather the lack of support while dealing with it, which sadly seems all to common, based on other parents I’ve talked to as well, who have experienced these situations too.

I guess that if the victims are blamed or somehow discredited (our principle saw my daughter upset once in her JK class…), they don’t have to deal with the bullying issue anymore. If the victims retreat back into their shells or are somehow silenced, the situation is resolved – goes away - for the authorities that are supposed to be dealing with it.

So, this movie seems to be coming out at a time when we desperately need it. Not only is it reflective of the prevalence of bullying and the impact it’s having on our kids, but also of how poorly the issue is being handled in our schools.

Hopefully, those involved with dealing with this issue - bullies, teachers, principles and others - will be forced to be more accountable (one can always wish…).

I’ve always believed that a little support can go a long way… And I truly hope so in this case. I hope “Bully” brings about the change that’s needed.

I haven’t been to a movie in a long time, and don’t usually feel the desire to do so, until now. I believe this would be money well spent…


Anderson show

ABC News

Neighborhood Watch Killing

What year is this? Because if you tell me it’s 2012, I might have a hard time believing it, based on what happened to 17-year-old boy, Trayvon Martin. Ironically, he was pursued and killed by a so-called neighborhood watch guy, George Zimmerman, in Florida recently.

My heart sank, as I watched the distraught parents of Trayvon on Anderson yesterday, struggling with what happened to their boy 25 days ago. Apparently, he was just walking home from a store, talking on his cell to his girlfriend, and minding his own business - not lurking, or carrying drugs (but rather, skittles, for his younger brother), or posing a threat to anyone…except this self-appointed watch guy.

Anderson played the recording of Zimmerman calling 911, giving the impression that somehow this young boy walking by was a threat. And against instructions, while carrying a gun, he pursued Trayvon and killed him. That boy must have been some threat... Or should I say the color of his skin was…

According to ABC News, the police missed Zimmerman possibly muttering “f**ing coons” under his breath during a 911 call. And the case is now being investigated further, as a possible hate crime, which is something the public has been pointing to all along. (Was it really the recording…or was it the public outrage about details such as this one that sparked the investigation?)

Zimmerman claimed self-defense, but apparently people nearby saw and heard otherwise. So, maybe it wasn’t as cut and dry as police initially treated it as – not taking this watch guy in, checking his history, doing toxicology tests, or much else - other than setting him FREE!

What’s wrong with this picture? You can just kill a teenager and go about your business?

On a positive note… There are flaws in this case. There was a lawyer on Anderson expressing issue with the fact that this man pursued the teen, while carrying a gun, and killed him. This has to stand for something, right? I certainly hope so.

In the meantime, my heart goes out to these parents, and their son, whose life was taken too early. And I hope this killer has to face up to what he’s really done, which isn’t protecting the neighborhood…but disgracing it and the rest of society.


Anderson show, March 21, 2012

ABC News