My name is Kevin Johnson, and I am a passionate and experienced education and curriculum leader with a demonstrated history of working in the academic industry. For nearly two decades, I have been a servant leader in higher education in various positions, including coordinator of multicultural affairs/ educational support services, academic and career advisor, college instructor, budget manager, grant writer, college guidance counselor, and a transition coach. I am the Founder/CEO at Strategic Minds and Associates, LLC, and a non-profit, YouBeThe1.Org.
I had the privilege to meet Mrs. Kristin Moriarty at a Bully-Proof Open Forum held at the Centerville Library in January 2019. I will be remised if I did not take a moment to thank her and the powers that be at Houston Home Journal (HHJ) to write a monthly column. I want to inform my readers and the community that I am a field advocate for the American Foundation for Suicide
Writing a column for HHJ and my own blog are not opportunities I take lightly, so I cannot express my gratitude for a platform that will allow me to share my passions, believing in people, loving unconditionally, and valuing those I encounter daily. YouBeThe1.Org is a non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization that was birthed from researching the field of traumatology and discovering the needs of my community. The organization’s mission is to eradicate the stigma of mental illness, bring awareness to the psychological effects of bullying, and to stop suicide. As I reflect over my life, my mission has never wavered from my desire to educate the masses and empower people with the intentions to inspire and motivate them to maximize their full potential in life and avoid being held captive by their past.
When Mrs. Moriarty and I met, the topic of interest was bullying, mental illness, and suicide prevention. In the Bully-Proof Open Forum, we discussed the importance of starting the conversation about tabooed issues such as mental illness, bullying, and the psychological effects that can lead to the risk of self-harm or death by suicide. Bullying is not a rite of passage, and every child must take that journey in life. The problem with this rite of passage is everyone does not survive the teasing, name-calling, rumors, physical abuse, threats, and intimidations. Many children endure with hopes of growing older and putting those memories behind them; however, the psychological effects of trauma not only get traps in memories, but trauma gets trapped in the body.
The American Psychological Association defines “trauma as an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster. Immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical – longer-term reactions including unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea.” Bullying is a form of complex post-traumatic stress disorder because children do not magically forget the words that cannot be unheard, punches that cannot be pulled back, and the intrusive thoughts that keep invading their minds and preventing them from living their best life ever. Contrary to popular belief, children do not grow out of the emotional, psychological, and physical pain, but they are left with invisible scars that are unseen by parents, guardians, educators, and community leaders.
The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development defines “bullying as “unwanted aggressive behavior by another person or group of people. There is always an actual or perceived power imbalance, and the aggression is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated.” Each day in America, 160,000 students miss school because they fear being bullied. The school was once believed to be a haven, and when the bully-survivor left school, safety could be found away from the halls and bathrooms in the school. Thanks to cyber-bullying, which includes social media, emails, and text messages, bully-survivors are harassed everywhere so now, there is no place for them to escape – there is no haven.
As I close each post, I will never leave the conversation without providing a recommendation, strategy, or a best practice to empower my reader. Bullying and suicide are preventable, and some of the best practices are quite simple. Children will never be able to avoid bullies or bullying behaviors, so they must become Bully-Proof.
- Parents must model appropriate behaviors at home by not allowing children to tease and fight one another, and parents must not bully children and they must not bully each other.
- Adults must respond quickly and consistently to bullying behaviors and send a firm message that it is not acceptable, and this can stop bullying behavior with time.
- Parents, school staff, and other adults in the community can help prevent bullying, depression, and suicide by talking about it.
- Children must be validated at home, empowered, and taught effective coping skills and assertiveness, so they can deescalate bullies and become resilient.
Until the next time, you be the one to make the difference by adding value to the lives of others.