In middle school, multiple times every year, we would have all-school assemblies about bullying. I would have to sit and listen to some random person talk. I was always annoyed at how boring these assemblies were. I thought that bullying wasn’t actually a relevant topic. Sitting criss-cross applesauce on a cold gymnasium floor was not how any of us children wanted to spend a school day. Often in these assemblies I would get in trouble for talking to friends or laughing at the speaker, not because I thought bullying was funny but because I believed it didn’t matter.
My freshman year in high school I made many new friends that I had not gone to middle school with. One of these people became my best friend. We met in our High Honors Integrated Science course, and we became fast friends. We constantly got in trouble in any class we had together. We talked, we cracked jokes. We shared a love for sarcasm, makeup, and boys which keeps many teenage girls close. I never saw her without a smile on her face, except when one of her hamsters died.
But then in the fall of my sophomore year, my heart was broken. One day in school, I found out that my best friend had taken her life the night before. A mutual friend texted me saying she had to tell me something important, but I never expected that’s what she would tell me. I was in such a state of shock that I was not crying yet. I called my mom, and when she picked up I blurted out the news. At first she didn’t believe me, she thought my friend and I were playing a joke on her. Once she realized I was serious, she said she would pick me up. While I waited, the school provided a room for all of my best friend’s friends who needed emotional support. It was overflowing. I sat in the room with all of her other friends, and while others cried into each other’s arms, we were asked by the staff to write down some of our favorite memories of our friend. As I started to write my memories I became confused: Why did she do it? I was angry: Why hadn’t she told me she was struggling?
Two weeks later I learned that she had been bullied. This was the first encounter I actually had with bullying. Once again, I was confused and angry, but now at the people she had named in her letter for the way they treated her. Then and even now I ask myself how could someone treat another person like that?
There was talk of an assembly about bullying and about my friend, but it never happened. Many of her friends, including me, were confused and almost outraged. It felt like she was being silenced.
From then on I have tried to speak up about bullying whenever I can. In August 2019 I danced in a fundraiser called Dance 4 Peace put on by a local community organization, that summer the theme was Suicide Prevention in honor of my friend. I post constantly on social media about mental health importance and contribute my own money to any anti-bullying campaign I see. If we only speak up about it when something happens, it’s too late. I hope more kids today realize how real and present bullying is today, because I didn’t.
© Savannah Cameron. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.