Bullying is a form of abuse and occurs more often than we realize.
“You never know what someone else is going through. Dealing with an illness is really tough without people being mean”.
This is something we hear time and time again from our Wish Kids. According to the PACER Center, children facing life-altering situations or a life-threatening illness are two to three times more likely to be bullied.
Bullying takes on many different forms ranging from physical attacks to verbal assaults or making fun of someone. It can be indirect: spreading nasty rumors, exclusion from social groups and cyber bullying. Today, we are looking at verbal assaults.
Often, children don’t realize they are being bullied by a new friend, when in fact their “new friend” is making fun of them. As an organization working with kids who are dealing with illnesses, abuse and homelessness, we hear and see how bullying affects them. Not only does it impact’s a child’s ability to learn, but children who are bullied often experience anxiety, depression, stomach pains, and headaches. They can have a loss in appetite and problems sleeping.
Take our Wish Kid John, for example. He was a healthy young man until his junior year of high school when he was diagnosed with an auto immune disease called idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP). This chronic and life-threatening disorder causes easy and excessive bruising and bleeding resulting from low levels of cells that help blood clot. John immediately started IVIG treatments that contained concentrated antibodies, plasma and steroids. He was an active varsity wrestler but was suddenly forced to quit due to his illness.
Once back in school, John had difficulty explaining his illness to his friends. The medication he took to control ITP had adverse side effects on his appearance. It caused him to gain a significant amount weight and develop acne. The “bullying” began when he came under fire from his former friends and teammates. They started teasing him about his weight and stretch marks, saying mean and hurtful things to him in a “joking” fashion.
John shared with us his sensitivity to the changes in his body and the fatigue caused by his medication. He said he did his best to ignore their teasing and just let it happen, though it was very hurtful and made him want to quit as manager of his wrestling team. When asked “what would you say to kids about your experience”, he replied “You never know what someone else is going through. Dealing with an illness is really tough without people being mean”.
Our hope is to help people understand how children dealing with adversity feel about being bullied. Children often think that kids with illnesses are not the same as them, when in fact they are; they have the same feelings of wanting to belong, being liked and having friends.
Please join us in working towards a positive change in ending bullying. By taking a stand together, we can make a difference.
Check back with us next month as we share another Wish Kid’s experience with bullying.