Tom Cruise, Lady Gaga and You? Time to stop bullying…on this day

Student with anti-bullying sign (AP Images)
A Florida student holds a sign at a fundraiser for the family of a fellow student who committed suicide because of bullying. (AP Images)

Young Sandra Bullock was bullied for her unfashionable clothes and her lisp. Tom Cruise was bullied for his height and dyslexia. And Lady Gaga was bullied so much that she “didn’t even want to go to school sometimes.” The next person bullied could be you. It might even happen online. The sponsors of National Stop Bullying Day on October 8 want to stop the problem.

Once seen as a “rite of passage,” bullying is now known to cause loss of self-esteem, increased anxiety and depression. In severe cases it has even led to suicide. People can be bullied for how they look, their sexual orientation, their ethnicity or religion – anything that makes them somehow different from the majority. With the spread of the Internet, “cyberbullies” even pursue their victims online.

Nearly 60 percent of bullying incidents end when a peer intervenes. But all too often bystanders either urge the bully on or do nothing, reinforcing victims’ perception that no one cares.

A number of advocacy groups have developed school and local community-based programs to combat bullying through education and support. One, Hey U.G.L.Y. (Unique Gifted Lovable You), recruits celebrities to speak at schools about their experiences with bullying and offers online resources for anyone seeking support.

Young people are at the forefront of the anti-bullying movement. As one student-led program puts it:  “We will be the generation that says, ‘This is our issue and we will be the solution.’”