Bullying: A story of struggle and triumph

Shyann and Mia Harris share wisdom and advice: How to stand up to bullies

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Bullying: A story of struggle and triumph

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During our elementary, middle and early high school years, it was difficult for my sister Mia and me. Although we are kind-hearted, quiet girls (and maybe because we are kind-hearted, quiet girls), we got pushed around, bullied, and called names. And, yes, it has even happened here.

Being bullied can do a lot of negative things to you — things that some people might not even notice. I have experienced depression, loneliness, a sense that no one cares, and even thoughts of suicide.  I felt – and I know my sister felt this — devastated that the bullies thought this behavior was okay, that they thought they could take advantage of us.  However, after a couple of years of constant bullying, we started to stand up for ourselves.   There was another factor in our decision: Several people very close to us were going through the same experience; they were getting bullied and expressing feelings of wanting to stop living. Mia and I realized that we needed to join forces, take risks, and not only take bullying seriously, but also force others to confront the reality of bullying. It takes conversations with many adults in order to feel empowered and see a change. We still struggle, but not as much.

Standing up to the bully is the hardest thing to do because they could gather their people and create a force against you…when all you are really trying to do is to get through school.  But you must stand up.

In one study in which students in schools in New York state were surveyed, the results were clear: Victims of bullies, along with those who bully, are at risk of depression, thoughts of suicide, and suicide.  (“Bullying, Depression, and Suicidality in Adolescents,” Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, January 2007.)  Although this study is 11 years old, the results have been confirmed by other studies, here and abroad. (See “Bullying Statistics: Anti-Bullying Help, Facts, and More” online).

One of our close friends took his life away because of bullying. Hearing what we heard sent shocks and tingles through our bodies; it was so horrifying to hear about a young, sweet boy dying. Our friend had seemed as if he were happy, but we now know firsthand that looks can be deceiving. We started to wonder: Were there dark feelings that he had hid from the people close to him? Was he just too afraid to say anything?  Was he afraid he would get called a ‘snitch’ for telling authorities that he had been getting bullied?

From our own experience, we have some tips to share for fending off bullies.

  1. First, do the right thing. If your friends are not doing the right thing, then do not follow your friends.
  2. Know that when you make a careless remark, you may not be considering how someone is feeling at that moment. For a person who is already going through a lot, it could take only take so much before they explode. You may see people who tend to smile, but you never know whether they are hiding tears or hurting badly on the inside.
  3. Do not engage in intimidating someone, even if your friend tells you to do so. This intimidation could be the trigger for someone hurting themselves or actually committing suicide.

How can we help make everyone feel welcome and discourage bullying? We have some tips on this as well:

* Use friendly gestures. The slightest things can make a person happy.

* Never be rude.

*Don’t exclude people.

* If you see a someone crying or upset, go up to them, and try to make them feel better. Let them know they’re not alone.

* If you see a kid sitting alone in the lunchroom, offer to have that person sit with you.

* Never judge someone based on their race, disabilities, or appearances.

* If you do not know the full story, do not say any of it. As students, we suggest that teachers listen carefully to talk of bullying and take it seriously. It is time to take a stand in society.  No young person should ever feel afraid to come to school because they’re getting bullied.

* Be a leader. Do not watch people getting bullied. Say something.

* There is a reason each one of us is alive, so never tell a person they should harm themselves.

Always stand up for what is right. You may get the chance to save someone’s life.

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