by Israel “Izzy” Kalman, MS, NCSP
Several years ago, a school nurse in a nearby city called me. A ten-year-old boy in the school had said he wanted to kill himself because kids were calling him “gay.” The school was considering following protocol for suicidal ideation and hospitalizing him for psychiatric observation, and the nurse wanted my opinion.
After ascertaining that he had no history of psychiatric problems and that he had been a top student prior to this current situation, I told the nurse that hospitalizing him would do nothing to stop him from being bullied and could be counterproductive to his emotional wellbeing. Imagine being taunted daily by your schoolmates and then sent by your school to a hospital as though you might have some kind of mental illness. I volunteered to work with him by phone free of charge and asked the nurse to get his parent’ permission.
The parents eagerly granted permission and I conducted a phone session with him the following day. I used my role-playing procedure to teach him that the real reason kids are relentlessly calling him gay is simply because he gets upset when they call him gay. He immediately stopped getting upset and the problem disappeared in a couple of days. I followed up for a few months. The boy went back to being a top student and the problem never recurred.
These results are typical. Almost every bullied child experiences similar results when treated by someone who has learned my methods.
Countless children are suffering from the same problem, with some tragically contemplating and even carrying out suicide. They do so even though they may be receiving counseling or therapy. The truth is that few mental health professionals know how to help kids that are bullied, and thus they believe that these children need to be protected by everyone around them. If the solution for bullied children lies in the hands of other people, they effectively have no solution.
I am profoundly gratified that Be Strong has recognized a better way to help bullied children, a way that provides them with the resilience and wisdom for solving their social problems on their own. With the leadership of Be Strong’s incredible staff, we will bring this simple solution to the schools of the world so that no child will suffer needlessly.
Israel “Izzy” Kalman is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist and Director of Bullies to Buddies, Inc. He has been helping children and schools tackle the problem of bullying for four decades.