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March 11th, 2010 by Dr. Phil

Teens under Pressure

prayIf there’s one thing I can count on when Maggie The Wonder Dog and I come in to the studio each day, it’s that my inbox is going to be jammed with thousands of  e-mails about parenting. I get questions about curfews, discipline, tantrums — you name it. I take all of your issues seriously, but I’m especially concerned when I get letters from parents who fear that their child is on the brink of taking his or her life.

As much as we hate to think about our loved ones choosing this tragic behavior, death by suicide is on the rise. In fact, it’s the third leading cause of death among teens. Sixty percent of teens say they’ve thought about it, and nine percent of high schoolers admit that they have attempted it at least once. I’m convinced that so many teens today are under great pressure — pressure to succeed, pressure to get the best grades, pressure to be accepted to a “name brand” college — and too many of them are burning out and making self-destructive decisions.

As a father myself, I know you are asking: How do you know if your son or daughter is at risk? Friday on Dr. Phil, we had a candid discussion about the challenges our kids face and the warning signs to look for, and most importantly, the Dos and Don’ts of how to have a responsible and ongoing dialogue with your teen.  A dialogue you need to have with a peace of mind that you aren’t going to be “suggesting” a dark avenue by bringing it up.

We’ll also show clips from the documentary Race to Nowhere, which features stories of young people, parents and educators from across the country who have either closely witnessed or experienced the adverse effects of teens constantly being under pressure.

Listen, I don’t want to scare you into thinking your child could be the next victim, but forewarned is forearmed. You need to be plugged in to your child’s behavior. I want this show to be a helpful wake-up call, so much so that I’ve made it available online.

If a friend or loved one is talking about or planning to take his or her life, reach out for help now. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-TALK (8255) or go to DrPhil.com for more resources and suggestions).

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105 Responses to “Teens under Pressure”

  1. sally says:

    I understand and agree that teens now are under a far greater pressure to succeed than when I was a kid, and school curriculums have been advanced in order to compete with our international students. Add this to the growing number of kids with ADHD and you have a disaster waiting to happen. My youngest son is 13 and has ADHD, but I havr recently been diagnosed woth bipolar disorder type 2, and wonder whether or not my son’s situation is a mood disorder as opposed to ADHD. I have given up on “pressurized” scholastics, as 2 years ago Matt was talking about wanting to die, was teased by other kids, doesn’t have a relationship with his father , who left when he was 21/2 because he is gay. I know what it’s like to be in that miry pit of death dreams. What can I do to ensure that Matt gets the help he needs, without alienating him (my battle with the inept teacher turned Matt’s school life upside down and so I stopped my vigilance) Are there any surefire ways to determine the difference between these mental health diagnoses?
    Dr. Phil I am battling for my health, and Matt’s health and I really don’t know why it has to be so hard.

  2. Candace Mitchell says:

    I have always cringed over the competition instilled in children by parents, sports programs, and schools. I feel like an “oddball” for believing and acting on my beliefs that our children need to be nurtured toward their ability to make a better world, a world of cooperation, not competition and violence.
    I am a fan of an enlightened thinker named Alfie Kohn. He has written numerous articles and books regarding the effects of creating competitive children. He discusses at length our schools’ part in this deliberate process, and in the professionals’ surprise at the mean, violent, desperate results. Kohn also writes extensively about the ineffective scholastic pressure of excessive, meaningless homework in “The Homework Myth.”
    I have an 18-year-old son who rejected his public school education and who is now thriving within an alternative program. Last spring and summer were very scary times – he was depressed and suicidal. We sought professional help; anti-depressants were nightmarish, made everything worse, and he rejected that course of treatment. The path that has been most effective in relieving his depression and desperation was to support him and take seriously his feelings, and to simply get him out of the public high school, finding a different path to his diploma. It turns out that he is a happy, vibrant, brilliant, interesting young adult, enjoying schooling in his chosen field (computer networking) and is finding his way toward a rewarding adult life.
    My 12-year-old sixth grader daughter is dealing with mean-girl syndrome at school and the seeming inability of the professionals there to modify this behavior or even to protect children from it. I do believe they have created it by sending mixed messages. In the early grades, “we are all friends. Let’s cooperate.” But the underlying message is always one of competition. By fourth grade there is no longer any pretense of cooperative learning – all is competitive.
    My daughter needs to talk to me a lot every day after school about what she has dealt with during the school day. I am extremely proud of her handling the most destructive peer pressure,and her willingness to let go of the “friends” who try hard to change her, sexualize her, and bully her. I am proud of her for recognizing bad behavior and for trying to protect the kids who have disabilities and are taunted.
    As far as teen pressure goes, I believe you reap what you sow. Our society has sown seeds of competitiveness rather than cooperation. We are turning out bullies and self-centered young adults.

  3. Erik Jurado says:

    This topic has been on my mind for the past few weeks…

    I had re-acquainted a friendship from years ago and directed my friend to a web site that has some of my songs. She listened to my song that had no lyrics at the time called, “What Happened, Son?” (re-titled from an earlier song, “Son” to get listener’s curiosity.) She responded by telling me how it brought tears to her eyes because the music reminded her of her son’s suicide a little over a year earlier. I felt so bad about that. I gave the song to her – despite the fact that I had been working on it for two months – and told her she could use any lyrics she wanted that related to the incident.

    She gave me a poem that she made after the tragic event. The poem was a re-enactment of what he may have been going through. She based it on collected notes from his notebooks, info from his myspace site, the final suicide note, and info she got while investigating the hotel crime scene. I paraphrase the poem in the song. I was a ghost after laying some of the vocal tracks. I felt so bad for the kid. When I spoke the words, I felt connected to him. I surrendered my music piece that I had been working on for so long to make a song that spoke the final thoughts of a kid who commits suicide. I felt so bad for the mother, and now the kid… I didn’t know what I had got myself into.

    After a couple of days with this running through my mind, I somehow came to terms with the situation. I wanted to do what I possibly could to make the situation better, I realized that his mother put herself through the same thing piecing together the info… she didn’t want her son to have to go through those final thoughts alone. I don’t feel what I felt when I was first laying the vocal track of the song… I feel like I am there with him or in him… to the end when he states GOODBYE. I did a re-entry into the song (music is done with imagination, so go with me on this) and I put in nice goodbye to him from his family and friends… so I feel I was able to ease the tension of the song a bit.

    I do feel a connection to him and his family in regards to the tragedy after going through this. I am not bothered by any words in the song… there is no violence mentioned (although the music tells the darker side.)

    I always thought that not thinking about a subject made you feel better, but after this, I know I made the right decision with my song. Now I believe it’s more heartbreaking to NOT try to understand the person’s plight.

    If you would like to hear the song, listen at:
    UNSIGNEDBANDWEB: http://www.unsignedbandweb.com/music/bands/14204/
    or MY WEB SITE: http://web.me.com/edjgraphix/EDJ_GRAPHIX/HOME.html

    Thanks for reading and sorry it’s so long!

    Erik Jurado

    “My beautiful son, age 19, committed suicide 11/22/08. I’m posting his suicide note & other notes in the hopes this may help someone else. If you’re in the depths of despair, please tell someone, ANYONE. There is help! 1-800-SUICIDE.” – April Kubachka

  4. Julie says:

    Frankly, I recall being swept up by the same pressure of achievement as today’s kids when I was a teen and I’m in my 60’s. Two big differences are that everything is so instant today through technology and privacy isn’t what it used to be. It’s a balancing act. My kids (six of them) were permitted to make their own choices with “just enough” guidance from family. There were plenty of challenges but nothing dramatic ~ at least we didn’t react dramatically; we had considerable confidence in our children and spent as much family time as possible with them. We always had an eye on what they were doing ~ a REALLY BIG EYE but not overbearing. Each child has a limit to what they can handle but they get their clues from US about what is important. So in my opinion it’s best to focus on each individual rather than overall approaches to child rearing. There are no magic bullets. A great recent book on this subject is called “Nurture Shock” ~ read about all your mistakes after the fact! We can never be perfect so take it easy. All our kids turned out just fine despite the ups and downs. One downer was our youngest son was diagnosed with ADHD at 14 but 10 years later we learn that instead, he’s VERY GIFTED. We were pretty distressed about the ADHD mislabeling and the emotional turmoil it created for him. Fortunately, we refused to give him any drugs. We always bent over backwards to help him discover himself by developing his talents, supporting his wishes and dreams and accepting him completely. His giftedness probably did indeed create learning problems which were helped along by the ADHD designation but that didn’t make it a good diagnosis. The DSM-IV is finally being updated but I’m sure the symptoms for ADD, ADHD, bi-polar, etc will be just as vague as before. I no longer trust such diagnoses. I use my common sense and do the research myself. Heck, medicine was using leaches not too long ago too and they were supposed to be helpful. Psychologists and psychiatrists cannot be perfectly accurate so we have a big responsibility as parents too. They do what they can with what they have. It’s really not an exact science. Be loving and supportive and above all, careful how you apply pressure. Our family learned breathing and yoga (among other things)which helps to keep everyone calm and focused. It was great fun too. Don’t concentrate on the diagnoses and just relax. People always get where they’re going whether they worry about it or not.

  5. John says:

    Dr. Phil,
    I have experienced quite a lot of dramas with Kids, though I think I should give a brief background.

    About 12 years ago I met a New Zealand woman on the internet, I moved to New Zealand where this lady and I got married, and I became an instant father to 4 kids ages 3 to 10.

    I willfully admit that I am no stand up example of how to be a “good” father.

    Towards that end you have been a beacon to follow in this regard.
    Our eldest has congenital heart defect (4 open heart surgeries) he is now 22.
    The next eldest our daughter now 20, always stated openly that she wished she was an only child and displayed extreme jealousy if I or my X wife showed any affection towards any of the other kids.

    This Girl when she reached 16 ran away from home and had her first child when she was only 17.

    My deepest concern now is that our 14 year old is starting to display a trend towards the same path.

    My Xwife the childrens mother, got together with a young man who is younger then our oldest son who she still lives with. Then she packed up with this guy with no warning and moved to the other end of the coutry, leaving the three youngest in the care of our eldest daughter who was then a mother to a toddler, and 7 months pregnant with her second.

    So with this as the 14 year olds example how do I prevent her from getting pregnant before her 20th birthday? she doesn’t listen to me (I’m not her father).
    You have always been a great pillar of wisdom, I hope in this case you can offer something I can use to good effect.

    Since my X moved to Chrsitchurch, I have lost my job and have gone to counselling for what my counsellor says is Grief.

    And yes I have entertained the concept of taking the easy way out of this nightmare.

    I have been under the care of a pretty good counsellor, I think, though I have little experience with that.

    The problem now is my finanaces often prevent me from getting to appointments.

    I apologise if this seems disjointed, there is a hole lot that has transpired along the way, wrongs on both sides of my marriage. The final result was divorce was the only way out.
    Like you I do not take divorce litely it took several years before we got to that point.

    To be totally honest, yes I have cheated on my wife, but that was a symptom not a cause.
    I was married before for 8 years and NEVER cheated on her, I didn’t beleive it was something I waas capable of. The guilt and grief that hit me after was debilitating, i tried to get my wife to go to couselling with me because I knew that the problems that led to that were not mine alone. I do take complete responsibility for what I did, and I don;t hold her responsible for that bad choice, but she did contribute to putting me in a place where I was capable of dooing something like that where I had NO previous history. What it did to my self esteem and self respect was devastating.

    I got a little off track here, but i think you begin to see where my head is, and it is very dark in here.

    Congrats on your new Addition.

    John

  6. Alicia says:

    I watched your show recently and decided to share my thoughts and my experience.
    I agree with everything said on the show. I do believe that the world today has put too much pressure on teens. I am a “suicide survivor.” I tried multiple times over the course of 1 1/2 years and luckily never succeeded. I am a sophomore in high school and hope someday to be able to talk to teens about this and help anybody in need. I think this is a hidden issue in today’s society and it NEEDS to be talked about. Teens feel embarrassed to talk about it and that nobody will care. The only reason I’m standing here today is because one friend made the phone call that saved my life while I was laying on the floor bleeding to death. I also believe it’s a God issue which is beside the point.
    Parents need to get in touch with reality. There are plenty of obvious warning signs like you said on the show, and teens don’t really want to die, they just want all of the negative to go away. Parents contribute so much to what does or doesn’t happen. You can make a difference no matter who you are and I hate that people “keep it a secret.” I have first hand experience from back in 7th grade my friend trying to commit suicide and then to myself actually attempting countless times.
    I’m glad you did this show, and I think that America needs to open its eyes. Suicide is real, and not many people are paying attention to it and I think that’s the problem. You can’t just ignore these signs when teens are screaming out for help.
    Great show, great wake up call!

  7. Christine Bowdidge says:

    I was 16 when a friend from school had committed suicide, he was a year younger than me. I saw in the newspaper he died, and found out about a week later it was suicide, when I asked my mom what happened. His brother who is my age, had anger management problems, when he went off he became physically violent with anyone, including his brother, and I think this is what pushed my friend over the age. The boy I knew was a charmer, when selling things door to door for school, he was hard to resist. I guess underneath things weren’t as smooth.

  8. Wendy Huston says:

    Dr.Phil, What are the long term effects of Thorazine???
    The doctor I was seeing when I was 13 had me taking a thousand MG a day of Thorazine and was on it for around 6 months, only thing I remember in that time was walking around like a zombie.
    I have had a hard time most of my life, I had no idea what they were doing to me as a child. There has got to be something someone can do to help me.
    The drug had ruined my life and had robbed me of my life with my children.
    I lost custody of them because I was not able to care for them the way I could have.
    I was just a troubled teen from a broken home and needed help and guidance some good godly counseling to help me.
    Please help me.
    Sincerely Wendy

  9. LeeAnn says:

    Thank you for educating me on the new stresses that teens of today are dealing with. I realize that I need to be informed as to what is going on so I can educate my children inorder to help them to self protect themselves because I know I will not always be there for them and so The need to learn how to do it for themselves.

  10. Courtney frye says:

    What advice would you give teens who feel pressured and stressed, so they don’t think about doing something in that nature?

  11. Now a days there are so many teens who suffer with depression and stress.Sometimes they also don’t know that they are just suffering with this.This is a nice post and I like your thoughts for teens.I have also watched that episode.

  12. Zoey says:

    Many teens find it hard when their parents are devorce or getting devorced…But what if the teen has OCD wel im zoey and i have that problem. U see my parents got devorsed in 2006.My dad cheated on my mom and she left him.Me and my dad were very close but know we fight almost everyday…I live with my mom and my dad stayed in the house were I grew up my dogs too I like to that im visiting my mom and that I still live in my home were I grew up.My dad isn’t a very understanding person and have a bit of a temper, he aspecialy don’t understand my OCD and can not understand the position that im in so he yells at me when I struggle..I cant realy talk to him about my problems and that makes it even more difficult. I crew closer to my pets when my dad and mom devorced.And im very warried about them all the time in 2008 my closest sister died becouse of cat-flu.and i became even more aware of the things that could happen 2009 I struggled the hole year to do the things “right” that OCD toled me I did rong..It was hell! (I could not help vealing that something bad was gonna happen) I don’t even think that my parrents are aware of it.My dad does not believe that a dog or any pet have to go to the vet at some point,and that made it even more difficult. U see I want to make sure my pets are taken care of in every way necessary…And that year my 1 dog had many problems he was 3 when I was born I just wanted to help him in any way that I could must had to pleaded that my dad take him to the vet…he did but my dogs comdition went worse I took him to my moms place but I had to make the decision to pull the plug…Know i have just one dog left she was born in 2006 and I warry about the simplest things and I warry about doing the right things to ceep her health at a optimum level…She is one of the reasons I cept on…living! I talk to my dad about the things that bodders me about him,but then he says if he is such a bad dad then I must stay out of his life and that just brakes my hart! So at this point I don’t know wat to do

  13. Nancy says:

    I have three kids myself. if u want your kids to be something let them do it on thier. i have told mt kids if they get thier grade 13 and take a year or so off from school and learn from out side of school that was fine by me.if they wanted more from post secondary they they could do it at thier own time frame and thier ablitay

    Nancy
    from Canada

  14. Cindy Coburn says:

    My name is Cindy Coburn. My son at 151/2 committed suicide 7 months ago. He didn’t leave a note. So now we don’t know why he did this. But i feel like i have failed as parent or didn’t do what he wanted me to do for him in his life. But i have to deal with this on a daily basis. On that day i found him laying in my bedroom with a gunshot wound to his head. So that image has faded quite abit. But every now and then i see the image.
    So i say that parents need to talk to their children more and find out what is going on in this world.

  15. Amanda says:

    I agree that teens are under a lot of pressure, but my concern is more for the parents. My teen sister has been reeking havoc on my entire family, making false accusations, throwing my other siblings under the bus, has been diagnosed with multiple mental disorders and the state tells my parents that her behavior is their problem. Where do you go for help when you are screaming for it and NO ONE is listening, nor do they care. So when no one is listening, then what? The system is very screwed up and as their biological daughter it’s hard to sit back and watching her destroy them!

  16. neha bag says:

    its true that due to pressure of gaining good marks or grade ,most of teens become depress.its due to deppression when someone committed suicide.we can overcome this problem by let them our childrens to do all the things whatever they want.

  17. Fleur says:

    I don’t believe every problem in a child’s life is the fault of the parent or that they should even be responsible for fixing it, which they probably can’t anyway. Really this is a good example of why people need to quit having kids. Most parents don’t have time or energy to raise them and even if they do the kid ends up going against parent for constantly hovering over them.

    Also I really sympathize with Amanda. I’ve been in her situation and the system is really screwed up. When a kid has a behavioral issue and they constantly act up at home they need to be removed from the home, not the parents be blamed for the kid’s behavior, because too many parents have no help. Bad behavior is usually the fault of the kid. Not the parent.

  18. I would like to dedicate a song to all ofl the viewers and the teenagers and family members that read these articles, because they are real. My friends the Gray Sisters Gospel Group from Decatur Alabama have a song on their cd, please visit their website on google or my space or utube at:graysisterssingers.com. Naomi sings this song “JESUS IS A ROCK” please listen to the lyrics Naomi is telling you her story.

  19. Avram Tan says:

    Dr Phil you would have seen my other comment if not do see it if you wouldn’t mind. I have to state on this is that teens have alot of pressure and mostly is due to what teens have to go through in school and at home as well as unable to take the time to talk to their parents about their problems or rather their parents don’t really take the time to care due to their own problems which I do not blame anyone at all. All I can ask for is the parents and kids have to talk out their problems more often and able to accept answers that they might not like at all as I stated before I mean no offence to anyone at all I wish to help familys and kids out their but I can’t do much as I’m only 14 if I could get that chance I would grasp it as hard as I can. That is what I have to say and its my optio.

  20. Mandy says:

    I LOST MY 15 YR OLD CUZ THE 22ND OF THIS MONTH WILL BE A YEAR! MY CUZ AMBER (HIS SISTER) HAS OPENED THE FIRST CHAPTER IN OREGON AMERICAN FOUNDATION OF SUICIDE PREVENTION. I WOULD INCOURAGE EVERYONE TO GO VOTE http://www.refresheverything.com/teendepression THEY WILL DONATE 50K TO THE CAUSES TO HELP GET THE WORD OUT AND EDUCATE TEACHERS ABOUT TEEN DEPRESSION. DR PHIL I WOULD LOVE FOR YOU TO POST THIS ON TWITTER THE MORE VOTES WE GET WE COULD WIN THE 50K TO EDUCATE TEACHERS AND THE WORLD. I WANT TO SAVE THE PAIN THAT MY FAMILY HAS HAD FROM SOMEONE ELSE! RIP KYLE PETERSON!@!@!@!

  21. Lorece says:

    A few months ago a NINE year old boy hung himself in the elementary school restroom in The Colony, TX. (Just a town, not a “colony”.) This has got to stop!!

  22. Elize says:

    Dr. Phil,
    A first, I apologise for my bad English, I’m from Holland.
    I would like to tell you that I am so happy for all the people that you have helped.
    If there was someone like you in the Netherlands, I think that I would now be the 19 year old girl who I should be and not someone who has gone through more then she can stand.
    Thank you Dr. Phil for who you are and for your good advices!
    Lots of love,

    Elize

  23. Our hearts go out to Phoebe Prince’s family and many others who will never see their children grow into adulthood.

    How dare school administrators continue to dance around volcanoes and ignore and deny the reality under their noses.

    The silence is deafening and society continues to look away.

    We already know that silence, shame and blame partner with kids who are bullied. It’s time for parents to get smart and learn HOW TO identify the signs of bullying and LEARN how to help their child SAFELY.

    We would love to share our Ministry of Education recommended and Disney Parent-to-Parent award winning resources with families who have need help and information and feel that they have nowhere to turn.

    “Learning is Impaired when Children are Scared”

  24. Carol says:

    I have been there and it so awful there aren’t words to say and in my days it was even worse because teachers didn’t even notice it at all even if they did they looked as her teachers did there isn’t a problem when there is. It is like a right of passage.

    In my case we had moved from the Panama, Canal Zone and life there is so totally different the big thing was we had Respect of Person Place and Thing and in the United States that was not taught.

    I was teased about my hair because it was very curly and they thought it wasn’t real so they pull me down to the ground to see if it were real. I would get very angry and my face would turn red and they would calll me grape face. I would walk through the halls and they would laugh at me no matter what hall I was in.

    I found out the hard way that it was my twin sister that was sending them to me to tease me because she was one year ahead of me and she really hated me a lot.
    I told her about what was happening to me and she told she already knew but it took me years to find how she knew already because she sicked them on me.

    My twin sister would tease me at home telling how ugly I was and send children to me at school so I know what it is like to constantly being teased.

    Many years ago my mother sent me to a modeling school because I wanted to be a model so badly. Well I went and there was something you had to do balance a book on my head well I just couldn’t because of the way the top of my head is shaped it was hard to do so. Well you know what the teacher said to me don’t bother even trying to be a model because you are to ugly anyway you will never make it. I was distroyed when she said that I knew then that eveyone was right and looked at myself as a ugly person until one day I decided I wasn’t ugly after all but it took many many years.

    People have to realize that words to hurt and can kill people if you don’t have that innier strength known as GOD.

  25. Windspirit Hedlund says:

    Dr. Phil this isn’t only happening with teens, as Im sure you are well aware. Just 3 weeks ago, our 8 yr old daughter was sexually assulted in her school library. A boy the same age as she, shoved his hand down her pants and tried to kiss her. She immediately backed away and he punched her in the mouth. When we tried to get this boy removed from her class and placed in another grade 2 class; the principal refused. Nothing has been done and we are outraged! We live in a small town with the population of 5000. Raft River Elementary is the only elementary school in our town. Our only option is seems is to remove her from school all together. We fear she will feel she is being punished, as she loves school. We just have nowhere to turn. The day after this event she went to school with a bruised lip. Bay-lea is a very intelligent and loving girl, she deserves far better than this.

  26. Lisa says:

    It isn’t just kids who are bullying. My son was diagnosed with ADHD, inattentive type in first grade (2003). Each year I made sure his teachers were aware of his condition. Last year in his fifth grade class his teacher berated him on a regular basis causing him to cry in class, in front of his peers. On the playground, he was teased about crying in class. He shared with his counselor and later his psychiatrist that he wanted to “kill himself” last year. We began home-schooling him this year and only learned about how terrible school was for him recently. He used to come home and go straight to his room on some days and wouldn’t talk. We now know that he was upset about how he was treated by his teacher. And for the naysayers, I had other parents ask their kids about this teachers behavior and they confirmed that my son was a target of this teacher. UNACCEPTABLE! If I mistreated my clients, I wouldn’t have a job!

  27. Tina Shirk says:

    First of all, I am so sorry for the lost of Phoebe. All 3 of my children were bullied in school. I had to fight with Administration constantly. I was in the office talking to the principal daily for a week to get the bullying to stop. It was only with the threat of a law suit that the principal intervened. I was able to get the bullying policy in the middle school changed to a zero tolerence policy and as soon as they got a new principal, he changed it to allowing the students to repeat the bad behavior up to 5 times before serious action was taken. With my middle child, the harrassment started in middle school. It was daily and non stop all the way through high school. He was told to just “go kill himself because nobody liked him”. It was brought to administration over and over and over again. Most of the time, I was told he was at fault. “He didn’t know when to keep his mouth shut.” He was on the football team, and ignored by the other players. He played the trumpet better than anyone could play in that school, and yet during his solo’s, not one student would clap. 3-4 jazz band concerts a year, for 4 years and most of the adults didn’t clap either. Most of the adults being the parents of the kids bullying my son. Do you know how it feels to cry after each concert as a parent. Not because of pride, but because I could see the hurt and I hurt for him. My son though, won the Louie Armstrong Jazz Band award his senior year because his band teacher recognized his talent. She was his favorite teacher because she was the one teacher that had a 0 tolerence policy in her classroom. My youngest child, I thought was safe because she never had a problem with friends. She had always been popular among her peers until her sophmore year. She was a cheerleader and loved it. The coach, verbally abused her and some of the other girls in front of the squad. The coaches daughters, both, humiliated and yelled at the girls on the squad. One of the daughters started the “I hate Chealsie” Club. We moved to get her out of that school because I could see nothing better coming out of Cut Bank High School. The school that she’s in now, has a ZERO tolerence policy and follows it. They had a school shooting 20 years ago and they learned from it. After seeing my daughter thrive in her new school, I feel so guilty because I didn’t pull my children out of that horrible school long before they graduated. I am very fortuneate to have my children still living but they still suffer from the effects of the bullying in school. They have trust issues with peers their own ages. My son, who took the most abuse, has a very difficult time with people in general. And it pains me so very deeply because I couldn’t stop it. I couldn’t stop them, no matter how hard I tried.

  28. brenda Shivers says:

    Six weeks seems a long time before a bullying issue can be resolved. These principals can take a lesson from my child’s principal and how she handled bullying.

    Bullying is not new and unless things changed, it can start prior to preteen and teen age years. It has just become more sophisticated through the years. My daughter is in her late thirties now. When she was in the third grade, there was a boy that called her names each day on the school bus. Unfortunatedly, my action was tell her to call him names right back (not good). She did this but the bullying did not stop. She was very unhappy so I knew that I had to go to the principal. I knew that my child was in the right school when the principal immediately got on the phone, called that kid’s parent on their jobs and informed them that one of them had to be at the school before the end of the day or their child would be suspended until one of them did. Then….she got on me. She said that I should have notified her immediately and that my child should not have had to suffer. My child was one of only about ten black students in a predominately white elementary school. If the principal had not taken action immediately, and the bullying had not stopped, it could have affected my child in a negative way. I am still thankful for that principal as my daughter had very productive and involved school years.

  29. nancy says:

    dr phil,

    if you want to see where these kids are learning to bully, all you have to do is
    go to a few “seniors’ chatrooms” ; i can refer you to some that will TOTALLY put a perspective from where this bullying is coming, FROM THEIR GRANDPARENTS……i’m ashamed of my generation….

    too, if you want go further, go to a few of like almuni meetings….i can tell you stories….boy, can i tell you storIes, and,

    dr phil, how about going to a few condo board meetings, the respect to the tenants is non-existent……….in my case, it’s “older folk.”

    we’ve become a county without civility nor respect to others….with this, just how in the world is our youth going to behave….as teens, doing what they’re doing now, will our jails hold them later on …. if this is indicateive of their future behavior…………..?

    i love what you’re trying to do; you have my blessings.

    nancy

  30. Thank you for sharing this article, and for the brave people who shared their stories in the comments! It is nice to know people take this seriously, and that it can be overcome.

  31. Great article, thanks for sharing.

  32. Johanna says:

    I totally agree!

  33. SS Gallant says:

    Parents…I know how you feel!!!! Our 17 year old son took his life violently over 2 years ago and we are still an emotional mess. (he left a younger sister and older brother who had married a few years ago)…The ONLY clue to his dispair was an essay he emailed to his teacher 2 weeks before he died but SHE NEVER told us about it. Do not trust teachers….yes some are excellent but some are clueless and you cannot take a chance on that!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Can you imagine reading an essay that starts out like…”I just want to kill myself. I dont have access to a gun so I will have to hang myself….” It goes on to debate other methods and why blah blah. It sad because we were proactive parents…parent-teacher interviews, casual conversations with our kids, no pressure zone, homework help, etc. It’s so mind boggling….it still feels like a bad dream…I wake up every morning wishing it was!!! Talk to me. We need to support each other.

  34. Janet says:

    My teen was a victim of peer pressure, it got to the point where she had resorted to substance abuse. She thought it was the best thing because thats how her friends dealt with their feelings. I needed to find a way to get her away from these “friends”, also a school that offer a program with teens that had substance abuse problems. I researched many schools in my area and found west ridge academy in utah. They have offered programs with many teenage issues that most troubled teens such as my daughter. So far she’s been doing really well and happy with herself.

  35. Courtney says:

    Todays show about bullying was extremely moving to watch. I remember being in highschool and having girls say things to me in person and to other people, and whether it be true or untrue it was never anything nice. They would have no mercy. It wouldn’t matter if I were alone or in a group of 100 people. They would use mean words and names and I will never forget them or the people who had hurt me. I remember in my last year of highschool, I confronted on of my bullies and asked why she was so mean to me. She said ” I had no reason. just something to do”

    I want to help I want to be apart of what is happening here. I cannot believe that the day and age we live in people are still bullying the way they are. I think the bullies need help too, They must be bullying for a reason, maybe they need to reach out and ask for help to.

    I hope everyone who is or have been bullied was able to see the show today and know that there is something better out there, you have friends and family and even support of complete strangers here on the internet that would love to talk to you and help you…you are not alone

    Courtney

  36. Elaine says:

    Dr. Phil,

    I just watched your episode on bullying. Thank you so much for having this episode and helphing bring more light into this situation and to the nation. I am currently 32 years. In grade school I was bullyied by girls older than me and as I got into high school by girls of my same age. I was not popular nor was I poor. There was nothing unusual about me.

    15 years ago, we didn’t have the cyberworld. At school I went through the name calling, face slapping, pushing. I couldn’t tell anyone. My parents I couldn’t tell them and I wanted them to be proud of me nor If I brought up the issue about these girls things could esculated. Looking back, I still believe telling anyone, things would still have escalated. In fact I used to get chased home. I thought about suicide but knew I would hurt my parents. I’m glad I didn’t. It wasn’t until I got out of town and I met people in college that I began to feel like a human being and people didn’t judge me.

    I know kids are still being bullyied whether it’s at school or on the web. There’s a lot of fear these kids have if they told someone. They fear they could be punished more by the bully or their bullies friends would carry on. We really need to put a stop to all types of bullying. There must be a way children can feel comfortable to tell or talk to someone about this.

  37. Evelyn Molder says:

    I am 51 years old. I was a person who would not allow myself to be bullied in school. So what happened? This person named Claudine Reilly made my life a living hell. This person would drop a pencil or pen on the floor as another student would walk pass her desk. Most, almost all of them would bend down and pick them up and place them neatly upon her desk. My maiden name is Ames. We are a very proud family and would and will not ever bend down to shamelessly allow our family to be disrespected by her or anyone else. We did not feel as though we were above anyone. But by working in fields in Virginia and at potato graders and at chicken factories, we would not be considered to be below anyone. This person, made all my classmates hate me. There was a teacher in our homeroom who used to allow Claudine and other students go around in class in the mornings and allow them to sniff you to see if you had body odors. Though my mother was a very clean woman and we never had “body odors” this girl would tell the teacher everyday that I did. There was one girl in our class whose family did have problems and we all knew that she did have this problem. Not her fault. Well, everyday the Claudine would tell the teacher that I also had body odor and I would be sent to the bathroom to “clean up”. At that time in my life my father did own guns. I dreamed of killing her for not having friends, the lies and teachers hating me. At that time in my life, during the intergration period, black teachers seemed to love the “light complexted students over the dark ones, as I am. I was kept after school one day because this girl called me a “niggar” with hair pins in my hair and I hit her. (forth grade) It is very devistating to be treated this way by anyone. I feel so bad for this man but wonder if the perps even realize what damage they have done. It is so sad to me. I became a bully for the next year and am not proud of it. Please. Respect your peers. Most who have treated me this way are now deseased. Am I happy? No. Just wish they had made other choices. Shame.

  38. Rhonda Bowen says:

    WAKE up parents, your children ; its 2010… Teachers too…Im not a parent, but i feel for the childred thase days. All of u ,please look after them..

  39. tasha zerbe says:

    im a hight school student and i watch dr.phils show all the time, but the one that touch my heart was the one on lbgt (lesbian, bisexual, gay teens) to see how much hatred people have toward those kids and not only them but countless other. i absolutly hate bullying and i stand up for those kids who r being bullied becasue i know helping maybe just that one could save just one more life. and a note to parents when a teen or child askes for help please listen it maybe very serious.

  40. Lily-Rose says:

    I’m 18 years old and I have been a target for bullying for 10 years. Over time your mental barier brakes down, and you begin to lose control. I began to take my anger out on myself, self mulitation. I would hurt myself so I wouldn’t hurt anyone else. And for that I was placed in a mental hospital for a week. I became hateful, spiteful, suicidle, and even homicidle. Yes, homicidle. I would think of ways to hurt them, to get even with them, but I never acted on them. I couldn’t put my family through it. I couldn’t handle llife at school anymore, I was forced to dropout. You are probably asking yourself “Why didn’t you tell a school adminstrater? Some kind of Adult? A teacher even?” And my answer to those questions is, I DID!! But no one cared. i was even bullied INFRONT of thet teachers, I would get in trouble for trying to stand up for myself. I went to the vice principle, councilers…no one did anythig. I counsider myself lucky to still be alive and out of jail for a stupid reason of revenge.

  41. cheap ugg boots says:

    My stepdaughter keeps to herself 90% of the time at home, locking herself in her room and my wife says this is ok since that is how she acted as a teen. They are both good kids and have great potential but I think they need to chill a bit on all the love poems and computer time. Am I out of line ? I hate fighting with my wife on this and I want to give up.

  42. Urs says:

    Hi, I’m a mother of a 17 year old Son and a survivor of teenage suicide attempt. Times have changed very much since I was a teenager and I am in many ways grateful for that. We do have far more freedom as parents to bring our children up in a way we feel comfortable with. But the basics haven’t really changed… why is that? Because it creates a save environment for our children. I have learned from my youth. My son had a severe school phobia which was closely connected with depression. As far as his father and several others were concerned my son was lazy and moody. He was becoming slowly suicidal because he tried so hard in so many things (pleasing his father, being a teenager, being liked by peers, school etc) and he felt he didn’t succeed in so many things. His school phobia was actually part of a social phobia. However, once he was able to actually talk to someone (and there is far more to it than just this, but too much to mention), once he was listened too, once he felt he was respected, once he was taken serious and kind of put into the driving seat of his emotional and mental health with a lot of support around him … everything changed. He now is a straight A student who left school and started college. His attendance is up to 97%. His relationship with his father is so much better and they are still working on it. He has lots of friends and most important, he has everything to live for.

    It took us 3 years to get to the point to where we are today, and if there is anything I would like to pass on to other parents it is…. Trust in yourselves and your children. It was the trust and respect I had in my son which helped him to help himself.

  43. chelsea howard says:

    Dear Dr. Phil

    i am a 16 year old girl and my name is chelsea howard.

    i realize this has nothing to do with the topic that you are subjecting at this time but i would like to help realize something i am extremely passionate about.

    child abuse. i was a victim as a kid and i would hate for it to happen to another kid. phil, i know there are thousands of people out there trying to help kids with fathers and mothers abusing them. i was lucky enough to have the courage to run away from mine. i do believe that god put me on this earth to help children with this problem.

    after i ran away and was in a foster home i didnt want to talk to anyone i shut everybody out and i realized now that i shouldnt have. i didnt want to talk to anybody at the support group and i actually realize now that they were just trying to help me. i want to have the chance to tell my story and to have everyone know its ok to talk about their feeling and that they will be ok. i want to have the chance to help kids and and anybody that needs help. this is my passion and i know it. i think about it everyday and i would love if you would give me a chance.

    xoxo,
    chelsea 16

  44. Alli says:

    Chelsea–bless your heart for wanting to reach out to others!! From all that you wrote, it’s clear that you know that you are not alone. Congratulations for making it through the darkness and into the light. I know it took a great deal of courage, faith, and persistence. You let others in. That’s the most powerful act you could have done, and I can imagine how scary that was for you to do.
    We all have to trust somebody. You did it!!!
    Now you want to encourage others to let someone in too–and that ’someone’ IS you! All of us—us humans on this planet–are connected through love, so it’s true that we all love YOU. Thank you for offering your love to others–to me.

    Currently, I’m dealing with a young woman who is turning 16 a month.
    She has had one suicide attempt (about two years ago). Her family is very dysfunctional and her father has abused her. She has been in therapy.

    A month ago her mom got the courage to divorce her husband so he is no longer living in the house. They are struggling through this dramatic change (although it’s the right thing to do, it’s still painful).

    This talented, strong, lovely young woman talks about everything and expresses her feelings–but she’s not sharing the truth about her feelings. She hasn’t opened up to someone the same way you did. She’s trying to cope, of course, but she’s making bad choices. She doesn’t open up to her therapist and has been ‘acting out’ by cutting herself, letting guys use her sexually, and is bullied by her classmates. They laugh at her, that only makes her feel worse about herself. Probably she’s into drugs and alcohol too.

    I’m an adult and have known her for over ten years through very close friends of mine. She and I have become friends and we talk about everything but–just like everyone else, she doesn’t let me in.
    I’m afraid she will suddenly decide to try to kill herself–that the burden of everything will get to be so hard, she will just act on an impulse (not planned).
    Since she’s already attempted suicide, there’s a higher risk–it’s already been an option for her. If I ask her directly if she’s thinks about it, I’m afraid she’ll lie.
    I have talked with her mother, she’s very concerned but I think she’s minimizing the problem. Of course she loves, cares, and supports her–I think the mom needs to take action immediately!

    Do you or anyone who reads this have any ideas of what I can do?
    How can I help?

    Thank you to all of you for sharing your stories–and keep going Chelsea–you are incredibly strong and you have already helped me by being so honest. I am so very grateful to you for writing.
    Alli

  45. D.Nechoda says:

    Dr. Phil how do you assist a teen who is borderline Autistic has ADD and emotional problems including issues with empathy for self and others is violent and who shows suicidal inclinations? I mean with all those other obstacles adding more obstacles how can a parent deal with this? Or is it required to obtain outside help. I hate to say it but for us outside help to address my sons needs is like dreaming about owning a luxury car. just a fantasy. A treatment center or years of therapy is just not available to poor people on SSI benefits. Mental Health treatment is expensive regardless of how vital it is, the state just does not have a proper avenue to offer us any assistance. What can I do?

  46. Kat says:

    Dear Dr.Phil,

    I was bullied in school from the time I was 13 until 18. The bullying was not only emotional and physical, but also sexual. I was sexually abused for 2 years on and off (13-15yo) by a fellow classmate. This started in the school and he eventually started to stalk me. When I finally found the courage to tell my mom, we went to the police and the school. The school did absolutely nothing. I was lectured by the school board and ignored. The police did not want to bother with it either. Finally, after going to three police stations the county police took my case on. Instead of the school dealing with my offender, they instead removed me from the school and put me into a night school program with the kids who had “bad behavior problems”.. so that the boy who did all of this to me could stay on the football team. Even though HE was arrested in school for sexually abusing me.

    The entire school knew about the dozens of court hearings I had been going to with the star football player. Instead of giving any support, a group of girls started bullying me. They would call my cell and home phone, make up websites about how much I was hated, and beat me up several times. I have been jumped by a group of more than 2 girls atleast 5 times, and got suspended every time from school for trying to defend myself to get away from them. All of this being said, I have suffered a tremendous amount because of it. Although it still haunts me, I have received years of therapy. In that time I attempted to take my own life numerous times, and have been hospitalized on and off for an eating disorder/alcohol and drug abuse. Today I am doing great, but it took a lot of hard work and dedication (I’m still working on myself everyday)… but I’ve never been happier.

    I do not understand why schools do not take this more seriously. Emotional, physical and sexual abuse on a child is very damaging. I feel for every person on your show who talks about situations like this. I want to give them a big hug and tell them it WILL be ok. I wish there was a way to hold schools more responsible to these issues, and help the children being victimized by bullying — instead of punishing them.

  47. Holly says:

    Like many people, I was picked on and bullied as a kid. Not a day went by when I didn’t hate my life and everything about it. Fortunately things changed in 9th grade (not long after I began contemplating suicide) thanks to a wonderful new teacher who helped me get through it all.

    But as a grownup, I get so upset to hear stories of kids going through the things I went through, and the remedies they’re taking. I’m a mother, now, and I can’t stand the thought of my daughter being afraid to go to school, or to leave the house, or to hear some of the cruel and nasty things kids say to each other. It sickens me and breaks my heart in a way I can’t even explain.

    Earlier this year, a young man just a few miles away from me decided to end his life in the middle of the night. He was ‘bullied to death,’ I guess you could say. When his family was asleep, he went out to the highway and ran in front of a truck. A permanent solution to a temporary problem. I didn’t know the boy or his family, but it affected me so deeply that I literally cried for days, and I feel my eyes watering up now just re-telling that tragic story.

    His death encouraged me to do something. The poet in me needed to write about it, and I ended up with this song. It’s by no means professional, but it is heartfelt and meaningful and I hope you’ll check it out. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FabHLfc3kQ

  48. jennifer conklin says:

    My youngest son brandon died early in the morning on october 18,2010 nine months and one day ago my husband woke up went out on our front porch to find our 16yr old son had hung himselfwe not only know for a fact he was bullied at school and at home in his hometown of williamsburg kasas tje small town he literally grew but whats worse is be was also bullied by facebook and by adults in his own home town these adults instagated thier 18yr old son and 13yr old daughter to do it over a girl the 2boys were fighting over.i guess the reason i am sayin anythi.g at all is because tbese people used to be so much apart of our family we considered each others families as a whole npw we do.t speak and there os a baby involved they vandilized our home only a few.weeks before my sons death then durring the week of his death started bullying my daughter and myself on facebook which continues to this day my son brandon was a beautiful wonderful lo i.g caring son who could make anyone laugh his beautiful green eyes lit up the world please dr.phil i miss my baby boy so much please help stop this horrible thing that not o.ly kids.due to eachother but when grown people get imvolved its even that much more painfull. When people say words dont hurt i know fot a fact words give a lasting impression on tbe beart and soul of the kids and they can cause tragety lime the loss of my son at only 16 thank you for doing this i have been searching for a eay to get brandons story out thank you Jennifer M.Conklin

  49. Blue Butterfly says:

    I lost my son at age 15. There is so much stigma on suicide and so much insinsitivity to the survivors that I do not use my real name online (see address/say nothing). My son died as a result of cruelty of others. I feel like he was murdered by others nameless and faceless although to the letter of the law no one will be accountable since he died by proxy of his own hands. In any other death situation this would have remained a private and kept somewhat dignified matter but when the teenage rumour mill cranks up and goes online it becomes very publicly humiliating for the survivors and most of all it is defamating to my son’s memory. I did’nt know half of what was being spread untill months after the fact. In a community this small, everyone knew me overnight and I became (pardon my oxymoron) a Popular Pariah. After my son’s death I kept in touch with his friends and learned that some were being bullied for being his friends and my son was being made fun of STILL for “Being Dead”. Things like this make an otherwise docile parent want to go over the edge. I’m alive alone. My son was’nt just an only child. He was the last of two bloodlines and the only thing I ever set out to do with my life. So now this branch on the family tree goes in reverse.
    I hope you have success with this Anti Bullying movement. It will not bring back my son but it could help keep MANY other families from being EXTINCT.

    PS: I have to agree with the post above. When we got the school involved the Faculty made things so much worse.

  50. Yvonne Wehr says:

    Dr. Phil,
    I just watched your show about teens being bullied and it really hit home with me. I do not have any teens but I do have three children that were horribly bullied at their school last year. I had to take my children off the bus for 3 years because all three of my kids were being hurt physically and verbally. If someone hit one of my children the other two would stand up for them and end up being hurt. They were hit, called names, and pushed off the bus. When I would talk to the parent the parent would be just as insulting and mean, if I talked to the bus driver she would tell me she saw nothing so she couldn’t punish anyone. So I drove them to and from school everyday.
    At the school they would be teased and called names as well. When they would tell the teacher the teacher would say they can’t do anything if they didn’t see it and it was one child’s word against another. If the principle became involved the bullying child would be brought into the office and spoken too. Then my child would be teased more and called a nark.
    It got so bad that I eventually told my children to hit back when someone hurt them. Walking away didn’t work, and I was at my wits end on how to help my child. We have moved to a new state so all my kids are in a new school. My daughter has come home everyday with a smile and telling me she has a great day. But my middle child, a son, has had trouble with some older children starting fights and saying he is trouble maker. I have had to tell my son know that if a bully pushes him push back harder, and I hate teaching my child violence.
    My children are straight A students, we have family day every week, and I listen to my children when they are being hurt. I just don’t know what else I can do to help my son’s combat the mean bullies of the world. And God forbid if one of children ever bully another child. My middle son tried once to hurt another child feelings and I made him write an apology to the child and 100 sentences. He has never hurt another child’s feelings since then.

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