It has been a crazy couple of weeks as we’ve uncovered the terrible news of teenagers across America that have taken their own lives because of bullying. The video above is an incredible and passionate speech by Fort Worth city councilman Joel Burns about the bullying that he encountered as a gay teen and how it does get better. Wearing a pink shirt in aid of breast cancer awareness, Burns explains that this is the first time he has ever told the story of his bullying and near-suicide to anyone. Almost a million people have watched this video since it was uploaded on Joel’s YouTube channel just three days ago and many people have posted it across Twitter and Facebook daring others to try watch it without breaking down crying.
I found it incredibly difficult to watch as it unexpectedly touched a very deep nerve within me. After moving to South Africa from England at the age of 9, I was subject to relentless bullying that lasted until I moved to high school at the age of 12. There was no ‘reason’ for my bullying other than the fact that I was different and foreign but I began to make serious and concrete plans for suicide by the age of 11. That first year of high school was still hard but by the end of that year I began to make friends and am still friends with them to this day. I absolutely agree sympathise with Joel as it is never easy to tell you parents that yes, you contemplated suicide but the fact is that we need to be open. We need to tell people, no matter how it might hurt them, that the successful, happy, vivacious person standing before them was once on the verge of ending it all. With this openness, perhaps we can move on and communicate to the children of today that it gets better.