Learning to act instead of constantly reacting.
That is my first thought about how to handle the endemic problems of child neglect, abuse, exploitation, and suicide. From the top down, meaning government officials, police, social workers, teachers, and from the bottom up, meaning family members, neighbors, friends, pastors, we must do a better job of protecting children.
Mistakes that lead to the death of a child are more than just simple errors. They are travesties.
Timidity and fear and complacency and callousness have to be put aside.
Action is needed.
Some systems that are in place need to be acted upon and some systems need reforming.
Attitudes need changing.
Hearts need transforming.
Children are dying!
Children are living with horrors they can’t put into words. Children are living in chaos their vocabularies aren’t equipped to fully articulate. Children are experiencing depression and anxiety. Cyberbullying can be lethal. How many more have to be abused? How many more have to grow up broken and perpetuate the cycle? How many more have to die at a caregiver’s hand before change comes? How many more will commit suicide because life is too difficult to bear?
I’m thinking of the young teen whose death was ruled a homicide and her parents are the main suspects. Many people thought there was something going on. From my research it appears that multiple reports were made over the past few years to the US Embassy, the Department of Human Services, and the police, but nothing substantial came of them.
Now a child is dead. Parents are in jail. The remaining siblings are now under the care of Human Services.
I’m thinking of the children who have attempted or committed suicide over the past several years. From 2012 until July 3, 2017 117 Belizeans committed suicide. Of that number 7 children between the ages of 10 and 14 and 8 between the ages of 15 and 19 committed suicide. What is driving these youths to the point where life is no longer bearable and death is the only answer? Was there cyberbullying involved? How does a 10 year old get to a point of despair? What was going on in this child’s life? Was there abuse? Was there mental illness?
As reported in Belize on Channel 7 News; Lorna Perez, Surveillance Officer, of the Epidemiology Unit states, “The statistics are alarming, they definitely call for action and we need to act now.” And also on Channel 7 News Sylvester Cadet from Barbados said, “cyberbullying has led to very grave circumstances including suicide.”
Action, not reaction, is the key.
In the case of the 13 year old the post mortem report makes it clear that this child was sexually and physically abused. It’s horrible when a living child has to undergo an exam to determine if they’ve been carnally known or not. But, it’s a tragic shame when the information comes as a result of an autopsy.
In the case of suicides involving children, we’re left sometimes to wonder. There may have been neglect, bullying, mental illness, abuse, that caused a feeling of despair so deep that the child cannot move on. When suicide cases come to light everyone looks for a place to assign blame. But, when do we break the silence surrounding the issues that perpetuate these actions?
Reacting and protesting are great ways to bring attention to a cause! But as stated previously action is required for lasting change.
Action is making a call about your suspicions every time something occurs out of the ordinary
Action is befriending the child and providing a safe environment for them to open up and talk
Action is actively listening to children when they are speaking to you
Action is noticing changes in behaviour
Action is enforcing the laws regarding neglect, abuse, and child endangerment
Action is doing your job even if it takes effort to investigate
Action is reporting and punishing the perpetrators of cyberbullying
Action is being a voice for those who cannot speak up for themselves
Action is foregoing judgment to offer assistance
Action is keeping things confidential and avoiding gossip
Write. Speak. Sing. Recite poetry. Make the call. Ask the hard questions and listen carefully to the answers. Be your brother’s keeper. Be the hands and feet of Christ on this earth. Seek justice for others.
Listen, love, and learn what you can do to be a part of the solution.
The time to criticize and condemn has passed and the time to reach out and help is upon us. And it will only work if we each do our part. It’s great when people rise up in reaction to a tragic event. It’s even better when that reaction leads to continued action. Pick up a cause and move forward with it.
Let your voice be heard and do whatever you are gifted, able, and willing to do to bring about change!