Tag Archives: bullying

Would three of my friends please…?

This post is appearing on Facebook… almost to the point of going viral. That’s certainly not a bad thing, but my question is a little different.

Would three of my friends please attend a free two-hour workshop that will help you understand some facts about suicide and some very simple steps you can take to help prevent it?

You can do more than just provide a phone number!

I currently have two free workshops scheduled:

  • Thursday, May 11, 2017, at Bangor Grange, 1192 Ohio Street in Bangor, starting at 6:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, May 16, 2017, at Guilford United Methodist Church, 3 School Street in Guilford starting at 6:30 p.m.

Both workshops are free–all it costs is two hours of your time–admittedly a little more than copying and pasting a phone number, but in return for those two hours you’ll be able to help stem this crisis.  93% of students who’ve attended my class say they feel more confident about being able to recognize suicide warning signs and risk factors. 85% left feeling better equipped to help someone might seem suicidal.

And you’ll get a magnet that includes both the National and Maine Hotline Numbers as well as lots of resource material. In order to ensure we have plenty of material, we do ask you to pre-register by visiting our website or calling 343-1842.

Suicide Hotline #

But wait, there’s more! A third workshop is available through the RSU 19 Adult Education Program on Tuesday, May 2, 2017, at Nokomis High School in Newport. There is a small charge for this program… for more information or to register, visit http://rsu19.maineadulted.org/ or call 207 368-3290.

And even more! Did you know that you can report Facebook Posts that seem to reflect suicidal thoughts?  Here’s how!


Walter Boomsma is Gatekeeper trained and a NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) Certified Mental Health Specialist for Youth and Adults. He is also an experienced educator and substitute elementary school teacher.

 

Finding Dead Rainbows at Bangor Grange

I’m looking forward to being the featured speaker at Bangor Grange’s Quarterly Communications Connection on Saturday, March 25, 2017. Grange Master Brenda Gammon describes Community Connections as an ongoing part of the Grange’s efforts to “provide information and resources and a way for our community citizens to connect with each other and those resources.” The event is free to the public and will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Bangor Grange Hall at 1192 Ohio Street in Bangor.

The presentation is entitled “Searching for Dead Rainbows—where you stand makes a difference” and is based largely on my work with small people. “Rainbows are about hope and promise. Where we find hope and promise has a lot to do with where we look. And where we look has a lot to do with where we stand.

Gammon said she is looking forward to the program because it will touch on a variety of topics ranging from mental health to bullying and dealing with depression. “But it will be upbeat and fun because Walter has some great stories about his experiences with kids.”

Additional information about the Quarterly Community Connections can be found at http://BangorGrange.org or visit http://http://wboomsma.com for information about the presentation.

Where You Fly Makes a Difference

One of my more fun presentations is a series of stories beginning with one young fellow who spots a dead rainbow. Rainbows are, of course about hope and so are most of the stories. Some of the stories are sad, some are funny, but each leads to the inescapable conclusion that where we stand makes a difference. Sometimes it’s a difference to ourselves. Sometimes it’s a difference to someone else.

Two of the stories are about bullying. One is about a little guy named Rudolph who is a victim of some typical bullying. The story shows that, when it comes to bullying, where you stand (or in this case fly) can make all the difference.

The story is told in a simple song published by Montgomery Ward in 1939. While it may not have been originally intended as such, it really is a song about over-coming bullying. We didn’t call it bullying back then, but today we probably would. Fortunately, I don’t sing the song, I merely recite it as poetry with some editorial comment.

“You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen,
You know Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen,
But do you recall
The most famous reindeer of all?

Here’s a little experiment for you. Close your eyes and, without singing the song or reciting the line from “Twas the Night Before Christmas” try to list Santa’s Reindeer. You’ll probably find the song irresistible, but I’m betting the eight regular sleigh-pullers aren’t all that memorable. You don’t readily recall them, but you do recall the most famous reindeer of all. That’s significant. You recall him because…

rudolphRudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Had a very shiny nose
And if you ever saw it
You would even say it glows.

Rudolph stood out in a crowd because he didn’t exactly fit in with the crowd. He wasn’t like the other reindeer. While we don’t know how old he was, he’s often pictured with very small horns suggesting he’s an adolescent. We know that “fitting in” is very important during adolescence, so there’s little doubt Rudolph was not a very happy reindeer. He probably hated his nose. And it didn’t help that the other reindeer were bullies who made fun of him.

All of the other reindeer
Used to laugh and call him names
They never let poor Rudolph
Join in any reindeer games.

Reindeer can be mean, can’t they!? And so can kids. It’s a complicated social dynamic, but a kid who is different—maybe wears a different style clothing or has a different physical characteristic (a red nose?)—gets ostracized and maybe worse. Simply being ignored by others can be painful. Being the last one standing when teams are selected is bad enough. But when they start to laugh and call names, the hurt and pain can seem unbearable.

I think it’s interesting that Santa apparently doesn’t take action. He could have started an anti-bullying program. Maybe created a stop bullying policy and hung up some kindness posters in the barn. In fairness to Santa, we’re not sure if he knew what the other reindeer were doing to Rudolph. He was probably busy keeping an eye on the elves and all the kids. How else could he know if they’ve been bad or good? He clearly had plenty on his plate besides the milk and cookies kids often leave him. So we can perhaps forgive him for not knowing that his reindeer were being mean to Rudolph.

We might also wonder why the SPCA didn’t respond and try to protect Rudolph, although it’s not clear whether cruelty among or between animals is covered by their mission statements. They seem a bit more focused on human cruelty against and neglect of animals.  Rudolph simply did not have much of a support system.

Let’s look at what did happen.

Then one foggy Christmas Eve,
Santa came to say,
“Rudolph, with your nose so bright,
Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”

The song doesn’t record Rudolph’s answer. I suppose he could have said, “The heck with you—why should I help after what I’ve been put through by those other reindeer!?” We only know that Rudolph was finally recognized as having something to contribute. Ironically, the very thing that had separated him from the herd became the very thing that gave him status. Instead of cowering in the corner of the barn, Rudolph became the leader of the herd. And the results of that change were significant.

 Then how the reindeer loved him,
As they shouted out with glee,
“Rudolph the red-nose Reindeer
You’ll go down in history!”

Consider what didn’t change. Rudolph didn’t get nose surgery and his nose didn’t dim. The eight other reindeer didn’t attend some anti-bullying intervention and suddenly become more loving and accepting.

Circumstances changed. It became foggy. (We could rightfully wonder how all of Santa’s previous trips were on clear nights, but that would spoil the song and story.)

What ultimately happened is, I think, most important. Santa does play an important role in the outcome of the story. He’s obviously more troubled over the foggy night than he had been regarding Rudolph’s status with the herd. That reality might put a little smudge on Santa’s image, but let’s be honest. He needed a solution to the foggy night problem.

And there was Rudolph with his nose all aglow—a solution to a problem. Santa saw him differently for the first time—not as a misfit reindeer with a defective nose. So, perhaps grudgingly, Rudolph steps to the front.  He had to raise his head so the glow would light the way. And in that moment—as is so often the case with childrens’ stories—all is well! Everybody’s happy! Santa can make his deliveries. The eight bully reindeer no longer have to worry about running into things in the fog. They are shouting with glee!  In all of the picture books I’ve seen, Rudolph is smiling and his head is held high, not just to light the way but because he feels valued.

The song doesn’t record whether or not the “other” reindeer change permanently. Sure, they were shouting out with glee but that was because they were able to complete their rounds without hazard. The question that remains unanswered is whether or not they became any kinder and accepting as a result of the experience. If another reindeer came to the barn with, say, a deformed antler, would they laugh and call him names? Would they let poor Bent Antler join in any reindeer games?

I don’t know.

One thing I am fairly certain of, though. I think Rudolph began to think differently of himself. While I am sorry for his pain, I’m also glad that no one stepped in and deprived him of the opportunity to do just that—to learn and discover who he was—uniquely and individually.

What we think of ourselves goes much farther in defining who we are than what others think. A change of circumstances may trigger it, but the real change lies within ourselves. Our own self-value beats a red nose or bent antler any day. Where we stand makes a difference

Say Something! -- preventing violence before it happens:

This article is reprinted from the “Say Something” website… while I haven’t fully “vetted” this program, if your school or organization is interested, I will be happy to assist you… I also have the material and can teach the Eddie Eagle Program — a gun safety program designed for pre-k through fourth grade.


Did you know that when it comes to violence, suicide and threats, most are known by at least shp_2016_say_something_week_logoone other individual before the incident occurs. In fact, in 4 out of 5 school shootings, the attacker told people of his/her plans ahead of time. Additionally, 70% of people who commit suicide told someone of their plans or gave some type of warning or indication. Imagine how much tragedy could be averted if these individuals said something?

Say Something teaches students, grades 6 -12, how to look for warning signs, signals and threats, especially in social media, from individuals who may want to hurt themselves or others and to Say Something to a trusted adult to get them help. The program is based on research conducted by Dr. Dewey Cornell and Dr. Reid Meloy, two leading national experts in threat assessment and intervention.

National Say Something Week is organized by Sandy Hook Promise (http://www.sandyhookpromise.org) and will take place October 24 – 28, 2016. Hundreds of schools and youth organizations across the United States will be participating in Say Something Week. Will you join them?

Say Something Week raises awareness and educates students and the community through training, media events, advertising, public proclamations, contests and school awards. Say Something Week reinforces the power young people have to prevent tragedies and Say Something to a trusted adult to protect a friend from hurting them self or others!

Say Something is a no-cost and easy to implement program that is available to all middle schools, high schools and youth organizations serving youth grades 6 – 12. In addition to young people, Say Something will benefit educators, administrators, community-based organization leaders and parents. By building a culture of looking out for one another and reporting possible threats of violence when someone sees, reads or hears something, entire communities will become safer and lives will be saved.

Schools and youth organizations participating in Say Something Week agree to host a no cost, easy to implement, flexible Say Something training that can take place within the classroom, an assembly, or be led by student ambassadors. The training can be accomplished in 50 minutes or less and activities (which SHP provides or schools and organizations can create) can take place on one day or spread throughout the week. In addition to the initial training, the Say Something program offers a wide range of post training activities that can be done throughout the year and serve as reminders. Schools and youth organizations have the option of choosing the day, time and format they would like to deliver the Say Something training during the week of October 24 – 28.

Please help us empower our young people to prevent violence before it takes place. Please sign up to participate in Say Something week today at: http://www.sandyhookpromise.org/saysomethingweek.

Who is Sandy Hook Promise?
Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) is a national, nonprofit organization based in Newtown, Connecticut. We are led by several family members whose loved ones were killed in the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012 that claimed the lives of 20 first-graders and 6 educators.


Sandy Hook Promise is focused on preventing gun violence (and all violence) before it happens. SHP does this by educating and mobilizing parents, schools and communities on mental health and wellness programs that identify, intervene and help at-risk individuals.

SHP is a moderate, above-the-politics organization. Our intent is to honor all victims of gun violence by turning our tragedy into a moment of transformation. For more information on Sandy Hook Promise, please visit:www.sandyhookpromise.org.


Read a chapter from my book regarding the Sandy Hook tragedy.

BDN Series Mentions Mentoring…

back-to-school-183533_1280“Maine Focus” is currently running a series of excellent articles “Before Addition There’s a Child.” I’m both honored and humbled to report that my experience with Bus Drive Otis Phillips was included in the installment entitled “How one caring adult can change the life of a child.” (Scroll down to the epilog, “Your Stories.”) I continue to be amazed at the impact this story is having.

My ongoing hope is captured in my observation that “We mentor people in ways we don’t even mean to.” A corollary to that is mentoring doesn’t have to be hard. By definition, mentoring is a relationship in which an experienced person helps guide someone who is less experienced.  I think something as simple as  a kind or encouraging word creates a connection that can be defined as a relationship, however brief. Let’s call it a ‘mentoring moment.”

The Maine Focus series is about “preventing one of the largest public health problems of our time.” There’s a growing body of evidence that human connection goes a long way towards combating addiction.

Mine isn’t the only story in which an adult did something that at first seems small, but turns out to have major impacts, perhaps because it is about human connection. Hearing those stories is encouraging and heartwarming. But creating our own stories can be even better. Just look for those mentoring moments.