While I recently posted about bullying and suicide in honor of National Bully Prevention month (October), when I ran across the story of Bethany Thompson I felt the need to talk about it. Any time bullying leads to suicide, my heart breaks for the person who has been tormented to the point of no longer believing life is worth living. In this case, my heart is not only broken, it’s bleeding.
Bethany Thompson, at the age of three, suffered from a brain tumor and underwent radiation treatment to cure the cancer, but as the result of that treatment suffered nerve damage that gave her a crooked smile. For the past eight years, she’s been cancer free, but unfortunately, the mark left behind by the treatments that saved her life were the very thing she was tormented over by classmates. The school and her parents were working together to help resolve the issues Bethany faced, but after a particularly difficult day, she told her best friend she couldn’t take any more. And she ended her life.
When??? When will we have had enough? How many more children have to die to prove we have a huge systemic problem?
I have read comments on many posts to do with bullying and almost invariably someone will comment that the problem isn’t the bullying, it is the need to teach kids to have thicker skins. This is a huge part of the problem. People believing that the problem is that kids will be kids. NO! We are severely lacking in empathy for our fellow human beings. We have placed far too high a value on outward appearance and have devalued the things that matter most about a person — which does NOT include their looks. And yet physical appearance is one of the easiest targets for bullies.
As I am waging my own war against cancer, it is intolerable to me that a child who beat the disease should no longer wish to live. My heart goes out to her parents, Wendy Feucht and Paul Thompson … I cannot image the pain they must feel from their loss. When bullies saw Bethany’s smile, they saw something to poke fun at and to mock her for, instead of seeing it for what it truly is — a mark of valor for a hard-fought battle won.
Bethany with her parents, Wendy Feucht and Paul Thompson, at the Relay for Life.