During a city meeting recorded and released on YouTube, Joel Burns, a Fort Worth, Texas, city council member, gave an impassioned plea to youth experiencing bullying to not take their own lives. After naming many of the recent victims of bullying across the nation who committed suicide, Burns recounted his own experience growing up as a gay youth and the bullying he experienced.
Joel Burns begged young people to hold on for the future, where, as he explains, “It does get better.” Although all of Burns’ speech was inspiring and thought-provoking, his strong personal messages of suicide not being the answer, that life will get better, and acceptance can be found, stood out.
Burns’ speech was full of passion; he even had to emit a portion he seemed too overcome with emotion to read. The skipped portion of his speech appeared to be a personal account of his attempt to take his own life. According to suicide statistics, suicide is one of the highest causes of death for teenagers, with depression from bullying being a huge factor in teenage suicides. Suicide, as Burns emphasizes in his speech, is never the correct answer to a teenager’s problems. Every teenager has a reason to live. If you are a teen experiencing thoughts of suicide, or suspect a teenager of contemplating suicide, please seek help.
Life does get better. Although, for a teenager, high school and the current time in one’s life may seem extremely important and all-encompassing, it isn’t. Life continues after the teenage years. If a teenager is in an unhappy situation right now, it will improve. Life involves so much more than the brief time spent as a teenager, and even if bullying is an aspect of life at this time, it does not mean that it will always play a role. Burns’ personal experience of finding love and being elected in to public office demonstrates how much better life can get for bullied youth.
Although a teenager’s current peers may not be accepting, it does not mean that he will never be accepted for himself. A teenager will have the opportunity in the future to find support and happiness, even if her current situation isn’t the best. The fact that society as a whole is now addressing bullying of homosexuals and all children perceived as different shows a move toward more openness and dialogue, which will increase acceptance and understanding for all.
Burns’ speech has become an online sensation. His messages should be taken to heart by all teens, gay or straight, victims of bullying and attackers. As a parent, I hope Burns’ message is received and helps young people and adults put an end to bullying and prevent bullied children from taking their own lives. I hope, as my children grow, they will not have to deal with the epidemic of bullying that is affecting our youth today and know suicide is never the answer, life does get better, and acceptance can be found.
I appreciate Joel Burns sharing such a personal, emotional story in an attempt to assist troubled and victimized teenagers of bullying, and I believe his words and message will help many.
YouTube Joel Burns Fort Worth Councilman’s It Gets Better Speech
Teen Suicide Statistics Teen Suicide Overview