You Can Stop Bullying and Cyberbullying In Its Tracks


It’s happened to all of us – our temper rises, our muscles clench, and suddenly, we’re not thinking. In our fury, we’re spitting out or furiously typing words that don’t’ represent our character, or who we are. Often, in the heat of a tense situation, emotions can run high, and that’s when bullying or cyber-bullying occurs. When this happens, how do we know to tone it down? De-escalation can be critical to protecting victims and ensuring that bullies or cyberbullies are safely stopped. How, then, do we de-escalate the situation or #KeepItCool?

From a proactive perspective, stopping cyberbullying before the damage is done can be rooted in pledging to a movement or a solution that aims to stop the spread of hurtful words. At the Tyler Clementi Foundation, the #Day1 program aims to do this by encouraging individuals to pledge to stop cyberbullying with their fellow peers. From schools to the workplace, with a teacher or a director leading individuals in a verbal acknowledgement in the harm of bullying and cyber bullying, the #Day1 program can help promote tolerance and understanding on “Day 1” in groups of individuals. Furthermore, taking a stand using #Day1 can help spread positivity and the spirit of being an upstander, not a bystander.

Technology can also be used to help address an issue that it has created. Another effective solution, ReThink, aims to proactively de-escalate cyberbullying online by empowering users to think twice before posting or sending any offensive content to anyone. When an individual attempts to post an offensive message online, such as “You are so ugly,” ReThink gives that individual a chance to reconsider: “Are you sure you want to say that? It could be offensive.” Globally acclaimed research shows that 93% of the time, adolescents using ReThink changed their minds and decided not to post offensive content.

tcf-social-keep-cool-deescalation-tileIn the midst of bullying or cyberbullying, however, how can one de-escalate the situation? Immediate actions vary based on one’s role in the situations. For victims, it can be critical to immediately distance yourself and ignore the bully. Scientific research shows that offenders often crave attention; by ignoring them, victims remove any incentive for bullies or cyberbullies to hurt others. Block them online, or walk away from the situation. There is never any shame in distancing yourself from a bully or a cyberbully. By walking away, you are elevating yourself above their hurtful words, and showing them you will not lower yourself to their antics. If you are suffering specifically from cyberbullying, save any evidence. Immediately contact a trusted adult or law enforcement with your evidence – do not try to tackle the situation on your own. An important facet of de-escalation is ensuring you do not intensify the bullying or cyberbullying. Though it can be intimidating or frightening, talking to an adult or trusted friend is the best way to de-escalate the situation.

There is, however, another possible role in a bullying or cyberbullying situation: the role of the upstander. When in a hallway or online, upstanders see the bullying or cyberbullying and directly address the bully or cyberbullying. In order to effectively de-escalate the situation while confronting the offender, upstanders have to be careful. As an upstander, if you see something offensive, do not attack the bully or cyberbully. Instead, state the fact that you believe their actions are negative and hurtful. Come to the root of the problem without insulting the offender: “I’m disappointed that you would use language like that, and I do not approve of your conduct.” Then, walk away. There is no need to engage or heighten the bully or cyberbully in a fight. Even one moment of advocacy can be enough to stop a bully or cyberbully in his or her tracks.

Bullying and cyberbullying are issues that affect millions of teenagers across the globe, and increasingly, it’s becoming important that young people speak up. As a teenager myself, I know that that we can only tackle this silent pandemic when we make the conscious decision to de-escalate hate on a local and global level. Find your voice – and use it to spread positivity.

Learn more tips and see more resources for how you can #KeepItCool this summer.

Trisha Prabhu is Founder and CEO of ReThink, Inc. as well as a Tyler Clementi Foundation board member. Learn more about her here.

The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.


Keep It Cool By Building Online Civility

There’s no denying that we are experiencing a time when there is a crack in civility online. According to a new survey, eighty-four percent of Americans have experienced incivility first-hand and sixty-nine percent believe that social media and the Internet are to blame.

Seventy-five percent of American’s believe that the change begins with us.

How can we help de-escalate incivility?

First, we need to understand the “why”: Much of our online behavior is a reflection of our offline character.

Make no mistake about it, the first impression most people will have of us is our digital one. From college recruiters reviewing social media feeds to employers examining digital reputations, your virtual behavior can determine your future.

Most importantly, empathy for others-not only offline–but especially online, is exactly how we can combat incivility and cruelty.

Patience is a virtue.

As cliché as it sounds, this phrase is one that we can all stand to remember and refer to these days, especially when it comes to sending a hasty text message or sensitive email. Wait 24-hours.

Download these social tiles to share in your network and prevent cyberbullying.

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Waiting to send will give you time to consider the “3 C’s of Social Media” (aka, “How To Keep It Cool Online”):

  • Conduct: Control yourself. Remember, there’s a person on other side of the screen.
  • Content: Limit your sharing. Will what you are about to share embarrass or humiliate someone?
  • Caring: Are you posting with empathy?

Help, I can’t believe they posted that!

Most of us have had the experience of reading a post that elicits our darker angels and makes us want to respond to with anger. Who hasn’t had a bad day that makes us want to lash out with our keypad? This is exactly when we need to keep it cool. Consider the 3 C’s above, and implement the art of not commenting or simply clicking out.

Learn to use your words with wisdom, be constructive, not combative. Commenting is a privilege. It’s an opportunity for you to showcase respect. If you don’t think you can do this– there is nothing wrong with a little digital detox or simply moving on from the post.

As I often tell others, when in doubt — it’s time to click out.

Quality over quantity: When “like’s,” forwards and comments perpetrate hate.

Have you ever considered that when you “like,” forward or even comment on a video, image, message or any social media post — it is the same as endorsing it? We watch people carelessly “liking” photos, messages and other things online without really thinking what they are about. Some are forwarding mean memes or questionable content without realizing the consequences. They are staking their reputation on their online actions.

Hate perpetrates hate.

When you keep it cool, you get the opportunity to pause, read that post, listen to that video, and think — is this really something I want to put my stamp of approval on? Remember, your name will be forever associated whatever it is.

Kids today are especially quick to seek validation through the number of “likes” they get without realizing that these are not quality endorsements. The same people who “like” you today might turn on you in a “snap” or with one post gone ugly.

As summer heats up, it’s important that we all remember, no matter what our age, when it comes to digital devices, it’s important to keep our cool. You will be surprised at how this can drastically reduce your chances of becoming a perpetrator or victim of digital disaster.

Learn more tips and see more resources for how you can #KeepItCool this summer.

tcf-post2174-expert-sue-scheffFounder and President of Parents’ Universal Resource Experts Inc. (P.U.R.E.™), Sue Scheff has been leveraging her personal experiences to help others through her organization since 2001. She is a Family Internet Safety Advocate determined to save other parents from encountering the same challenges and issues she faced when searching for a safe, effective program for her own daughter during her troubled teen years. Sue Scheff established P.U.R.E.™ as an advocacy organization to educate parents about the schooling and program options available to pre-teens and teenagers experiencing behavioral problems. She is the author of the book Shame Nation. You can find her blog here. She is also available on Twitter or Facebook.

The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.


Expert Tips: Youth who Identify as Transgender and/or Gender Diverse and their Educators, and Parents

Image about Transgender Inclusion by Jo Morrison, Chicago, IL

Tips For Teens

Identify Supports and Allies
Knowing that there are others who accept you for who you are can help you feel better about yourself during times when bullies try to make you think otherwise. It is important that your support system include staff and adults in whatever location you happen to be, in addition to friends and peers. If you are in the process of transitioning to another gender, it might be important to identify these supports beforehand and come up with a safety plan in advance, just in case you find yourself being victimized by others later on. It never hurts to be prepared!

Safety First!
First and foremost, you might find yourself in an unsafe situation. Removing yourself from those situations is the most important thing you can do. While it is frustrating that there are so many people who are uncomfortable with people whose gender expression is different from what society expects, the fact is that many of these individuals turn their discomfort into discrimination. It isn’t your fault for being who you are. However, how you deal with these situations really matters. Make sure you have a safe escape plan or a way to avoid potentially dangerous situations.

Try to Understand “The How”
For some of us who have been taunted endlessly for most of our lives just for being different, it can sometimes be difficult to know the difference between intolerant bullying versus innocent discomfort/unfamiliarity in others. This can be especially true for those of us who are transitioning genders. This is why it is important to understand “The How.” This refers to figuring out how people are communicating with you in order to determine how to stay safe and how to react best.

With pronouns and name use for example, it might take some people time to use the correct pronoun or name simply because they are used to calling you something different- especially adults. Others might be able to adapt very quickly- or even immediately (friends and positive supports). Others might want to be helpful but they might be forgetful about which pronoun and/or name feels right to you even if you already told them once or twice. However, there might be others who are rigid, downright mean about it, and refuse to change.

In all of these situations, looking at “The How” means doing your best to understand how they might be using the wrong gender pronoun or name. Ask yourself: Is that person purposefully making an error to create a power imbalance between you and them? Are they being forgetful? Are they simply not familiar with the idea that it’s possible to transition genders? Are they just not used to change after knowing you for so long as someone different than how you feel inside?

Then look at the way in which they use the wrong gender pronoun or name. The intentional bully might be (1) laughing when they say it, (2) overemphasizing the pronoun or name in the sentence when they do not have to, (3) using a derogatory word in addition to the pronoun or name, and/or (4) purposely showing off in front of others to get them to laugh as well. In these situations, it is important for you to: (1) Prioritize your safety by getting out of any situation that might be unsafe, (2) Utilize your support network and alert the proper staff (see above tips), and (3) Not react in the way that the bully would want you to. If it is safe to stand up to that person, then be confident and do not show them that their intentional acts are truly bothering you (even though they probably are). Showing a bully that you are bothered might reinforce them to do the same thing (or even worse!) the next time. A good rule of thumb is to remain safe and not react in the way the bully would expect or want you to react!

For someone who keeps forgetting to use your preferred pronoun or name, but does not appear to be doing so in any purposeful way, it might be okay to simply remind them which name and pronoun is correct and nonchalantly move on to another subject. One can say, “I noticed you used this pronoun and/or name, but I actually prefer to go by X instead. Now how about that science test!”

For those who use the incorrect name and pronoun, but then remember and quickly correct themselves, decide whether or not you want to thank them for remembering which pronoun and name you want them to use- especially if it is early on in your transition. Even though cisgender people don’t have to do this, it might help people feel good about being supportive of your transition and then the next time they will be less likely to mess up! One can say, “I appreciate that you remembered to use my preferred pronoun and/or name- thank you, it feels good to have a support system!”

For those who repeatedly use the incorrect name and pronoun but do not do so in an intentionally mean way, it might be okay for you to emphasize the importance when others use your preferred name and pronoun. Try not to be accusatory, but it’s okay to gently and politely state, “I notice you’re using my old pronouns and name, but it is really important to me that my friends and supports use my preferred pronoun and name instead. Now how about that science test!”

“The How” can work for other situations besides pronouns as well, including for situations for gender diverse individuals who are not transitioning to another gender. Understanding “The How” is important because it helps you figure out the best way to safely react to others so you do not over-or-underreact to people who are intentionally trying to be mean and make themselves more powerful over you.

Tips For Educators

Not intervening is NOT neutral
Youth who are transgender or gender diverse are more likely to be victimized than their peers. Adult role models play a really important role in maintaining a safe learning environment for all of these youth. Should you see other students victimize another student on the basis of their gender identity or gender expression, it is important for you to intervene proactively and be specific about why you are intervening. Explicitly stating “We respect all individuals- and how they present their gender- in this classroom and anything other than that is unacceptable” to the bullies is important. You may have just saved a life because you are letting the bullied student know that they can live authentically in that educational environment and that you will not stand for discrimination.

Do Not Make Assumptions about Names and Pronouns
Recognize that not all students feel comfortable being addressed as the name that is legally assigned to them. If a transgender or gender diverse student privately approaches you and asks you to use a different name or pronoun, respect their wish. It is okay to ask them an open-ended question about how to best be supportive. It is also okay to ask them if there are certain environments or situations where they might not feel comfortable being referred to as their preferred name or pronoun (e.g. they might not be out of the closet in front of certain people). Without implying that they automatically have mental health problems, it might be useful to empathically determine if they have a support system and/or identified adult allies to assist them in making healthy decisions and come up with a safety plan. Neither overemphasizing nor underemphasizing the struggles that you think they may encounter is important. A good rule of thumb: convey empathic acceptance and support and neither overemphasize nor underemphasize the potential negative issues that could come about for a student who is transitioning.

Be a role model to other teachers
Believe it or not there will be other staff members in the school who are either ignorant or rejecting of individuals who are transgender or gender diverse. These teachers may make passive remarks that convey they are uncomfortable or they may even make overt statements that are discriminatory against individuals who are gender diverse. Be proactive and take a stance with them! Even if these statements are made behind closed doors (e.g. not in the presence of the actual student), it is very likely that these teachers wouldn’t know the appropriate way to intervene should anything happen between the students themselves in that teacher’s classroom. Those teachers may also not fully appreciate the negative ramifications of misgendering a student who is transitioning to another gender. Seek out administrators and push to have staff trainings on creating safe learning environments for these students.

Lead an LGBTQ group for students
Many schools might not have a safe space for students to interact with others just like them. Having an inclusive extra-curricular club can be a lifesaver for many students who might otherwise feel very alone. Should your school not have a club of this sort, consider establishing one. Inclusive language is important. For example, Gay-Straight-Alliance (GSA) inadvertently might exclude individuals who are transgender or gender diverse. Therefore, consider all-inclusive names and address issues that are relevant for sexual and gender minorities.

Tips For Parents

Recognize that transgender and gender diverse individuals are more likely to be bullied and react appropriately
It is important to be checking in with your child or adolescent to make sure that they are not bottling up certain emotions. Many youth are afraid to tell their parents about their bullying experiences because they fear their parents will not handle the situation in an appropriate way. Some fear their parents will over react while others may feel their parents will under react.

The overreacting parents are those (who are well intentioned) that will independently act to try and prevent their kids from being bullied in the future (or to try and punish the bullies who have already harmed their child or teenager). In some situations, this might be embarrassing for the youth while in others it might inadvertently put them into a more harmful situation because the authorities or administrators do not act in the way the parent wants.

The underreacting parents are those who do very little to show concern when their child or adolescent brings an issue to them. The parent might be concerned but doesn’t know what to do about it. Alternatively, some parents try to engage in an unhelpful conversation with their child or adolescent to try and identify ways in which the child or adolescent acted that caused them to be bullied. This could come off as blaming and dismissive. When youth perceive their parents as dismissive or blaming, they may not share events that happen to them in the future.

The correct way for parents to address bullying with their youth is to: (1) Empathically connect with their child and raise the issue of bullying in general (e.g. “I know many kids are bullied if they are different.”) (2) Ask them if they are being bullied. (e.g. “Has this been an issue that has affected you?”); (3) Let them know that you are there for them to talk about it, no matter how small or big the event was (e.g. “I want you to know that I’m here for you no matter what.”); (4) Ask them if they have a safety plan in place and identify specific instances where the child might be in harms way to determine how to get them out of those dangerous situations.; (5) Ask them if they have a support network. (6) Ask the child in an open-ended way how you can best help them.

If you feel that your child or adolescent isn’t responding to bullying in an appropriate way, or if you feel that they are minimizing or exaggerating the situations, then consider reacting in a different way than what the child believes would be helpful. They may feel that school staff would be indifferent, yet you might have reason to believe that the school staff would be very proactive in coming up with a safety plan. In these situations- as long as it will not lead your child to act in an unsafe way- it is usually best to be as transparent as possible with your child or adolescent when you disagree with them.

Seek Help if you are Struggling with How to Best Support Your Child or Adolescent
For parents of gender diverse and transgender youth, it is not uncommon to experience a sense of worry, loss, sadness, and/or anger. Know that these feelings are okay. It is how you manage these feelings that makes all the difference in the world.

For those whose children/adolescents want to transition genders, it can be daunting to consider the fact that this is even possible. Facing your own loved ones and friends can be a challenge. Reacting to your child or adolescent can be a challenge. Many parents have good intentions but are simply not prepared to support their youth in times of bullying or adversity. At birth, parents are not provided with a handbook entitled “How to manage when your infant comes out as transgender or gender diverse in 10 or 15 years.”

Often, sources of conflict between transgender youth and their parents are over the use of preferred names and pronouns. Youth often wish their parents will start using their preferred name and pronoun almost instantaneously from the point that they disclose their identity to their parent. Know that your reaction to this disclosure and request is very important. So many of these youth experience bullying in their school lives, so when they perceive their parents as unable to cope with the same news, they may feel there is no way out. Remember: using their preferred name and pronoun is a way to help them get to know their true authentic self. Doing so is also not necessarily permanent. So if you think of yourself as someone who is assisting your child or adolescent in exploring their authentic self- even if it differs from the original path that you expected when they were born- you are way ahead of the game and you are doing the right thing.

If you are struggling with how to best support your child or adolescent, seeking professional help for yourself can be just as important as seeking help for them. Know that mental health providers are not here to assume predetermined outcomes, but rather we are here to support our clients and meet them where they are at in the process. Seeking counseling does not make you a failure as a parent- rather it can make you successful in managing issues that parents are often not prepared to deal with. Expanding your network by attending a PFLAG group or meeting other parents of youth who are transgender and gender diverse can be very helpful as well. Hearing their stories of trials, tribulations, successes, and failures may help you figure out what will work best for your own family.

Feature illustration by Jo Morrison, Chicago, IL

About the Expert

Scott LeibowitzScott Leibowitz, MD is the Medical Director of Behavioral Health Services for the THRIVE Program- the gender and sex development program at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH. Prior to that, he was the Head Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist in the Gender & Sex Development at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

Dr. Leibowitz completed his child and adolescent psychiatry training at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in 2010 where he first started working with gender diverse youth by developing a consultative, psychosocial assessment and treatment clinic in coordination with the hospital’s Gender Management Service- the first formal medical clinic for transgender youth in the United States. He is currently the co-chairman of the Sexual Orientation Gender Identity Issues Committee for the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, a member of the Global Education Initiative for the World Professional Association of Transgender Health, and is on the global competency taskforce for that committee. He is regarded internationally in this field and has participated in trainings and lectures in Europe, Thailand, and most recently in Japan. Dr. Leibowitz participated in the development of gender, sex, and sexuality competencies for undergraduate medical education as part of the Association of American Medical College’s Advisory Committee on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Sex Development. In 2015, he testified in favor of the Illinois HB 217 Bill that banned Conversion therapy for minors, which ultimately was passed and signed into law. He subsequently served as an expert contributor in developing a report on consensus statements on conversion therapies as part of a joint initiative between SAMHSA and the American Psychological Association.

He is also available on Twitter or Facebook.

The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.


Expert Tips: Creating Cyber-Mentors to End Bullying


How Cyber-Mentors Reduce Cyberbullying

Youth today spend more time on their digital devices than doing anything else except sleeping. It’s like home to them. According to a recent Common Sense survey, teens spend an average of 9 hours per day using media — which means they are digitally connected for most of their waking hours!

With this much time spent in cyber-life, it’s imperative for youth to learn how to incorporate their (positive) offline skills into their online lives. So where do we begin?

Teens and Their Peers

We all know how important peers are to teens. Just as in previous generations, young people want to be accepted and liked by their peers. Today youth connect with their peers online, so it’s additionally important to them to have virtual likeability – remember, online is a central part of their lives – so they check in on their social platforms to see how many LIKEs they have accumulated or who has commented on their posts. This is the new norm for youth today.

When those of us who grew up before “tech” were in elementary school, there was typically a buddy system. We looked after and took care of our buddy. It’s time to bring that useful practice back again — online.

A recent study reveals that cyberbullying is more common between friends (current or former) than strangers. So it’s high time for teens to become “cyber-mentors” for each other.

Teen-to-Teen Outreach Online: Becoming A Cyber-Mentor

What is a mentor?

A mentor is a person or friend who guides a less experienced person by building trust and modeling positive behaviors. A cyber-mentor guides a person or friend in cyberspace by modeling good social media etiquette and online digital behavior.

Cyber-mentors are friends who are there for you (offline and online) – for example, maybe a friend posts something questionable and it could reflect upon his or her online reputation negatively. That’s when a cyber-mentor steps in.

Or maybe a friend isn’t exactly less experienced online, but is just feeling less-than-adequate. You can also think of cyber-mentoring as an opportunity to step in when a friend is having a bad day and needs a cyber-hug.

Cyber-Mentors Meet Cyberbullies

Through cyber-mentoring, a teen can feel encouraged and empowered to make a real difference online. While reports of cyberbullying continue to make headlines, there are also many stories of teens and tweens breaking the mold and becoming upstanders.

Remember Kristen Layne who was cyberbullied for her weight when she posted a picture of herself on Facebook in a prom dress she was selling? It didn’t take long before a cyber-army of friends and strangers started sending uplifting messages of support to Kristen via social media.

A cyber-mentor, like the ones who supported Kristen, stand-up to the perpetrators of online cruelty, they post positive comments to offset online negativity, and they stop cyberbullies in their tracks.

It’s kids like these who determine what is cool verses not cool online.

Cyber-Mentors: A New Team Sport

Adults often worry about how impressionable teens can be, and how easily influenced by they are by their peers, and usually this is viewed as a negative thing. But it can also be largely positive too. Banding together to be cyber-mentors, teens can influence and encourage one another and become a very powerful, positive force when it comes to online life.

Being a cyber-mentor is easy and effective, and it can help make our teens’ (and everyone else’s) online experiences positive ones.

About the Expert

tcf-post2174-expert-sue-scheffFounder and President of Parents’ Universal Resource Experts Inc. (P.U.R.E.™), Sue Scheff has been leveraging her personal experiences to help others through her organization since 2001. She is a Family Internet Safety Advocate determined to save other parents from encountering the same challenges and issues she faced when searching for a safe, effective program for her own daughter during her troubled teen years. Sue Scheff established P.U.R.E.™ as an advocacy organization to educate parents about the schooling and program options available to pre-teens and teenagers experiencing behavioral problems. You can find her blog here. She is also available on Twitter or Facebook.

The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.


Expert Tips: Supporting Loved Ones of a Suicide Victim

Hands clasped for support.

When a person loses a loved one to suicide, the effects differ from other forms of loss. Suicide is an intentional action taken by a person who no longer felt the desire to live, although unfortunately these decisions are often made during extreme emotional distress. When you learn that someone you love was in enough pain to commit suicide, the experience of grief can be unique compared to that felt following the loss of a loved one to an illness or other cause of death.

Unfortunately, losing a loved one to suicide also leads to feelings of guilt as survivors contemplate whether or not they could have prevented this tragedy. Support from friends and family is crucial in recovery from the death of a loved one. Here are a few ways you can support someone who has lost a loved one to suicide.

If you or someone you know needs support immediately…

Please contact one of our program partners through their available hotlines.

The Trevor Project, 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386)

National Suicide Prevention Center, 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

More resources

1. Keep Them Social

Social withdrawal and depression are common responses to a suicide. Unfortunately, these are also the responses that foster suicide in the family members. People who have lost someone they care about to suicide are more likely to attempt suicide themselves and social isolation is a very common risk factor. So, to prevent further tragedy, keep the person social to a degree. Don’t force them to go to a party or club but do try to get them to talk, see other people, and do relaxing activities.

Yoga, walking, and hiking are all great options for keeping a person active and prevent withdrawal. You may even want to consider pet therapy. Spending time with loving animals has been shown to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.

2. Foster Open Communication

Suicide is a taboo topic in Western society, making it difficult for people who have lost someone to suicide to talk about their grief. Talking about emotions is very important when coping with a highly emotional event such as suicide. Loved ones of the deceased often feel guilt, many times blaming themselves for not recognizing the warning signs and taking action to stop their loved one from following through.

It is important that these feelings of guilt are not internalized. Many suicides occur because the person did not get the professional help they needed for an underlying issue such as depression, alcohol abuse or drug addiction. These are things an untrained person could not be expected to recognize or treat.

3. Learn What You Should NOT Say

It is very common for well-meaning people to say the wrong thing and make the loss even harder. You should do a little research, reading other people’s experiences and what did and didn’t help. You should never try to trivialize the loss with things like “Well, he had some problems.” The pain a loved one feels should not be shrugged off, regardless of the circumstances.

As tempting as it is, you should also avoid offering advice unless you are asked. Implying you have any understanding of what the person should do will not be received well. Even if you are also a suicide survivor, your experience is unique to you. While many survivors experience similar phases of grief, the grieving and recovery process is not identical for any two individuals. Wait for the person to ask for advice.

Avoid making negative statements about the person. Telling a loved one, “She chose to leave you,” helps no one and can make things much worse. There are a number of other potentially harmful remarks you could make, but instead, stick to the basics: “I’m sorry for your loss,” “He will be missed,” and, “How can I help?”

Supporting someone through the aftermath of a suicide can be awkward and uncomfortable. We as a culture prefer to avoid sensitive topics like mental health and suicide. However, if you want to help, you need to be willing to discuss the loss. You need to cultivate a calm, non-judgmental attitude and let the person know it is safe to talk to you. Get them out of the house, and be sure you know what NOT to say. In time, survivors with strong support systems are able to overcome the feelings of intense grief that follow the loss of a loved one and move forward, while still holding onto precious memories of those they have lost.

About the Expert

Steve Johnson co-created as part of a school project. He and a fellow pre-med student enjoyed working on the site so much that they decided to keep it going. Their goal is to make one of the go-to sources for health and medical information on the web.

The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.


Expert Tips: Bullying Prevention

Students in Classroom

An ounce of bullying prevention can make a world of difference to creating a welcoming and inclusive space. We know that you will want to start on #Day1 and so we asked professor and expert Debi Kipps-Vaughan, Psy. D., to share several helpful tips on how communities can take a pro-active in role in preventing bullying.

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  • It is so important to speak up when anyone witnesses bullying. This sounds so simple, but it can be very hard to carry out in front of peers. So we have to talk about this response to bullying and practice it with kids in order to encourage kids to report to adults. It is about being a ‘Bullying Prevention Super Hero’! It takes courage and conviction to speak up. Teach this to kids and help them build their character by feeling proud that they are the ‘brave kid’ who stands up for others!
  • Plug into kids who present as ‘bully victims’. This is the individual that has had negative interpersonal experiences, usually has a more acceptable attitude toward hostile behavior or aggression and has less regard for conventional rules. We need to recognize these individuals and provide intervention to address their thinking and attitudes through cognitive behavioral therapy and social skills training.
  • Be diligent about adult bullying behaviors. This is frequently a difficult subject to address in school buildings and work places. The behavior or adults is a model of behavior for children. It is important to open discussions about adult bullying behaviors in schools and work places to improve the culture for how we treat one another. Adult bullying can often be challenging to address because of the imbalance of power that exists in administration. However, if this is included as a component of an anti-bullying campaign, an avenue can be created to identify and stop the bullying behaviors that occur among adults. What we do as adults trickles down to our children. We ask our youth to be brave and call bullying it out where it occurs, and we have to be brave as adults also.
  • Create ‘Buddy Spots’ in your classrooms and school buildings. This may be a ‘buddy bench’ on the playground or a small sitting area in the classroom, library, or cafeteria where children can go and sit when they need a friend. Teach children to watch for others sitting in these areas and to respond by going and sitting with them as a friend. We need to teach pro-social skills to help children be more inclusive of others.
  • Identify and have discussions with ‘target groups’. Research supports that there are target groups for bullying behavior. Some have been identify as LGBTQ, special needs children, and individuals living with siblings that bully. Encourage children to share their experiences and identify those that bully them. Intervene with consequences for bullies when they bully these individuals. Support target groups by forming groups that help them feel supported and give them a sense of belonging. There is strength in numbers and we need to build a circle of ‘upstanders’ around our targeted youth.

About the Expert

Portrait of Deborah Kipps-VaughanDebi Kipps-Vaughan, Psy. D. is a licensed clinical psychologist currently in a role as Associate Professor of Graduate Psychology at James Madison University. Her interests are coordination of mental health services for children and adolescents under Comprehensive Services Act and Community Services Boards, improving data collection for academic interventions, and anger management for high risk youth.

The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.


Expert Tips: Persons with Disabilities

Athletes with disabilities on the basketball court

Persons with disabilities are an important and active part of so many different environments, but one British study found that 60 percent of students with disabilities report being bullied regularly compared with 25 percent of all students.1 We know that putting an end to bullying starts on #Day1 and with a better understanding of diverse communities. We asked professor and expert David J. Thomas, Ph.D., to share several helpful tips on how communities can be more inclusive of persons with disabilities.

Disability Etiquette

It is most important to remember that people with disabilities are just that; people first who happen to have disabilities. The disability community advocates for the use of “person first” language in most cases. When using “person first” language, the person precedes the disability. Try to use “person first” language or respect the wishes of the person if he or she indicates a preference for a different form of reference.

Usually Preferred Usually Not Preferred
Person with a disability Disabled person
Person who uses a wheelchair Wheelchair bound person
Person with an emotional disability Emotionally disabled person
Person with a seizure disorde Epileptic person
Person with ADHD Hyperactive person
Deaf or hard of hearing person Person with a hearing impairment or Hearing impaired person
Blind person Person with a visual impairment or Person who is blind

When Talking with a Person with a Disability:

  • Offer help, then wait until it is accepted before you give it. If a person with a disability asks for help and you want to provide assistance, but don’t know how, ask the person to tell you the best way of providing the needed assistance.
  • If a person with a disability feels she/he can do something but you cannot understand how (e.g. performing certain job requirements, tasks, white water rafting), ask the person to explain.
  • Accept the fact that a disability exists. Not acknowledging a disability is similar to ignoring someone’s sex, height or race. But to ask personal questions about the disability would be inappropriate until a closer relationship develops in which personal questions are more naturally asked. You should never initiate the conversation about specifics of a person’s impairment; it is the person’s right when, how and to what extent they disclose their disability.
  • Speak directly to the person with a disability (including a person who is Deaf), not to their companion or interpreter.
  • Do not assume that a lack of a response indicates rudeness or a lack of understanding. In some cases a person with a disability may seem to react to situations in an unconventional manner or appear to be ignoring you. Consider that the individual may be hard of hearing or have a processing impairment which may affect social or motor skills.

When Speaking to Someone who uses a Wheelchair:

    Download Your #Day1 Toolkit

    Ready to end bullying in your classroom from #Day1? Download your free two page #Day1 Toolkit for your classroom to prevent bullying, whether face-to-face or online.

  • Do not hold on to a person’s wheelchair. It is part of that person’s body space. Hanging on or leaning on the wheelchair is similar to leaning on a person sitting in any chair.
  • Do not be oversensitive about using words like “walking” or “running.” People using wheelchairs use the same words.
  • If conversation proceeds for more than a few minutes and it is possible to do so, consider sitting down in order to share eye level. It is uncomfortable for a seated person to look straight up for a long period of time and it creates a uncomfortable power differential.

When Speaking to a Blind Person:

  • If you see a blind person in a dangerous situation (about to walk into a wall or piece of furniture), speak out and make her/him aware of the danger.
  • Do not be sensitive about using words like “see” or “look,” etc. Blind people use them regularly.
  • Speak in a clear, normal manner. Do not exaggerate or raise your voice. Remember that the person is blind, not necessarily hard of hearing.

When Speaking with a Deaf or Hard of Hearing Person:

  • Speak clearly and distinctly, but do not exaggerate your words. Use normal speech unless asked to slow down.
  • Provide a clear view of your mouth. Waving your hands or holding something in front of your lip, thus hiding them, makes speech reading impossible.
  • Use normal tone unless you are asked to raise your voice. Shouting will not help.
  • Speak directly to the person, instead of from the side or back of the person. Also, make sure the Deaf or hard of hearing person is looking at you before you begin to speak.  It is acceptable to touch a Deaf or hard of hearing person in order to get their attention; this is expected and a normal part of conversation for them.
  • Speak expressively, and keep good eye contact. Deaf or hard of hearing people cannot hear subtle changes in tone which may indicate sarcasm or seriousness. Many will rely on your facial expressions, gestures, and body language to understand what you are saying.
  • If you are having trouble understanding a person’s speech, feel free to ask her/him to repeat. If that does not work, then use paper and pen. Most people will not be offended.
  • Remember, communication is your goal. The method is less important.
  • If you know any ASL, try using it. If the deaf person you are communicating with finds it a problem, the person will let you know. Usually your attempts will be appreciated and supported.
  • When talking with a Deaf or hard of hearing person, try not to stand in front of a light source (e.g. a window). The Deaf or hard of hearing person will find it hard to see your face, which will be silhouetted in the light.
  • Do not assume that the Deaf or hard of hearing person really understands you if she/he nods her/his head “yes.” This is often an automatic reaction. If you want to make certain that the person understood, ask her/him (in a tactful way) to repeat or explain what you said.

About the Expert

Portrait of David J Thomas, Ph. D.  for article about persons with disabilitiesDavid J. Thomas, Ph.D. serves as the Educational Accessibility Advisor and the ADA/504 Coordinator at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and the Higher Education and Design Principal at Independence Access Associates, LLC in Drexel Hill, PA. Dr. Thomas holds an appointment as Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Temple University and serves on the Human Subjects Institutional Review Board (IRB) at the University of the Sciences and the Board of Directors of the Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania and the Mental Health Advisory Council.

1.Source: British Journal of Learning Support, 2008.

Featured Photo Credit: Members from Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg, Fla., compete against members of the Orlando Magic Wheels-Championship Team in the Gulf Coast Invitational Wheelchair Basketball Tournament in St. Petersburg, Saturday, March 21, 2015. Sector personnel strapped into sports-designed wheelchairs and raised awareness for people living with disabilities in the community. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ashley J. Johnson)

The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.


Expert Tips: Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying expert tips.

Being online means interfacing with innumerable individuals behind the screen of nicknames and avatars. Take the Upstander Pledge and you know that the first steps to stopping hostility online is to stand up to bullying and support individuals targeted by cruelty. We asked cyberbullying expert Sameer-Hinduja, Ph.D., to share several more tips to identify and end bullying.

Tips for Teens

Protect your password
Safeguard your password and other private information from prying eyes. Never leave passwords or other identifying information where others can see it. Also, never give out this information to anyone, even your best friend. If others know it, take the time to change it now!

Setup privacy controls
Restrict access of your online profile to people you know and trust. Most social media platforms offer you the ability to share certain information with friends/followers only, but these settings must be configured in ordered to ensure maximum protection.

Raise awareness
Start a movement, create a club, build a campaign, or host an event to bring awareness to cyberbullying. While you may understand what it is, it’s not until others are aware of it too that we can truly prevent it from occurring.

Tips for Educators

Download Your #Day1 Toolkit

Ready to end bullying in your classroom from #Day1? Download your free two page #Day1 Toolkit for your classroom to prevent bullying, whether face-to-face or online.

Teach students that all forms of bullying are unacceptable, and that cyberbullying behaviors are potentially subject to discipline. Have a conversation with students about what “substantial disruption” means. They need to know that even a behavior that occurs miles away from the school could be subject to school sanction if it substantially disrupts the school environment.

Educate your community. Utilize specially-created cyberbullying curricula, or general information sessions such as assemblies and in-class discussions to raise  awareness among youth. Invite specialists to come talk to staff and students. Send information out to parents. Sponsor a community education event. Invite parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and any other relevant adult. Incentivize it if necessary!

Cultivate a positive school climate, as research has shown a link between a perceived “negative” environment on campus and an increased prevalence of bullying and cyberbullying among students. In general, it is crucial to establish and maintain a school climate of respect and integrity where violations result in informal or formal sanction.

Tips for Parents

Establish that all rules for interacting with people in real life also apply for interacting online or through cell phones. Convey that cyberbullying inflicts harm and causes pain in the real world as well as in cyberspace.

Monitor your child’s activities while they are online. This can be done informally (through active participation in, and supervision of, your child’s online experience) and formally (through software). Use discretion when covertly spying on your kids. This could cause more harm than good if your child feels their privacy has been violated. They may go completely underground with their online behaviors and deliberately work to hide their actions from you.

Cultivate and maintain an open, candid line of communication with your children, so that they are ready and willing to come to you whenever they experience something unpleasant or distressing in cyberspace. Victims of cyberbullying (and the bystanders who observe it) must know for sure that the adults who they tell will intervene rationally and logically, and not make the situation worse.

About the Expert

Portrait of Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D.Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D. is Co-Director of the Cyberbullying Research Center found online at and Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida Atlantic University. You can learn more about him and his speaking schedule at his site.


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