I believe that bullying is a prevalent disease. It is present in schools, workplaces, online and especially among the teenage population. Despite infecting society, I believe this disease has a cure.

Stopbullying.gov, a government agency working to prevent and respond to bullying, defines the act as unwanted aggressive behavior among mostly school-aged children. What does this look like to a young Caribbean girl like myself? It’s when my classmates make fun of how I speak.

In my opinion, oftentimes when people hear the word bullying, they believe it is only when kids are punched or kicked or involved in an all-in-one at the street corner, but bullying consists of three main types: verbal bullying, social bullying and physical bullying.

I think verbal bullying is often taken more lightly than the others. It can start off with simple teasing and name-calling. In some instances, teasers and name-callers are unaware of the emotional damage their “jokes” are causing because victims sometimes remain quiet. From my personal experience, other students teased me because of my accent.

I am from St. Lucia, a small island in the Caribbean where we speak two languages. Adapting to a different accent was really tough for me as well as trying to speak like other students. At first, I felt like I was the problem and could not speak English. I remained quiet throughout school and only spoke to my family and friends when I went home. Some of the students who mocked me personally told me that it’s because they love my accent and wish they had one, while others thought it was just funny.

Eventually, I grew out of believing that my way of speaking was wrong, but rather embraced who I was and where I came from. It’s true I overcame feeling inadequate, but for some, it may not be the case. Every student is unique and deals with situations differently. If I had the opportunity to speak to students who are teased because of the way they dress, where they come from or even their accent, I would tell them that they should not change themselves to fit it. Instead, I would encourage them to embrace who they truly are and ignore all negativity.

I don’t think that many people understand how detrimental bullying can be to a child. It is also sad when young people take extreme measures such as hurting themselves or committing suicide. It is even sadder to me when some adults or parents refer to that child as “stupid.” For example, where I am from, while some understand the pain may have been unbearable, others believe that people who kill themselves are cowards and do not deserve a funeral. I would love to ask those adults a few questions: Did you go through what they went through on a daily basis? What have you done to help lessen bullying? Did you just think every child would recover from bullying?

I believe that people are individuals, therefore they deal with their problems differently. I agree that suicide is extreme, but the sad truth is, some kids believe death will just take their pain away. They probably don’t even think about the pain their families will go through because bullies have brainwashed them into believing that they were nobodies.

I would love to have the opportunity to question both individuals who were victims of bullying and the bullies themselves. I would also reward those individuals who fought through bullying without allowing it to overpower them and also learn about their experience. Of course, for the bullies, my question would simply be, why do you feel the need to cause harm to someone who most likely did nothing to you? Despite their answer, I would definitely encourage them to stop because it is never too late to change.