As we all know, bullying says a lot more about the person bullying than the person being bullied. Bullies are those who crave control and power over others while intentionally seeking to do harm and humiliate their victims.
And for those on the receiving end of this treatment, the aggressive behavior displayed by bullies tend to impact young people the hardest.
For those being bullied, whether it’s physical, verbal, or even virtually over the internet, they experience fear, humiliation, and a sense of worthlessness. Studies have also found that it can have a devastating effect on academics as well as lead to serious mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and sadly for some, suicide as many victims may feel it’s the only solution.
That’s what nearly happened to a boy named Liam whose torturous 7th-grade year in 2017 nearly ended his life.
But, it wasn’t until Liam — a boy who really loved his friends, soccer, and food — started showing signs of uncharacteristic behavior that his mom, Deirdre Fell-Obrien, started noticing something just wasn’t quite right with her child.
As she told The Well in an interview, one day, her son informed her that he no longer wanted to have his cell phone. That’s when the worried mom started keeping a really close eye on him.
After that, Liam started losing interest in other things. He no longer wanted to hang out with his friends, or ride his bike, nor did he carry around his soccer gear (something he’s always done with pride).
Unfortunately, as typical for a boy his age, Liam wasn’t readily forthcoming about what was happening with his mom.
“I was determined to get to the bottom of my son’s sudden and severe dismissal of his former passions, but he was so secretive and closed off,” Fell-O’Brien said.
Soon, her son stopped eating.
Knowing that she needed to confront the problem head-on, she made Liam sit with her one day after her son refused to go to school. That’s when the floodgates of emotion inside her son finally broke down as he told her that he was being bullied.
“I asked how often they did this to him. He looked me in the eyes and said, ‘Every day, Mom.’”
Liam also shared with her that, among other things, the boys at school would taunt him; saying that he “sucked” and had no business being on his beloved soccer team.
He also told her that they would call him obscene names, physically abused him, and even encouraged that he go kill himself.
Liam told his mother that it had been going on for a full year, and she finally realized that her son was suffering from depression. Liam had also lost an alarming amount of weight since one of the symptoms of his depression was a loss of appetite.
Bullying is increasingly becoming a more recognized problem that’s common in all schools. So, Fell-O’Brien was fortunate enough to have resources she could rely on to get her child the help he so desperately needed. Unfortunately, the parents of her son’s bullies refused to take any responsibility for their kids’ actions, and the school would not hold anyone accountable.
By the time Liam told his mom about the situation, he had lost so much weight that his parents had to take him to a hospital where he was placed on a feeding tube and heart monitor. His mom felt totally helpless and said his condition had deteriorated so rapidly that it took their conversation to fully understand how much trouble her son was in.
When the school refused to get involved, the determined mom took to social media, where she shared Liam’s story with the world.
Soon, Fell-Obrien’s post went viral.
Instead of adding to her son’s humiliation, the post generated an enormous outpouring of support from all over the world, showing the young man that he was not alone.
Readers even created the hashtag #WeStandWithLiam as well as T-shirts, bumper stickers, and ribbons while sharing their own experiences with bully abuse.
His mom believes that seeing how much people are rooting for him was a vital step in her son’s recovery.
Liam’s condition was so serious that he had to spend ten weeks at an intensive inpatient facility to receive treatment for depression and his related eating disorder.
Thankfully, the young man made a full recovery and was able to go home. Also, to everyone’s surprise, Liam decided that he wanted to go back to his original school and finish out the soccer season!
His parents were surprised and very proud, but also understandably worried for him. But in the end, he managed to overcome and succeed!
But as we all know, there’s still a long way to go before we can eradicate the behavior of bullying within our society.
If you or someone you know is the victim of bullying, please visit stopbullying.gov for valuable resources and support. Just know that you are not alone.
Please be sure to share Liam’s story with your friends and family.