Devastating Twist in Powerful Anti-Bullying PSA

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A new anti-bullying PSA is going viral with its simple yet powerful message: Be nice. Now.

The 31-second video, created by advertising agency Deutsch New York in a partnership with the non-profit Champions Against Bullying, features a lineup of adolescents reading super-nice and loving posts left on others’ social-media pages. The tragic catch? The comments were posted onto each teen’s site after they took their own lives in cases related to bullying.

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“You are beautiful and unique in every way,” one young man reads aloud, looking down at his phone.

Others read, “That big smile of yours made my day,” and “I want to thank you for all the times you were there for me, and for being the greatest friend anyone could ever ask for.”

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Alexandra Penn, a crisis-intervention specialist who founded Champions Against Bullying in 2003, tells Yahoo Parenting that the sentiments are striking because “these are the things people are not sharing.” Often, she says, it’s because “kids who are brought up in an atmosphere without a lot of warmth and kindness don’t know what it is.” They learn more quickly when the unthinkable happens, she says.

The lack of expression also stems from a teen’s developmental stage, according to clinical psychologist Barbara Greenberg, author of “Teenage as a Second Language.” She tells Yahoo Parenting, “Adolescents are really, really afraid of making themselves vulnerable, so to make authentic, loving comments makes them feel they are giving up a lot.” Another reason young people might hold back, Greenberg says, is because their identities are forming, which can make them competitive, thus reticent when it comes to doling out too many compliments.

The video has been viewed on YouTube more than 300,000 times since it was posted on Jan. 7. Its message is timely, considering the recent spate of news around bullying and suicides — including that of 12-year-old Ronin Shimizu, who took his own life in December following relentless bullying. His suicide sparked online outrage and supportive sentiments (similar to those in the new PSA).

For that story, David Bond, vice president of programs for the Trevor Project — a national organization that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people— told Yahoo Parenting that the outpouring on social media can have two very different effects. It could be comforting for those who knew the young man. But, he added, “For other young people potentially considering suicide, that concept of ‘contagion’ is something to be considered — that thought of ‘You’ll miss me when I’m gone’ that can sometimes be reinforced through seeing such loving tributes. So it becomes a very complex situation.”

Yet another reason to consider taking the new video’s message to heart: Post those loving messages now — not when it’s too late.

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