NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Shant’a Miller White will never forget the day that forever changed her family.
“I felt horrible,” she tells News 3 anchor Blaine Stewart. “I felt like I failed my daughters in not being able to be there to protect them,” she adds.
A bully brutally attacked her daughter on a school bus. The beating went on for 17 minutes.
“Your heart is broken when your child is suffering from something that you wish you could have protected them from,” Miller-White explains.
Miller-White turned her pain into purpose. She created , a nonprofit group working to increase education and awareness while decreasing bullying in area middle and high schools. The battle, however, extends beyond the classroom. The COVID-19 pandemic brought about a concerning spike in cyberbullying, with trauma that can live forever online.
“These children are taping these fights and different things that are happening, and they’re playing it. That person that was the victim is watching it over and over again as well,” Miller-White explains.
Social media also allows kids to constantly compare themselves to their peers. That concerns people like Krystin McAdams, a licensed professional counselor with in Newport News.
“Feeling they’re not pretty enough, or smart enough, or cool enough,” she lists. “I always try to remind them that’s so subjective, like what is enough? Who is enough? Because everybody has insecurities and fears.”
Those insecurities can be isolating and lead to serious consequences. A report recently released reveals suicide is now the leading cause of death for 13 and 14-year-old children in the U.S. in the span of a decade.
“I think a lot of times, kids are feeling incredibly lonely,” McAdams explains.
That’s why she stresses communication. McAdams recommends parents talk with their children every day.
“Really sitting and having that time with your children, and not letting them just kind of give a one-word answer and then run up to their rooms,” she adds.
Parents should watch for changes in behavior. Irritability, lack of motivation, falling grades, poor hygiene, and changes in eating or sleeping habits are all warning signs.
Help is available if you or someone you know is struggling – call or text 988. The Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.