Bullied teen shares story, starts club to help others - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Bullied teen shares story, starts club to help others

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MCFARLAND (WKOW) -- A McFarland teen is facing his fear.

15-year-old Marcus was bullied by his classmates for years, and now he's sharing his story.

What he endured has given him deep emotional scars.

But he's hoping his message will help his healing process and encourage other kids along the way.

Marcus feels he's seen the worst in other kids.

"School was like the most dreadful place for me to go. There were times when I was in the hallway where kids would push me or they would hit me in bad spots... They would say that I try to act stuck up or I think I'm better or I'm too smart. Kids would actually call me gay all the time."

The bullying began at a local school in sixth grade and quickly escalated.

"In lunch I would be so worried about going to the lunch room where I would just sit at a whole table by myself."

Marcus felt like he wasn't getting any support from the school staff.

"It seemed like they didn't believe me, some of the things that were going on, they didn't want to take that extra time to go and search and see if this is really actually what was happening."

For Marcus, the hallways became a danger zone.

He fell into a dark place, that no child should ever have to go.

"The thoughts were more like, 'I don't want to be here. I want to kill myself. There's no point. People don't like me.' I figured that would take away all the pain and allow me to just not have to deal with it anymore," he says.

Marcus' only refuge was his mother, Florine.

She says, "I felt helpless. All I wanted to do was just take it away, take all his pain and carry it for him, so he wouldn't have to go through it."

Florine went to the school every day to talk to his teachers.

"I didn't see the support. I saw them actually letting him down."

She felt her only choice was to pack up her family and move Marcus to a different school.

"I had to find something, I had to do something to help him," says Florine.

The new school was a new start, but the damage was already done.

Marcus began suffering from panic attacks.

He says, "I got really dizzy, my face was red and I got really hot. At first I thought I was gonna faint."

He was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, a condition doctors say he developed from the bullying and re-living the emotional trauma.

Florine says, "I pretty much cried every day wondering 'Did I do something wrong? Why is this happening to him?"

Marcus began therapy sessions.

Experts say many kids have experiences like his.

UW-Madison Associate Professor, Dr. Jack Nitschke, says, "It's not only PTSD that can be a negative effect of bullying, but also there's really low self-esteem , a person can feel very depressed."

It's been three years since the bullying began.

Marcus is now a freshman at another new school, McFarland High School.

He still suffers the symptoms of his past, but now, thanks to therapy, has the tools to overcome them.

"I kind of tell myself, 'I can do it, I can keep going.' Because I want to be somewhere. I want to be someone, someday," says Marcus

He wants to help others too.    

He's started a Mental Health Awareness Club at his school, to share his experience with students, and stop the cycle of bullying.

"I want it to be about creating that change and making that difference."

This time, he has the support of his educators.
    
"What I really like about Marcus, and it's why I think he's a good role model, is he confronts his anxiety," says McFarland teacher Danielle Kleijwegt.

Experts say bullying has become more of a problem over the years, especially through social media.

The emotional and physical effects are far reaching.

"A lot of times, indeed, adults 20 years out are suffering the consequences from that kind of bullying. Parents should be going all out, getting in with school officials, making sure that bullying is stopped and that the child can feel safe going to school or being in the neighborhood," says Dr. Nitschke.

That's the goal at McFarland.

"We do a lot of positive behavior, positive enforcement and we really try to teach students about integrity and what does it mean to be a good human being," says Kleijwegt.

It's also the goal of Marcus' club.

He says, "I thought that me doing this would give others a voice too."

In the process, he's made his mom proud.

"I'm blessed, truly truly blessed to have a kid like him. He inspires me and I think he inspires a lot of people."

"I want them to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and there is help available," says Marcus.

His club has already had a couple meetings and more than a dozen students have gotten involved.

Marcus will also be traveling to other schools in the Madison area to share his message.

For resources on bullying prevention and more on what's being done in Wisconsin schools, click on the attached links that have been recommended by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

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