In 2008, a Yale University study established a causal link between suicide and bullying. Their research concluded that bullying victims are 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims. Current research states one in five students reported being bullied, but the research also concludes a large percentage of victims do not make a report at all. A movement is underway to help improve peer-to-peer supports by using pop culture and comic book fictional characters to help kids and adults identify how they can be impactful in real life.
After WonderCon 2017, I was able to interview Dr. Janina Scarlet about her appearance on the End Bullying: Being a Superhero IRL panelwith “Brandon Routh (Superman Returns, Legends of Tomorrow), Anne Wheaton,Dr. Janina Scarlet (author, Superhero Therapy), Dr. Andrea Letamendi (Under the Mask Online, The Arkham Sessions), Matt Langdon (Hero Round Table), a rep from Amnesty International, and welcoming back NOH8 Founders Adam Bouska and Jeff Parshley. Moderated by Chase Masterson (Star Trek, Doctor Who: Big Finish)”.
Dr. Janina Scarlet is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, a scientist, full-time geek, and a member of the Pop Culture Hero Coalition. She is a Ukrainian-born refugee who survived the Chernobyl radiation and persecution. She immigrated to the United States at the age of 12 with her family and later, inspired by the X-Men, developed Superhero Therapy to help patients with anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Janina has written multiple publications on this topic and has given talks both domestically and internationally on her book, “Superhero Therapy” released on December 1, 2016, in the U.K. and on August 1, 2017, in the U.S.
SWH: How did the End-Bullying: Be a Superhero IRL (In Real Life) campaign come about?
The Coalition started a few years ago when a woman named Carrie Goldman, an anti bullying advocate, wrote a post about her daughter, Katie, who was bullied for liking Star Wars.
Chase Masterson, an actress and an anti bullying advocate, who was already working with Home Boy (largest program for gang intervention) reached out to Carrie, along with Jenna Busch (the creator of Legion of Leia), demanding justice for Katie. The response was incredible. Katie was receiving support from all over the world, including Lucas films. Over time, Chase Masterson and Carrie Goldman joined forces along with other members to use pop culture icons to prevent and reduce bullying, misogyny, and inequality of any kind, as well as to promote acceptance and understanding. Chase was able to bring the Coalition to San Diego Comic Con, becoming the first ever Coalition to be present at a comic con, and then joined forces with United Nations.
SWH: How does the incorporation of superheroes in addressing anti-bullying resonate with kids?
Many kids (and adults) identify with fictional characters, such as superheroes and want to be more like them. The Coalition serves as an educational system of how people can support themselves during adverse events, as well as how to recognize and stand up for others in such situations by using superhero role models.
SWH: What is the Pop Culture Hero Coalition, and how can people support it?
We are a non-profit organization, which uses pop culture characters to help people overcome bullying, discrimination, and other forms of adversity. One of the best ways people can support us is to spread the word about our organization and to donate: http://www.popculturehero.org so that we can continue to bring our programs and interventions to places where they are needed the most.
SWH: What resources do you recommend for those struggling with being bullied or to help a bully who wants to reform?
I recommend the book Bullied by Carrie Goldman, which is “a highly-researched guide on responding to bullying, social conflict, and peer victimization”. There is also the Boys Town National Hotline, a 24-hour, toll-free, confidential hotline staffed by specially trained counselors. Teens, parents, and others can get help with bullying, abuse, anger, depression, school issues and more. They can be reached by dialing 1-800-448-3000.
Additionally, the Teen Line is a teen-to-teen helpline with listeners trained to handle suicide, depression, LGBTQ, sex, and much more. No problem is too big or small. Open 6PM-10pm PST nightly at 310-855-4673. However, the Crisis Text Line is free, 2/47, confidential text line available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Text “START” to 741-741.
Deona Hooper, MSW is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Social Work Helper, and she has experience in nonprofit communications, tech development and social media consulting. Deona has a Masters in Social Work with a concentration in Management and Community Practice as well as a Certificate in Nonprofit Management both from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.