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The Incredible Hulk Gives Bullying Advice at London ComicCon

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Lou Ferrigno (right) – Played the Hulk in 70’s tv show

The Incredible Hulk, rightly so, is one of the “biggest franchises out there”. These words come from none other than the original 1970’s TV Hulk, Lou Ferrigno.

Ferrigno, now age 65, attended MCM ComicCon London this year to connect with his fans, the lifeblood of The Hulk’s popularity. In a press conference, he was asked about everything from his acting career to the metaphorical meaning of his famous green alter-ego.

“We all have a little Hulk inside us”, he told us, “we all want to express how we really feel.” All of those emotions (fear, anxiety, anger, frustration) are things that many of us want to show, but can’t. Ferrigno argued that The Hulk provides an outlet for these inner demons. This cultural expression of our deepest feelings is part of The Hulk’s attraction – the reason why, as one reporter suggested, The Hulk has “touched so many people”.

In essence, what makes Bruce Banner (The Hulk in human form) so special is that, as Ferrigno states, the character is both “quietly spoken” and “instant death”. Deep down, Bruce Banner is powerful, and he can defend himself. Ferrigno spoke candidly about how the crew, when they were filming, would sometimes burst into applause at his performances. What they may not have realised is that, for Lou, the expression was real.

After an infection as a child, Ferrigno lost most his hearing. His speech was also affected, and he was heavily bullied. He describes himself as “introverted”, but also that he was able to overcome adversity with an “I can” perspective on life, never “feeling sorry” for himself. Like Bruce Banner, Ferrigno wanted to be powerful, and able to defend himself. And goodness, did he succeed.

Ferrigno started body building in his early adolescence, inspired by Hercules whose superhero costume was primarily his own muscle. He went on to win Mr Universe twice, and to become a worldwide icon as The Incredible Hulk – whilst, in real life, being somewhat of a gentle giant. Indeed, when asked what other roles he would like to play, he mentioned the “suave” and “intelligent” James Bond.

I asked Ferrigno what advice he would give to the kids out there who are still struggling with being bullied. “Talk to someone… express yourself, even if you feel threatened”, he told us. “It’s the bully’s problem”. He made it clear that the single, best thing children can do is not to keep it to themselves, and get help.

That’s right. The Hulk himself has said to tell someone if you are being bullied.

So what makes Lou Ferrigno’s statements so timely, and important?

The UK anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label found in their 2016 survey that half of children experience bullying, and nearly one fifth of children experience bullying every day. Children’s charity NSPCC provided over 25,000 counselling sessions last year alone. Given how difficult it can be to talk to someone about bullying (often due to fear and shame), having an icon –  a superhero, no less – backing you up could be the difference between silence and support-seeking.

Additionally, Ferrigno has told us: It’s not your fault. It’s the bully’s problem. Victims of bullying may blame themselves for how they are treated, thinking they did something to “cause” the bullying, or that they are defective in some way. Worse, young people may think that they will get into even more trouble by telling an adult. It is a crucial and compassionate message to say “This is not your problem”.

Finally, we know that Lou Ferrigno has made meaning out of his childhood experiences which can also be known as “post-traumatic growth”. He quite literally became a hero, and turned his adversity into a superpower. Ferrigno uses his experiences to help others, by supporting a number of children’s charities such as the Starkey Hearing Foundation. And, thankfully for his millions of fans around the word, he talks openly about his own bullying experiences.

This is yet another thing we can take from Ferrigno’s ComicCon interview: bullying is not the end. Even those of us who have been bruised or changed in some way by bullying can find something in the experience to be thankful for. We may have found out about the depths of our personal strength, like Ferrigno himself. We may have discovered the importance of friendships, or the huge significance of a kind word; we may as adults use our bullying experiences to help and understand others. After the pain, after the hurt, there is space for healing and learning. We just need to find ways to do it.

So please, care and share. If Lou Ferrigno can do this at a press conference full of shiny cameras and reporters, then so can we with the children and adults we see every day. Together, let’s have those conversations, let’s raise awareness and take action.

Alongside The Incredible Hulk, it’s time that we “smash” the bullying trap.

Chey is a mental health worker from the north of England. She currently works with adults with learning disabilities. Her interests include gender, sexual and racial equality, human rights, social inclusion, older citizens, mental health and wellbeing, poverty and disability rights. She has participated in a range of charity and/or fundraising projects over the years, and looks forward to your ideas for the next one!

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Disability

Colin Kaepernick and How Self Care Must Go Pro

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For years, permanently injured players have been left to figure out how they will financially support their families and how they will carry on with their lives after committing years to football. Currently, the NFL is settling numerous lawsuits from former players who claim that their disabilities resulted from injuries on the field. But that’s not the only controversy stirring in the NFL.

In Fall of 2016, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem. At the time, many believed the media would quickly move on to another more trendy story. Afterall, he wasn’t chanting or picketing. He was simply kneeling. But as weeks passed, white anger slowly unveiled itself, and patriotism took the main stage. Critics saw Kaepernick’s quiet gesture as a radical protest. Yet, he still knelt game after game.

Kaepernick proved his physical ability early in his professional career by leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2013. At that time the public didn’t know that Kaepernick had a metal rod placed in his left leg prior to his rookie year. Still, he attended and did well in practices. But in 2015, he injured his left shoulder and would later report injuries to his thumb and knee.

Working with such disabilities would prove challenging to most people, particularly for professional athletes who are required to demonstrate physical grit day after day. When Kaepernick’s scoring record took a hit, questions arose as to whether he was worth his contract. But Kaepernick saw himself as more than just damaged goods. He had something else to offer: a perspective on the value of black lives in America.

By kneeling, Kaepernick demonstrated ownership of his body, a black body that has been endangered for a time that is too long to measure. That is a radical act of self-care. The concept of self-care, for a long time, was viewed as a luxury accessible to an elite few. And, self-care is publicly declaring that your life matters beyond what your performance on the football field.

In a recent interview, Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy said he thinks that Kaepernick was released because he’s not a great player, not because he didn’t stand for the anthem. He added that from the perspective of a team owner, Kaepernick isn’t worth the distraction if he can’t play well. However, star quarterbacks Aaron Rogers and Cam Newton came out in support of Kaepernick. Both stated he should be starting in the NFL, but he isn’t due to his protest of the national anthem.

I’d argue that even when athletes play well, there is a general discomfort with them expressing resistance to racism. They usually are told to stick to the game, proving once again that a working, non-resistant black body is most favorable (and profitable) in this society.

The NFL has a longstanding history of utilizing bodies for financial gain, in particular, black bodies. It is a marketplace for bodies. Bodies that can be negotiated and sold and traded in the name of increasing revenue. I hear sports fans say often that certain teams don’t win because the owners ‘don’t want to spend the money’. However, Kaepernick was recently released from his contract, something for which he seemed prepared.

According to the New York Times, NFL players are becoming permanently disabled after suffering head traumas. Those injuries have caused concussions, dementia, and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Now, some players’ wives have created at least one space, in the form of a private Facebook group, where they share their experiences and gain strength from each other as they become caregivers and advocates for men who once were larger than life. I believe that this generation of athletes will begin to demand more than money for play. They will demand the right to safety and self-care, and they will begin to plan for their legacies and quality of life off the field.

Athletes are human and imperfect. For many, they are heroes which must be a compliment, but it must also be a lot of pressure. This next generation of athletes will need to employ a high degree of self-care if they want to have a productive career and higher quality life after retirement.

Athletes inspire us because of their consistency and their unmatched desire to win. I’ve never met an athlete who thought second place was good enough. They want to be the best. Their drive is a metaphor for how many of us want to live our best lives.

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Culture

New Study Reveals ‘Marrying Up’ Is Now Easier for Men, Improves Their Economic Well-Being

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As the number of highly educated women has increased in recent decades, the chances of “marrying up” have increased significantly for men and decreased for women, according to a new study led by a University of Kansas sociologist.

“The pattern of marriage and its economic consequences have changed over time,” said lead author ChangHwan Kim, associate professor of sociology. “Now women are more likely to get married to a less-educated man. What is the consequence of this?”

Kim’s co-authored the study with Arthur Sakamoto of Texas A&M University, and the journal Demography recently published their findings. They examined gender-specific changes in the total financial return to education among people of prime working ages, 35 to 44 years old, using U.S. Census data from 1990 and 2000 and the 2009-2011 American Community Survey.

The researchers investigated the return to education not only in labor markets but also in the marriage market.

“Previously, women received more total financial return to education than men, because their return in the marriage market was high. However, this female advantage has deteriorated over time despite women’s substantial progress in education and labor-market performance,” Kim said.

The researchers found the overall net advantage of being female in terms of family-standard-of-living decreased approximately 13 percent between 1990 and 2009-2011. Women’s personal earnings have grown faster than men’s earnings during this time as women have increased their education and experienced a greater return on education.

However, the number of highly educated women exceeds the number of highly educated men in the marriage market, the researchers found. Women are more likely to be married to a less-educated man. Because of the combined facts that husbands are less educated than their wives than before, and the return on earnings for men has stagnated, a husband’s contribution to family income has decreased. On the other hand, wives’ contribution to family income has substantially increased.

This has led to a faster improvement of the family standard of living for men than for equally educated women themselves, Kim said, and helped converge the gap in equivalised income between wives and husbands.

“This could explain why it seems men don’t complain a lot about this,” Kim said. “Our answer is that’s true because look at the actual quality of life, which is determined more likely by family income rather than by personal earnings. It seems fine for men because their wife is now bringing more income to the household. One implication of these findings is that the importance of marriage market has increased for men’s total economic well-being.”

These developments could also result in gender convergence in the family standard of living associated with this shift in the norm of marriage, away from previous eras.

“Marriage is now becoming more egalitarian and becoming equal,” Kim said. “If you look at gender dynamics or from a marriage-equality standpoint, that is a really good sign.”

However, the study’s results also have implications for examining potential effects of marriage and economic inequality.

“For less-educated women, the contribution of their husbands has been substantially reduced so that their standard of living has diminished, even though their personal earnings have grown,” the researchers said.

This could aggravate a wealth gap among less-educated or low-income families, the researchers said. Kim said potential future research could monitor how family demography still shapes and directly underlies inequality, even as family relations continue to evolve.

“When we consider family dynamics,” Kim said, “men are getting the benefit from women’s progress.”

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Entertainment

Have You Heard the “Suicide Prevention Anthem 1-800-273-8255”

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MTV – VMAs

National Suicide Prevention Month begins on September 1st, and MTV officially kicked off the awareness month with a performance of “1-800-273-8255” by Logic along with Khalid and Alessia Cara at the VMAs. The song’s title just happens to be the number to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, and the performance also included a group of suicide attempt survivors who came on stage wearing shirts with the number to the suicide helpline.

The song begins from the perspective of someone who wants to die and feels there is no one there to care about what happens to them. The opening hook for the song states, “I don’t want to be alive, I just want to die today, I just want to die.” Some may take an issue with the beginning of the song, but it can not be understated the importance of identifying those feelings in order to seek help.

A recent study which included 32 children’s hospital across the United States revealed an alarming increase in self-harm and suicidality in children and teens ranges from ages 5 to 17 over the past decade. Also, the School of Social Work and Social Care at the University of Birmingham released a recent study stating, “Children and young people under-25 who become victims of cyberbullying are more than twice as likely to enact self-harm and attempt suicide than non-victims.”

The second hook starts with “I want you to be alive, You don’t gotta die today, You don’t gotta die.” The song moves from a place of darkness to a place of support. When someone expresses suicidal thoughts, it is critical to not dismiss their feelings or minimize the weight of the issues preventing them from wanting to live. The Center for Disease control list death by suicide as the number 1 cause of death in the 15-19 age group. According to the National Data on Campus Suicides, “1 in 12 college students have written down a suicide plan as a result of stresses related to school, work, relationships, social life, and still developing as a young adult.”

John Draper, Director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, in an interview talked about the impact the song is already having. Draper said: “The impact has been pretty extraordinary. On the day the song was released, we had the second-highest call volume in the history of our service. Overall, calls to the hotline are up roughly 33% from this time last year.” via CNN

“I finally want to be alive, I don’t want to die today, I don’t want to die” are the lyrics and the tone in which the songs end. Then, it leads into an incredibly woke statement by Logic, and here is a sample:

“I am here to fight for your equality because I believe that we are all born equal, but we are not treated equally at that is why we must fight!” – Logic VMAs

The trend for suicide deaths is on an upward climb. A 2015 study by the Center for Disease Control state there were twice as many suicides than homicides in the United States. It’s time we end the stigma and myths surrounding suicide attempt survivors “doing it for the attention.” Suicidal thoughts may be an ongoing struggle instead of a one-off event to prevent. In this case, we need to arm loved ones and at risk individuals with information as well as tools and resource to manage their mental health status.

Suicide Warning Signs

Another useful resource is the Crisis Text Line in which users can send a text to a trained counselor and typically receive a response within 5 minutes. Texters can begin by texting “START to 741741” to get connected.

Mental Health providers and practitioners are always looking for ways to connect and reach those most at risk for suicidal and self-harming behaviors, and pop culture often has a direct connection to those who are the most vulnerable. Unfortunately, a recent study identified a link between 13 Reasons Why and suicidal thoughts in which it found “queries about suicide and how to commit suicide spiked in the show’s wake.”

However, unlike Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why“, this song is already showing that it will have the opposite effect by increasing queries and online searches about the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. If you have not seen this powerful VMA performance, I urge you to check it out.

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