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Connection Between Bullying, Stress to be Discussed May 17

Stress levels among students have been a big focus among the Madison school district and Madison youth-focus organizations. To keep the conversation going and discuss the link between stress and bullying, Madison Youth & Family Services, MADE in Madison, Stand up and Speak Out, The Barn, and Madison Public Schools will host the Above the Pressure program on Wednesday, May 17 to talk to middle school students and parents about stress and bullying and offer tools to tackle such issues.

The Above the Pressure program features songs from the anti-bulling musical Her Song staged at the Ivoryton Playhouse as well as insights from Madison kids about stress and social pressure and a message to empower parents. Madison Youth & Family Services Director Scott Cochran said the event came together after speaking with Jill Nesi, producer of Her Song, who wanted to bring the message of the musical to Madison.

“It is truly a collaborative event,” he said. “It started with our collaborating with Stand Up and Speak Out [founder] Jill Nesi, who created an anti-bulling musical along with Nick Fradiani, Sr. She had come to us back in the fall asking for our help to bring this musical to the kids in the town and wanted us to facilitate presenting it to the middle schools.”

By combining select songs from the musical with resources and information, Cochran said this is an upbeat way to tackle the stress issue that persists in Madison.

“Time and time again we come across groups of kids or parents who are concerned about the stress levels in our kids and so we wanted to showcase the kids who are performing in the musical and provide some information and some support to parents and kids who are dealing with stress,” he said.

When talking about stress, Cochran said, it is important to talk about bullying. He said the two are linked and, while the schools do a good job of dealing with reports of bullying, it is important to understand the link between stress and bullying to tackle the issue.

“Bullying occurs as a cultural thing. It is supported within a system and the more stress and the more competitiveness we have within a system, more likely you are going to have more bullying, so they are closely linked,” he said. “We want to bring awareness to this.”

Cochran said it is important for parents to be involved in this conversation so that they can help their kids but also understand the culture of these issues.

“It is really about how important it is to stop and take a look at what is going on,” he said. “We have an impact on the culture within the town and on how the school handles some of these situations so parents have quite a bit that they can do to help kids. We make the climate for them.”

Resource tables will be set up at the event offering information and resources, but Cochran said the goal of this event is to be “informative and inspirational,” offering positive tools and solutions to a problem.

In addition the event also serves as a fundraising effort for Stand Up and Speak Out. People can purchase raffle ticks for a chance to win a signed CD, concert tickets, or VIP passes to an American Idol winner Nick Fradiani Jr. show.

Above the Pressure is Wednesday, May 17 at Brown Middle School from 6:30 to 8 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Madison Youth and Family Services at 203 245 5645.

13 Reasons Why

While the Above the Pressure event is a good way to start talking to kids about stress and bullying, Cochran said parents also should be aware of the current buzz surrounding the popular Netflix series 13 Reasons Why.

The show focuses on adolescent girl Hannah Baker, who commits suicide and leaves behind audio recordings implicating 13 different people in her decision to ultimately end her life. The show has sparked conversations on social media and has raised a few red flags among mental health experts who say the subject matter of the show could be triggering to those with mental health issues.

Cochran said he has had a handful of parents reach out to ask him about the program. He said the best thing for parents to do is ask their children if they have seen it. While he doesn’t advocate watching the show, he said if parents are concerned their child has seen it, parents might want to view it themselves.

“It does depict the world in which our teenagers are living in a way that is fairly accurate…particularly the gender roles and the cyber bullying,” he said. “If [there’s] anything you can take away from it, it is parents becoming aware. It is not like that for every teenager, but that is the world that some teenagers, and the teenagers that are struggling, those are the kind of things that are happening.”

Cochran said the show could be troubling for at-risk students as he said the show does glorify the act of suicide.

“We haven’t heard of anyone who has overtly used the show as an excuse to hurt themselves, but I think that might come at some point so we just want to get to as many kids and parents as possible,” he said. “If you are suffering or your friend is suffering, don’t be afraid to reach out to people and get help.”

Zoe Roos covers news for Guilford and Madison for Zip06. Email Zoe at

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