Syanne Centeno | The Bullying Effect



Turn on any news station, flip through any newspaper or visit any school, and there will likely be one familiar topic: bullying. It has become a serious issue that affects children, teenagers and even adults. As it becomes more prevalent, our society and communities are becoming increasingly concerned about the repercussions this type of behavior can cause, not only in immediate situations but also the long-term effects.

According to the CDC, suicide is the third cause of death among young people, with bullying victims being between two and nine times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims. Many students are either bullies themselves or victims of bullies, and many stay at home on a regular basis to escape these painful acts. Syanne Centeno, a 21-year-old anti bullying advocate, knows a thing or two about this particular form of mistreatment. Due to her own experiences, she has become very passionate about bringing awareness to the true realities and impacts of bullying. It was when she started seeing more and more suicides on the news that she knew she had to share her story and make a difference.

“As a child, I was bullied pretty severely. I was the only tan, Hispanic girl in my class at the time. I had glasses, crooked teeth and was very shy.” After moving to California from the U.S. Virgin Islands, Syanne was often the victim of both verbal and physical harassment. Although it started in the third grade, it continued throughout elementary school and high school. “I went through sort of a gothic/emo stage in high school that drew attention to me for more bullying”.

As Syanne tried to make sense of everything that was happening to her, she slipped into a very serious condition, Anorexia Nervosa, and had to be hospitalized. “When I returned to school, people were calling me ‘crazy’ and ‘psycho.’ With the anorexia, I fell to 81 pounds.” It was at this point that she began to feel hopeless and worthless, and she experimented with self-mutilation. Not long afterward, she attempted suicide by overdosing on her prescription anxiety medication and found herself back in the hospital.

“I had told a lot of people what I was going through, but no one responded. As a result, I developed the symptoms of anorexia, which has now caused me to have osteoporosis – a disease often seen in post-menopausal women over the age of 60. I am 21 years old now with the bones of someone three times my age.”

Thankfully, Syanne has parents that supported her, and she got the help she needed. Today, she is stronger than she has ever been and is able to take her story to others who may be going through the same thing. She is now a public speaker and an advocate for the National Association of Anorexia and Associated Disorders. She has appeared in the media, has spoken at the House of Delegates and has conducted various anti-bullying seminars for students at the high school level.

“I brought media attention to my thoughts by first writing to local newspapers. I was contacted to speak at an anti-bullying seminar. Although I was hesitant to share my story, I did. From then on, I continued speaking, and people kept listening.”

Syanne wants people to know that they do not have to deal with bullying, and there are ways to get the help they need. “Some say there is a difference between being ‘picked on’ and being ‘bullied.’ The way I see it, if it makes you feel bad, and you have told them to leave you alone and they continue to harass you, then that’s bullying. Using the words ‘picked on’ makes it seem like a lesser offense.”

She also believes that although it is important to seek help if you are being bullied, it’s also important to stick up for others you see when they are being mistreated. She urges everyone to tell an adult and to never give up if they don’t listen.

bullyingeffect3Being aware of the behaviors and warning signs of children and teens going through this is also incredibly valuable. Some of the top warning signs are:


Syanne plans to continue speaking and offering advice to parents and children. “I feel there needs to be more awareness on the correlation between eating disorders and bullying. The lifetime effects of these are frightening and not often discussed.”

She also has greater plans on the horizon. “I would like to go into government and politics so I can have a direct influence on anti-bullying laws and policies. I want to run for the Board of Education and, if I win, bullying will be the first thing I will address.”

UPDATE: Syanne has made numerous strides in her quest to expose bullying through different channels. She was interviewed on a national FOX television show in October 2013; interviewed for the national print parenting magazine, Natural Child World; chosen Regional Manager for The BULLY Project chapter in Maryland; and crowned the 2014 Miss Frederick United States in October. She will go on to compete in the Miss Maryland United States Pageant in February 2014.

Photography: Ray Ally, Ally Kat Photography
Hair Styling by: Cindy Soung, W Salon

View Comments (4)
  • So proud to call you a friend, Syanne. You do so much good after surviving so many hard times.

  • It was a pleasure to cover your story. Keep up your continued support for those that have a hard time speaking for themselves. The world needs more people like you.

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