Amanda Todd’s suicide has attracted national attention bringing the issue of bullying to the forefront. It (finally) has many people asking, “What can we do about bullying?”
In 15-year-old Amanda’s case, the RCMP are launching an investigation, politicians are debating anti-bullying motions and her case is being reviewed by a team of experts called the Children’s Death Review Unit. That’s a pretty impressive response.
For those whose experiences include being the victim of physical and mental abuse from peers bullying, this story strikes a personal chord. Many young people in isolated communities and even here in Winnipeg struggle with the damaging effects of suicide on a constant basis. Our young people who are coping with the effects of poverty, loss of identity and bullying are becoming victims to the sickness of hopelessness. As adults, we need to be reacting to young people’s suicide rate EVERY TIME this tragedy occurs.
The recent report by the Ontario Chief Coroner on First Nations youth suicide found that 16 children between the ages of 10 to 19 died as a result of suicide in the years 2006 to 2008 in one community alone. Statistics also tell us that the national Aboriginal youth suicide rate is five to six times higher than the overall Canadian youth average. Many of us adults cannot imagine what it is like today; with the advent of the internet and cyber-bullying, the situation is more serious than we can imagine.
The real question is HOW DO WE PREVENT YOUTH SUICIDE? The answer is we have to work together. Parents and guardians must role model healthy behaviour and educators must intervene when bullying is suspected and be supported by community to address the issue as well. But the secret weapon, the key ingredient, the most powerful solution here are the young people themselves.
Becoming an Anti-Bully
When I was 10-years-old, and I was the victim of intense bullying to the point of contemplating suicide, I made a commitment to become an Anti-Bully. I thought that bullies built up and then used their popularity, social intelligence and their hands for negative purposes. It was similair to a villain in a comic using their superpowers for evil.
An anti-bully would use their influence, creativity and example for positive purposes; akin to a superhero using their superpowers for good. Through our example, we make being respectful a cool trait; which would make bullying uncool. We could laugh more, ask for help when we need it and stand by our peers.
It is our young people who can save lives.
We must accept realities that boys must cry and be emotional. Our girls must learn to love themselves. People treat you the way you treat them and when you give respect to others, they give it back to you. We must all commit to life long learning. We must remember that everyone has a gift and deserves an opportunity to share that gift with their community.
We all have a need to create; it could be art, poetry, sports, music, dancing. Young people should be given opportunities to creatively express themselves. When bad things happen, it creates a poison inside of us. We need those creative opportunities so we can learn what to do to safely get the poison out. So create! This also gives you an opportunity to share with others what has worked for you. Another trait of bullying is the need to bring down others; so you can build up others around you and instead of destroying self esteems, you can repair them.
What can youth do?
You can create a student club around an interest of your choice.
You can launch an anti-bullying initiative across the whole school.
You can find a way to make deliberate (not random) acts of kindness a regular part of your daily activities.
You can sit with the kid who eats lunch by themselves.
You can ask for help when you need it to show your peers that it’s OK to do that.
You can encourage your friends to ask for help when they are being bullied.
The choice among young people is clear, we cannot stand by and watch another one of our classmates, friends or family members fall victim to hopelessness and commit suicide. We should not be having to bury our 15 year old brothers, cousins, and friends anymore. We must commit in our own actions to reach out to those around us; and share with them our messages of love and hope.
For another recent CNC article about bullying, click on this link: