Friday March 15th is the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence.
Across the country almost 6000 schools will be taking part in this day of action, and thinking about how to stop bullying everyday.
One Logan schoolgirl has seen first hand the devastating effects bullying can cause. We met Destiny Wilson-Scott at our School Excursion at Crestmead State School last month, where she was promoting her anti-bullying campaign. In what can only be described as unimaginable tragedy, Destiny has lost two of her closest friends to suicide after they suffered depression and anxiety due to bullying. It is unthinkable, that a schoolgirl of 13 years should have to suffer the preventable deaths of two of her friends within the space of a year.
Destiny’s advice to kids suffering at the hands of a bully is to reach out to someone you can trust. “Talk to someone about it, it could be a teacher, your best friend or a guidance counsellor.”
“Just talk to someone because it’s not good to keep it in.”
Destiny is now raising money for the mental health charity Angel’s Hope, which empowers children and young adults to take action against bullying. Destiny said that the organisation also want’s to put pressure on governments to enact laws that will hold bullies accountable for their actions, not just in schools, but in workplaces and across the wider community.
How Can Parents Respond?
Richard Fay is a counsellor in private practice, and CEO of not-for-profit charity The Centre for Men. He say’s that children and young people increasingly have to deal with the effects of bullying, one being suicidal thoughts, largely because of the influence of social media.
“A 12 or 13 year old can post or say something on social media, and not realise the impact of their words because there’s no facial cues coming back.”
“Normally if you said something mean to someone’s face, you would see their hurt and feel empathy. Words can be very, very cruel.”
Richard says there are some signs parents can be watching out for that could mean their child is suffering at the hands of a bully. “If they’re always tired, if they dread going to school, or suffer appetite loss, especially not wanting to eat breakfast – often that’s the time they’re most stressed, just before they have to go to school. If they are usually chatty and then suddenly go very quiet for an extended period of time, or experience a swift mood change, becoming irritable and angry.
These are some of the signs to watch out for, but an even more concerning alarm is if your child has been sullen and shut down for a long period of time, and then becomes happy, this can be a sign that a child has settled on suicide as a solution, and their mood will go up.”
In terms of dealing with bullies Richard has some advice for both young people and parents.
- Stand up to the bully and they will back down very fast.
- Don’t use the same bullying tactics that they are using, be clear and direct that you won’t give in to intimidation.
- Use a phrase like – “I feel really sorry for you.” This will take the rug right out from under the bully.
- Use active, non-violent resistance – this does take courage but will effect change.
- Find a counselor you trust, so that the child can talk to someone who isn’t Mum or Dad.
- Don’t deny your child’s experience. So if they say – “someone has said this about me”, don’t just respond with “well that’s not true, so don’t worry about it” as this denies what they are going through.
- Ask them insightful questions about how the bullying makes them feel.
- Ask the tough questions including, have you thought about taking your life. Talking about difficult topics allows the child to talk about their experiences, which means it’s less noisy in their head.
Richard says that if parents have real concerns about their child they should act quickly.
“The effects of bullying can amplify really suddenly, so if you are genuinely concerned don’t ignore the warning signals.”
“Get them to the mental health unit of your closest hospital or contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.”
You can listen to the full interview with Richard in the podcast player above.
If this story raises issues for you call Lifeline on 13 11 14 anytime.