Bullying can be fatal.
We are reminded of this once again because of the tragic case of B.C. teenager Amanda Todd. The 15-year-old from Port Coquitlam took her own life last week.
Amanda recently put together a YouTube video about being bullied. She tells her story in a simple but powerful manner, via hand-written cards in front of a camera. For anyone with any sense of compassion, given Amanda’s final action, it’s a heartbreaker.
“Every day I think why I am still here,” she says near the end of the video, which outlines the Internet posting, bullying, stalking, beating, changing of schools and torments she suffered through.
She tells us that the bullying led to anxiety, depression, panic disorder, cutting herself, and drug and alcohol abuse.
This summer she couldn’t even leave the house.
Then, after two earlier suicide attempts, the teenager succeeded.
Her mother Carol has now started a trust fund. The Amanda Todd trust fund is accepting donations in Amanda’s name at all Royal Bank of Canada branches.
Amanda had help through family, school and professionals. Still, in the end, the bullying overwhelmed her.
The awful truth is that Amanda isn’t the only teenager to have committed suicide because they were bullied. At least three other Canadian teenagers did the same thing in 2011.
Amanda’s video has been viewed more than seven million times and many of those views came after she died.
Not only Canadians but people around the world have become impassioned by Amanda’s death.
The horror of it all is that even after she died, some people who have not the slightest clue about compassion posted further disparaging remarks on a social media website that honoured Amanda.
That is the nature of bullying, of course. It’s heartless and cruel.
And parents who have seen their children suffer bullying, or anyone else who has been a victim, knows that while most people physically survive bullying, there can be a lifetime of emotional scars.
People often stand by when bullying happens because they fear becoming the target themselves.
Bullying doesn’t stand alone as a single miserable act that people inflict on others. I think it’s more complicated than that.
It’s about the lack of respect that people have for others and the things that surround them.
Bullying, racism, discrimination — they’re all connected. What we teach our children about respect will have a lasting impact on how they treat others. And if we don’t hold our children responsible for their actions, we can expect little or no respect.
Of course, that simplifies the solution to bullying. At the same time, children have to be taught how to defend themselves against bullies. One person trying to stand up against bullying is one thing. But when others stand up as well, it’s even better. Silence, looking the other way, is a failing.
We no longer have only old-fashioned bullying, where kids are picked on face to face. We also have the dark side of the Internet, cyber bullying, which is much of what Amanda Todd suffered. Teens are often attacked through text messages and social media websites such as Facebook.
On Monday in the House of Commons, New Democrat backbencher Dany Morin called for a national bullying strategy. An earlier private member’s bill by Liberal Hedy Fry would add cyber bullying to the Criminal Code. It has not yet gone to third reading.
These are positive approaches to the problem, but two key factors will always play a significant role in reducing bullying and the worst of its consequences.
Like impaired driving, through education, bullying has to become unacceptable.
And all of us must step up to the plate together to support the victims of bullying and challenge directly those who bully.
Mary-Ann Barr is the Advocate’s assistant city editor. She can be reached by phone at 403-314-4332 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.