Yesterday was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster for me. I received some terrible news about a friend of mine, made an It Gets Better video, got some spectacular responses to that video, and found out about a girl named Amanda Todd, who lived not far from where I am, and who had died by suicide. Overall, I was feeling really happy and really upset at the same time and if you can imagine, it was a tad confusing. But with Spirit Day just a week away, yesterday really drove home the importance of standing up and showing people that you care about them.
Watching Amanda’s video detailing her experiences with bullying and harassment was devastating. Having made a ‘secrets’ video myself, I know how much courage it takes to be able to write down your life story and share it with the world. Creating that video was incredibly brave of her and despite having had my own problems at her age, I cannot even imagine going through the things that she did. The things that happened to Amanda were terrible and they made me sick to my stomach. I wanted to cry, but mostly I wanted to understand.
But thinking on it, I realized that I can’t understand. It is physically impossible for me to understand why Amanda suffered at the hands of bullies because… I don’t know how anyone could feel justified in making someone feel that way.
Amanda was bullied, she was harassed, she was physically assaulted and she was the victim of a merciless attack on her well-being. Amanda’s video makes it clear that she felt she couldn’t escape. Wherever she went, her bullies followed her. Even to a new school. For me, that’s one of the hardest parts to understand. I just can’t see why you would follow someone, essentially stalking them, after you already made them feel bad enough that they had to get away. The other part I can’t understand is how you can tell someone: “better luck next time,” after a suicide attempt. I can’t fathom how a person can feel good about saying that to someone else, how they can possibly feel justified or right. That is the kind of stuff that makes me ill because of the unfairness of it all.
A girl died before it was her time to go and the saddest part is that she will never know how many people she positively affected. Even worse, people are only now standing up to say: “I would have stood up for her,” because it’s too late. None of us can stand up for her now because she’s gone. And it’s distressing to me that none of the people in her life were able to help
Bullying is a well-discussed issue in schools everywhere. I know my school had bullying workshops and initiatives and preventative measures running all year round, and so I know it’s not a lack of education that led to Amanda’s death. People know about bullying and they know what it can do to people. It’s well known what bullying can do to a person. People always say that they will stand up to it. But did enough of us stand up for Amanda?
All of our talk and our work means little if we can’t save people like Amanda, who was so desperate for help she even posted a video asking for it. Can you imagine how many other people are feeling the same way and completely slipping under our radar?
So I encourage you to be the best person you can be. If you are in school, stand up to bullying and make friends with the person sitting all alone at lunch time. If you are a parent or a teacher, think about the serious long-term harms that bullying can lead to. If you see someone desperately calling out for help, HELP THEM. Even if you can only give a few words of comfort or a hug or a shoulder to cry on, you are helping, you are saving. Be free with your praises and your compliments and your smiles because you never know who might just need it that day. Encourage everyone you know to do their best and spread love wherever you go.
On October 19th, wear purple for Amanda Todd. Remember her story. Wear purple for victims of bullying everywhere, regardless of their orientation. Bullying is not okay and it needs to stop. Nobody deserves to go through what Amanda did. Nobody.