Friday, October 12, 2012

Understanding the Impacts of Bullying & Harassment & How to Get Help

This post is dedicated to Amanda Todd (b. Nov. 27th, 1996 - d. Oct. 10th, 2012), a brave, beautiful young woman who took her own life this week after being subjected to the most brutal bullying, harassment and victimization imaginable by other young people in our community. This involved both cyber-bullying and real world actions and assault.

Amanda created a video to describe her suffering and she was crying out for help. There are many lessons to be learned in her video and her grieving mother, Carol Todd, has give permission for her video to be used to help other youth. 

“I think the video should be shared and used as an anti-bullying tool. That is what my daughter would have wanted,” Carol Todd, Amanda’s mother, told The Vancouver Sun in a message on Twitter.

I hope that young people, parents and others watch this to see what kind of an environment too many of our young people are living with every day. As adults, we must do more to stop this and to intervene earlier for the victims/survivors for this brutality. Bystanders must stop being silent and tell someone if you know of someone being bullied.
Amanda Todd: My story: Struggling, bullying, suicide, self harm 

On Sept. 7th, Amanda wrote: 

I'm struggling to stay in this world, because everything just touches me so deeply. I'm not doing this for attention. I'm doing this to be an inspiration and to show that I can be strong. I did things to myself to make pain go away, because I'd rather hurt myself then someone else. Haters are haters but please don't hate, although im sure I'll get them. I hope I can show you guys that everyone has a story, and everyones future will be bright one day, you just gotta pull through. I'm still here aren't I?

On Wednesday, October 10th, Amanda was found deceased at home in what appears to be suicide. Her struggle is over and her soul is now at peace. I send blessings and sympathies to her parents and family.

As a psychiatric social worker, working with youth who are admitted to an acute psychiatric in-patient unit, I have found that almost every single one of my young clients has been subjected to intense, chronic and damaging bullying and harassment by peers in the real world and in cyberspace.

Many switch schools, or even leave school altogether. Families move to get them out the community where they remain targets. Young people have told me about the safety plans they have had to create to get back and forth from home to school to avoid those who lay in wait for them. From what my clients and parents tell me, schools do little, if anything, to assist them and they are left on their own to cope with the devastating impacts of bullying and harassment, which include escalating mental health symptoms (anxiety and depression), feeling worthless, rejected, hopeless and suicidal. They often cannot see a better future is ahead for them.

As adults, we simply cannot ask why bullying is so rampant with young people without holding the mirror up to ourselves. Bullying and harassment is an epidemic in many workplaces. It has become a structural mechanism to create control and domination in the workplace. This a much bigger topic to be tackled on another day.

In the immediate I want to provide some resources for young people, for parents and for others so people can access help.

This is a video interview with Dr. Jenna Shapka, an expert on cyber-bullying, who discusses why it is much more difficult for victims to escape their bullies.She also offers some advice for parents.

These are resources I've created and previously posted to Advocacy BC:

Warning signs of suicide 

A person who is at risk of committing suicide usually shows signs - whether consciously or unconsciously - that something is wrong. Keep an eye out for:

  • signs of clinical depression
  • withdrawal from friends and family
  • sadness and hopelessness
  • lack of interest in previous activities, or in what is going on around them
  • physical changes, such as lack of energy, different sleep patterns, change in weight or appetite
  • loss of self-esteem, negative comments about self-worth
  • bringing up death or suicide in discussions or in writing
  • previous suicide attempts
  • getting personal affairs in order, such as giving away possessions, or having a pressing interest in personal wills or life insurance

Crisis numbers:

  • 24/7 Distress Phone Service - 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
  • Call  310-6789 (no area code needed) - available throughout British Columbia.
Youth in BC - Phone: 1-800-SUICIDE
  • Get help by having a real-time online chat with a trained volunteer. Available from noon to 1am every day.
  • Get email support from the Crisis Centre’s professional staff by emailing:
Youthspace- chat, forum, e-mail counsellours and youth programs and services in Victoria, BC.
Kids Help Phone - 1-800-668-6868
  • A toll-free, 24-hour, confidential and anonymous phone counselling, web counselling and referral service for young people ages 20 and under.
Mental Health & Addiction Resources for Kids & Adults in BC   

Go to your family doctor, or GP, or even a walk-in clinic, or take your child, or teen. Request a referral to your local mental health team, or MCFD Child & Youth Mental Health (CYMH). 

Contact MCFD Regional Offices to find your local CYMH office:

Locate an office in your region:

Call Service BC for the phone number for your local CYMH centre: 

Victoria: 250-387-6121 


Elsewhere in B.C.:1-800-663-7867 


Go to your local hospital emergency and tell them you, or your loved one, are feeling depressed, anxious or having thoughts of self-harm, or suicide. 

Find a counsellor in the community to talk about the things that are bothering you, or take your children to a counsellor. 
Counselling BC - search for counsellors, marriage & family therapists and psychologists

Find a Psychologist - BC College of Psychologists
Find a Social Worker - Private Practice Registry for Social Workers, by region and type of services.  
Find a Counsellor with the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors
Find a Play Therapist - BC Association of Play Therapists