We all were saddened by the news of 15-year-old Amanda Todd, the Port Coquitlam teen who committed suicide a few weeks ago after bullies tormented her.
She shot a YouTube video before her suicide that detailed the abuse she was subjected to after exposing her breasts while in Grade 7 to an unidentified man during an on-line chat.
For young Amanda, who was such a beautiful and talented young girl with so much promise, she just could not go on. And while she was getting help, according to her mom in an interview this week with the Vancouver Sun, the bullying just continued while she was getting that help.
In the days that have followed, the reaction and outpouring of support, grief and anger have been widespread and felt around the globe. Memorials and tributes have been held in many cities. Experts, politicians and school officials have been weighing in on the tragedy, examining what went wrong and asking questions: are there enough resources in place, and are there the necessary tools available so those who are being bullied have a place to turn to?
These are valid questions that demand answers, but in my view there is a bigger question we should all be asking — what can I do to make a difference?
This is not simply a case of having better resources and throwing money at a problem. And although money and resources do help, this is not a simple and quick-fix issue.
Growing up in Saskatchewan, I was not a very popular kid. I had friends, but I was never tops in my class. I had my fair share of bullies, and although never to the extent of Amanda, I too had my problems.
When my family and I moved to B.C. and I started high school, I had difficulty adjusting. The cliques were already in place. Kids had friends they had gone to elementary school with and it was hard to make friends. So I turned to organized sports, specifically football, as a way to make friends, to bond and make connections. I had several coaches who were great mentors to me. They gave me a lot of guidance and confidence in my abilities, to challenge myself to reach for my goals, and to work hard to achieve those goals. Maybe Amanda didn’t have those people in her life, maybe she did and it just didn’t work for her. My point in this is we as adults play a critical role in teaching the young people of this world what is right and what is not. We adults should be setting the examples for the next generation.
On many occasions in this community during public meetings, discussions and debates about issues, I have witnessed more than my fair share of horrible behaviour. I have no problems with having a healthy debate. If we agreed on everything all the time, we would never move forward. But when that debate turns ugly — when people make potentially slanderous remarks in public and threaten people to get their way or to influence change in a decision — that is bullying in my book. What type of message does this send to our youth?
We all have to take a good, long look at ourselves in the mirror and ask ourselves: am I doing things right? Am I making a difference? If we all did that, we would have a much better society — and who knows? — these incidents of bullying might well stop. And wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing?