Learn how to stop bullying; plus: suicide support available
A local educator and bullying expert says events like Amanda Todd's suicide challenge the community and create sadness as well as fear.
Cindi Seddon, principal of Summit middle school principal and author of two books on bullying, urges parents to stay in touch with their children's Facebook pages and be on alert for worrying behaviour.
"If you see anything concern, get a hold of somebody — police, whatever," Seddon said, noting, "The kids know before we do."
Seddon will be a panelist during a presentation about bullying Oct. 24 at Terry Fox Theatre in Port Coquitlam. The event, planned by the Joint Family Court and Youth Justice Committee in partnership with the Canadian Red Cross, was in the works long before Amanda's much-publicized death. It will go ahead and, Seddon says, should answer questions parents have about bullying. Bullying: It Ends With You will include a screening of the documentary How to Help: A Youth Perspective on Bullying. Experts in the field will also be on hand to field questions and give advice.
"I think the fact that we had this pre-planned and the Family Court and Youth Justice Committee was working on it is just almost like testimonial to the fact that we know this is an issue," Seddon said.
Bullying: It Ends With You will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. Oct. 24 at the Terry Fox Theatre, 1260 Riverwood Gate, Port Coquitlam. Register at www.eventbrite.ca (online registration) or email@example.com.
At Seddon's school, the students, although younger, were also deeply concerned about Todd's death and many want to do something to raise awareness about the issue of bullying. Seddon said she will wait to see what is most appropriate.
Many young people will have already seen the heartbreaking video Amanda Todd made five weeks before she died. Seddon watched it with her own 15-year-old daughter because she didn't want her to watch it alone.
"We talked through it," Seddon said, "She was empathetic, you know, she's a 15-year-old girl."
It's important for parents to be open to discussing the issue of bullying with their children. But experts are also raising awareness about the importance of knowing the signs of suicide.
Parents are welcome to attend a community forum on youth suicide planned for Nov. 14 from 6 to 9 p.m. at Terry Fox Theatre, 1260 Riverwood Gate, Port Coquitlam.
Mike Pledge, a student services co-ordinator for School District 43, said the forum has been in the works for some months and will include a question-and-answer session and live web streaming of a presentation by a experts in the field.
Registration is requested if possible; email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pledge said he hopes parents can come and get some of their questions answered about suicide.
NEED FOR ACTIVISTS
The topic of bullying and the need for people to stand against it was also a topic for Grade 12 students in Ken Ipe's Social Justice class this week.
Ipe, who has been teaching the locally developed program in SD43 for six years, said students are well aware of cyberbullying and its possible links to teen suicide.
"But we focused on the 'indifference' of our species to look away when it happens. And that we have a responsibility to not turn a blind eye to the Amandas," he said. "For example, [in her video] she tragically accounts that on one occasion, she was circled by 50 people at a school yard who harassed her. Well, my question to them was, ‘Where were the others who physically saw this happening?'"
Students recalled their own experiences and read news accounts of similar bullying incidents in the U.S., Ipe said.
"Sadly, one of the girls in class confessed that she saw a boy being terrorized by a group of boys on the local bus by our school. Worse, the boy was mentally challenged. However, as he cried from the threats, nobody did anything out of fear and cowardice — including my student.
"So, it was a great example of the nature of the species to be indifferent. However, the class is designed to challenge such views and tendencies," Ipe noted in an email.
The issue has drawn interest from politicians as well as social media commentators around the world. Earlier this week, Premier Christie Clark issued a video statement against bullying online and today the the Ministry of Children and Family Development is reminding young people and their families that if they are feeling alone, sad, or having thoughts of suicide, help is available. Here are a few numbers youth and families can contact themselves or on behalf of someone else to get immediate help:
• 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433).
• Youth in BC: 1-866-661-3311 (toll-free); this is an online crisis service where you can chat one-on-one with a trained volunteer 24 hours a day.
• Suicide Prevention Lifeline: A free 24-hour hotline in Canada or the U.S. at 1-800-273-8255.
• Kids Help Phone: 1 800 668-6868. This is a national organization offering bilingual, 24-hour toll-free confidential phone counselling, referral and Internet services for children and youth or their parents in English and French.
• Aboriginal People crisis line: 1-800-588-8717.
• Native Youth Crisis Hotline: 1-877-209-1266.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Most children and youth having thoughts of suicide show signs of their distress, although some do not. Some of the changes families and others may see in children and youth who may be at risk for suicide include:
• Talking about suicide or a plan for suicide.
• Saying things like, "I'm going to kill myself," "I wish I were dead," "I shouldn't have been born," "I won't be a problem for you much longer," "Nothing matters," or "It's no use."
• Making statements about hopelessness, helplessness or worthlessness.
• Complaining of being a bad person or feeling "rotten inside," refusing help or feeling beyond help. Not tolerating praise or rewards.
• Giving away favourite possessions or making a will.
• Being preoccupied with death.
• Showing a loss of interest in pleasurable activities or things they once cared about; always feeling bored.
• Feeling trapped, increasingly anxious, agitated or angry.
• Showing marked personality changes and serious mood changes.
• Withdrawing from friends and family.
• Expressing plans to seek revenge.
• Sleeping all of the time or unable to sleep.
• Having trouble concentrating or difficulties with school work.
• Complaining frequently about physical symptoms often related to emotions, such as stomach aches, headaches or fatigue; changes in eating and sleeping habits.
• Showing impulsive behaviours, such as violent actions, rebellious behaviour or running away.
• Increasing or excessive substance use.
• Becoming suddenly cheerful after a period of depression (this may mean the youth has already made the decision to escape their problems through suicide).
The ministry has several initiatives around the province that aim to reduce the risk of youth suicide, for example, the FRIENDS for Life program: http://www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/mental_health/friends.htm. This is a school-based prevention program designed to increase resiliency and reduce anxiety for B.C. students.
The ministry has compiled best practice information for practitioners related to youth suicide prevention, intervention and steps following suicide. This information is posted on the ministry website: http://www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/suicide_prevention/for_professionals.htm.