As I sit here, about to pen my thoughts on this day, the weight of the message behind it brings tears to my eyes.
Today is so much more than wearing pink shirts and speaking about being kind. To me, today holds a sacred space in my heart because of past trauma and the effect that I’ve seen on mental health-both my own and in others. “Bullying is a conscious, willful, deliberate, repeated and hostile activity marked by an imbalance of power, intent to harm and/or threat of aggression” (Alberta Human Services, 2015)
For me, bullying started in elementary school and continued from there. Grade 3-9 to be precise. It started off with “minor” name calling, alienating from peers; those I considered friends. I had little to no friends and the friends I did have came and went just as frequently as the wind blew in the Prairies of Alberta.
The details to the bullying I experienced are not pretty and really unkind. I experienced physical, verbal and mental abuse-sometimes all at the same time. I can’t even tell you how many times I was told to “just walk away”, “don’t let it bother you”, or my personal favourite (insert sarcasm here) “you need to toughen up” 🤦🏻♀️. I was pushed, tripped, spit on, cornered on the playground, ignored, and at age 11 I was told by the “popular kids” that they wanted to take a death picture and that I’d be better off not here; just to name a few things.
Pink shirt day means inclusion, spreading kindness, advocating for change, standing up for the beliefs and rights of others when they struggle to find their own voice. Our society has evolved so much over the past 20-something years, but yet, bullying and mental illness is still happening, likely worse than 20 years ago because now there’s also cyber bullying which is a whole new realm.
Did you know that children/youth who experience perpetual bullying are 7-9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims and that 1 in 3 children/youth have been or are being bullied?
So, what can we do? We can collectively, as parents, caregivers, educators, friends and mentors, come together and rally to end bullying; for our children and adults. We can teach kindness, inclusion and acceptance and lead by example for our children. We can wear pink or any other color that reminds us to celebrate love and friendship. We can teach our children to have a voice and not suffer in silence, to ask for help when needed and not be afraid to be different.
Today, the bullying stops here, so mental illness such as anxiety, depression, low self confidence and thoughts of suicide can be reduced and those affected can begin to heal.
Be Brave, Be Strong, Be Kind and stand up for what’s right.
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”-Maya Angelou