A Fort Erie advocate will be featured in an upcoming documentary on the impacts of cyberbullying.
In conjunction with the eighth anniversary of Amanda Todd’s suicide and in support of Mental Health Awareness Month, TELUS Originals will release a documentary Oct. 10 titled “Dark Cloud,” highlighting the impact of cyberbullying on youth.
Amanda, who was from British Columbia, took her own life at age 15 in 2012 after enduring cyberbullying.
The film follows well-known anti-bullying advocate Carol Todd, Amanda’s mother, as she connects with other parents, victims of bullying, academics and experts. She also meets top anti-bullying advocates across the country, such as Fort Erie’s Justin Preston.
Together, Preston and Todd campaign for greater awareness and education around cyberbullying.
The film illustrates the prevalence of online bullying among young people in Canada.
It’s backed by data from Statistics Canada and GLAAD, including that 60 per cent of Canadian youth report seeing cyberbullying or online abusive behaviour within a four-week period, 41 per cent of young internet users who experienced cyberbullying reported an emotional, psychological or mental-health condition, and 49 per cent of LGBTQ+ students have experienced cyberbullying.
In the documentary, Preston talks about the impact cyberbullying had on his own mental health as a student and how the experience brought him to start the global Rise Against Bullying campaign in 2012.
Now 27, Preston is also a national ambassador for an organization he once used — Kids Help Phone, which provides 24/7 free confidential professional counselling to youth across Canada.
Working closely with Todd, Preston offers a youth perspective to the modern realities of cyberbullying, uncovering the consequences, causes and strategies for prevention.
“There’s a difference between me and Amanda,” Preston says in “Dark Cloud.”
“I’m still here, and she’s not.”
In an interview, Preston said people behind the documentary contacted him after learning about his story and advocacy efforts.
He said crews flew to Niagara from Vancouver to film segments with him, and he ended up also flying to Vancouver to film with Todd.
“I’ve experienced dealing with cyberbullying and being on the internet and also dealing with it in the community,” said Preston. “When you go to school and you are having a horrible day from other people, and you’re just feeling low and you go home and you open up your cellphone and your laptop — that stuff kind of follows you.”
Preston said he knows what it’s like to feel “so alone in this world,” even though “I clearly did have my parents and I had love around me.”
“But from dealing with so much of an impact from not feeling appreciated from others for being different, it kind of made me realize that I needed to start using my voice to start speaking up for the voiceless and bringing more positivity in this world.”
The documentary is produced in partnership with Spotlight Productions.
“Dark Cloud” will be available for free on TELUS Optik TV and the TELUS YouTube channel.