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The good news is that bullying can be stopped. Too often, the bully himself is suffering, so we’ve got to equip parents, teachers and students to recognize the kinds of behaviours that can be precursors to actively targeting other kids.
For the children who themselves are picked on, we’ve got to shatter the stigma that may prevent them from reaching out. We’ve got to mount an effort to erase the scars of hurtful words and work to create positive, inclusive climates in schools — whether virtual or brick and mortar.
It’s not surprising that young people who receive greater levels of support from their family encounter fewer incidences of cyberbullying. Nor does it come as a shock that knitting together tighter emotional supports is doubly important for children from single-parent families, who are more likely to be targets of cybervictimization than their counterparts from intact families.
Social support from peers is also important. As someone who had to go out and find a chosen family, I can attest personally to the importance of strong friendship ties.
Bullying doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Our most powerful weapon against it is reinforcing the message that those who experience bullying are the exact opposite of the insults being hurled at them.
What I would tell any young person who is being targeted is the same thing I wish someone had told my younger self: you are smart, you are worthwhile, and you are and deserving of love.
My story doesn’t end with what’s written in those journals. And if you’re being bullied, or know someone who is, take heart that a brighter chapter is waiting for you.
Louise Bradley is president and CEO of the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
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