By Deana Ruston, National Youth Advisory Committee Member
Saturday, October 10th, the final day of Mental Illness Awareness Week, marks World Mental Health Day, and we would like to write about an event that brought tons of attention to the role of cyberbullying in death by suicide of young people. Many people around the world know about the young woman named Amanda Todd from British Columbia. She had been relentlessly cyberbullied by an individual based in the Netherlands. This form of cyberbullying (the individual consistently revealing a topless photo of Amanda) caused waves in her life. She was bullied, harassed and even assaulted by classmates even after switching schools multiple times.
Amanda died by suicide on October 10, 2012. She was 15 years old.It is clear that bullying, both online and offline, contributed to her mental health issues as well as her suicide. We send our deepest condolences to the Todd family, and although at a terrible cost, admire their tireless efforts in their work in preventions of bullying and cyber abuse, as well as education about internet safety and mental wellness.
Social media and online platforms can be used for good and bad. For teenagers in particular, the bad can take the form of cyberbullying. This can be done through social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and others, and involves sending hurtful messages, photos or comments. Gone are the days people can feel safe in their homes as bullying has now seeped into the home with technology.
Approximately 14% of Canadian teens online say that they have seen something hurtful about themselves on the web. There’s no doubt that this statistic is rising. Children are using the internet and related technologies earlier and earlier than ever before.
This week is Mental Illness Awareness Week. Started in 1992 by the Canadian Psychiatric Association, the purpose is to raise awareness and education of mental health issues for Canadians. On World Mental Health Day, we recognize the prevalence of mental health issues around the world and raises awareness of those dealing with mental illness.
If you or someone you know is being victimized by bullying please let an adult you know and trust know what’s going on.
You can also call Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868. A website called Need Help Now has been set up for those who are victims of cyber bullying. You can find out more at https://needhelpnow.ca/.