It’s National Bullying Awareness Week this week, and anti-bullying groups are trying to promote bullying awareness and education close to home.
After the suicides of Amanda Todd and Rehtaeh Parsons at opposite ends of the nation, bullying — and in particular, cyberbullying — has been prevalent in the media. Canadian statistics paint a troubling picture of bullying in schools.
According to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, at least one in three Canadian adolescent students report being bullied recently, and almost half of Canadian parents report having a child who was a victim of bullying.
An Alberta study revealed that one in four students from grades 5 to 9 reported experiencing cyberbullying.
Last year, the number of people under the age of 18 who committed suicide in Alberta doubled from 2011. In 2012, 33 adolescents committed suicide, as compared to 14 in 2011.
HEaRT is an Alberta Health Services-funded project based in Stettler, with a goal to help students and parents become more resilient.
Project manager Devon McMann said HEaRT helps fight bullying by teaching kids how to calm themselves down, how to build their self-esteem, and how to recognize that someone else might be upset.
For this special week, HEaRT asks students to wear blue on Friday to show solidarity with anti-bullying movements. The colour blue was chosen because it’s the colour of the Canadian peacekeepers.
“Bullying is an ongoing societal issue, which will require continual education and awareness,” said Stettler Family-School Liaison Worker Tomi Turnbull. “Awareness is key in attempting to address any societal concern.”
Canada’s bullying laws vary by province. Alberta’s legislation is among the toughest in the country, and attracted controversy for stating last year in the Education Act that students who ignore bullying may be punished by suspension, even if the bullying occurs outside of school hours.
If someone you know is being bullied, Kids Help Phone says to stay calm, walk away, and tell an adult.
The following are signs that a child is being bullied:
— Unexplained bruises
— Missing belongings
— Trying to get out of going to school
— Change in appetite
— Change in personality
— Significant drop in school performance.