News

As a member of the Breaking Free Foundation team, and open advocate and Victor, many people are familiar with my trauma stories and struggles with PTSD.

And part of my ongoing conversation is to share my struggles with suicidal thoughts, including the final battle I won, where I attempted suicide at 14-years-old. Most people assume that this dark day came as a result of years of dealing with a number of sexual traumas, something I’m very open and honest about having been through.

But the truth is, my darkest period of depression and suicidal thoughts, came crashing down as a result of bullying. Yes, traumas from childhood had compounded, but the abuse and constant harassment I endured day-to-day in junior high school, was what finally led me to that ultimate feeling of hopelessness.

It’s easy as an adult to say “kids are mean, girls are awful” and blow off terrible behaviour as a part of growing up, but that’s just not easy to explain to a teenager who’s being bullied. But tell that to the parents of Tyler Clementi, Amanda Todd or Rehtaeh Parsons.

Puberty came late for me, I was a flat-chested teenager with too much eyebrow, too little makeup and definitely no clue. Perhaps that sounds like I gave bullies a lot to work with, but what ultimately led to my dance with darkness was a silly junior high breakup, so insignificant in the grand scheme of life, but at that time it was everything.

I was made out to be the bad guy in this scenario, in a huge way. What resulted was months and months of verbal abuse of the worst kind. Not just from people I never considered friends, but people I had hung out with hundreds of times, my classmates and my confidantes. Notes in my locker, screams down the hallways, huge letters inked across chalkboards on my way into class.

“Amber is a slut.”

“Fugly.”

“Flat bitch.”

It was never-ending, and it was absolutely horrible.

What many suicide survivors will tell you, is that it’s not necessarily about wanting to die, it’s about not wanting to live. Or at least, not wanting to live life the way it was. Perhaps this is the reason I didn’t “try hard enough” to take my life that day, but nonetheless, I had a rope around my neck. I tied a noose, and the other end of the rope around a metal pole in our unfinished basement. I walked around that pole until the rope slowly tightened on my neck. When I was teetering on unconsciousness, I ran back the other way, unraveling it.

It took that moment of panic, looking possible death in the face, that I was finally led to come to my parents with a plea for help. I was honest. Honest about what I was suffering through, with my emotions, and my plaguing thoughts.

At that moment I stepped into the world of hope and healing for the first time, and I’m so thankful I did.

For #PinkShirtDay, I have a few thoughts for those who witness bullying, are victim to it, or are causing it:

  • Don’t fall into the ‘eat or be eaten’ mentality. You don’t have to victimize someone else to avoid being bullied. I fell for this trap once as well. Remember there is a human being on the other end of your words, how would you feel?
  • Tell someone. Anyone. Tell a parent, teacher, counsellor, friend—anyone you trust.
  • Stand up. Make that person who’s being bullied aware that you are someone who cares.
  • Share. Being vulnerable is what creates change, and it’s a ripple effect.

“Whenever one person stands up and says, “Wait a minute, this is wrong,” it helps other people do the same.” — Gloria Steinem

— Written by Amber Craig (follow on Twitter)

Today is Pink Shirt Day, an awareness initiative focused on anti-bullying, a topic that rarely gets associated with trauma, but it should.

Recent updates to the definition of PTSD, as well as our understanding of it, proves that victims of bullying can develop PTSD later in life.

PTSD is caused by one or a series of terrifying events and results in delayed and prolonged symptoms such as anxiety, depression, withdrawal, suicidal thoughts/behaviour, substance abuse, and emotional issues. Being victim to continuous bullying would absolutely fall into this definition of a “series of terrifying events”.

In worst-case scenarios, the abuse of bullying can lead its young victims to suicide, sometimes called “bullycide.” But even though most children grow out of the stage of bullying and being bullied, victims of this hateful crime are still at risk for the long-term effects of PTSD. [Psychology Today]

Some examples of bullying include:

  • Physical violence
  • Verbal teasing
  • Spreading rumours
  • Excluding/isolating
  • Group mentality/”ganging up”
  • Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is on the rise in Canada, thanks to the prevalence of social media and the ease of access to the Internet. Just a few months ago, it was released that one in every five young Canadians has been victim to cyberbullying. That’s more than 1.1 million kids and adolescents in Canada alone.

Being a victim of either cyberbullying or cyberstalking raises the risk of having a reported emotional, psychological or mental health condition and a low level of trust in people at school, work, or in the neighbourhood, the report says. [CBC]

Keeping empathy and compassion in mind, we know that hurt people hurt people, and there are a number of reasons why children may resort to becoming bullies. This can include factors like neglect or abandonment issues, abuse, etc.

However, the best defence against developing PTSD later in life, is to stop and prevent the bullying early on. This requires adults to be mindful when it comes to this, especially for parents, those who work with children or in schools (as this is where it commonly occurs). Here are some signs a child may be being bullied:

  • Isolated or disconnected behaviour
  • Sudden physical complaints (be mindful of reasons for the child not to attend school or events)
  • Drop in school performance or interest
  • Insomnia or nightmares
  • Withdrawal, depression
  • Hyper-vigilance, anxiety

The RCMP has online self-assessment tools to help you understand if you’ve fallen victim to cyberbullying, or bullying.

By keeping a conversation going about anti-bullying, we can do so much to end this type of trauma. Take part in the conversation with us today on Twitter with #PinkShirtDay.