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"Bullying is just part of being a kid" ... Ah NO IT IS NOT!!
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Most of us just can't imagine feeling so isolated, so afraid, so intimidated, so ashamed that the only solution is suicide. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, resulting in well over 4,000 deaths per year. For every suicide among young people, there are at least 100 suicide attempts. Over 14 percent of high school students have considered suicide, and almost 7 percent have attempted it.

An increase in suicide and suicide attempts in young people in Canada and across the globe have drawn attention to the connection between bullying and suicide. Though too many adults still see bullying as "just part of being a kid," it is a serious problem that leads to many negative effects for victims, including suicide. What many people do not realize is that there is also a link between being a bully and committing suicide.

Bully-related suicide can be connected to any type of bullying, including physical bullying, emotional bullying, cyberbullying, and sexting, or circulating suggestive or nude photos or messages about a person.

According to statistics reported by ABC News, nearly 30 percent of students are either bullies or victims of bullying, and 160,000 kids stay home from school every day because of the fear of bullying.

On February 16th Alban the Martyr Anglican Church, hosted a unique and inspiring evening featuring nationally known anti-bullying crusader Cindy Wesley-Gale. Cindy gave a passionate, emotional and dynamic presentation from the perspective of a parent whose teenage daughter, Dawn Marie Wesley, committed suicide after being bullied at school. The audience consisted of parents, grandparents, pre teens and teens, some with their own stories of bullying issues.

Cindy is a team member at YLC (Your Life Counts) working as the facilitator of the YLC BULLY-180 Program. (http://www.yourlifecounts.org/?page_id=244#bully180). YLC is an organization founded by Rory Butler in 2000. As YLC's CEO, Rory works with about 100 dedicated full-time and part-time volunteers from all walks of life. YLC is a Community Life Agency and is a valued resource in the prevention of suicide . Suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth in Canada.

In Cindy presentation, she described the heartbreak of losing her 14 year old daughter in 2001 to suicide after enduring months of rumours and verbal threats.

"By-stopper" is a term Cindy coined to encourage people to be more than just a by-stander. The By-stopper will intervene where possible unless there are weapons involved. In those cases an immediate call to 911 is necessary. She has addressed students, teachers, churches, social advocates and businesses with audiences ranging from 24 kids to groups of over 500. Her compelling story has been featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show, the John Walsh Show and Anderson Cooper of CNN.

The story of the tragic death of Dawn Marie was featured in the award winning film It's a Girl's World.

The film takes us inside the tumultuous relationships of a clique of popular 10-year-old girls. Playground bullying captured on camera shows a disturbing picture of how these girls use their closest friendships to hurt each other--with shunning, whispering and mean looks--to win social power in the group. Meanwhile, their parents struggle through denial and disbelief as they become aware of the serious consequences of this behaviour. By comparison, the tragic story of a 14-year-old girl is a stark reminder that social bullying can spiral out of control. Believing she had no other choice, Dawn-Marie Wesley killed herself after enduring months of rumours and verbal threats. This documentary shatters the myth that social bullying among girls is an acceptable part of growing up.

While the anti-bullying movement is certainly gaining traction there is still a long way to go. Cindy said that is very important to realize that the bullying problem is not just a high school problem or even one of young teens. A young mother in the audience told of the unthinkable bullying her 6 year daughter is going through. She has been threatened that they are going to cut her head off, they held a key to her throat, they said they would get a gun and shoot her. Mother and Daughter are terrified and have turned to Cindy for help. She has spoken to, pleaded with the school principal to take action but nothing, absolutely nothing has been done to deal with the bullies or protect this little girl.

So what can be done? First and absolutely foremost is to identify the problem. In the majority of cases the parents don't even know that their child is being bullied or is bullying others. Are there signs? Sometimes, but not always and Cindy insists that every parent needs to understand that their child could be the recipient of bullying. Remember more than 3 in 10 kids are being bullied so don't assume it does not apply to your family. Click here to download a publication entitled Bullying — We Can Help Stop It — A guide for Parents. http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/parents/bullying.pdf

There is an abundance of material available on prevention, identification and action:
Christian Life in London Online will work with Cindy as she develops new material.

In addition to her work with YLC, Cindy is in the process of developing a petition to be presented to Prime Minister Harper requesting that the Federal Government get directly involved in this serious problem by developing legislation that makes school directly districts accountable and not deferring the responsibility to the individual principals. This petition is Cindy's personal work as a private citizen, not as a representative of YLC, Cindy. To sign this petition, please contact Cindy directly at cmgale57@yahoo.ca.






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