Here’s What You Can Do on National Take Action Against Bullying Day
Can you imagine the soul-wrenching heartache of coming home one day to find that your child has taken their own life because they just couldn’t take one more day of being bullied? For many of us it’s a thought just too awful for us to even try to comprehend. We don’t even want to think what that might feel like. But unfortunately, for far too many parents and families across Australia that living nightmare is their everyday reality.
Bullying affects at least 26% of all Australian pupils, with a staggering 9% being bullied weekly. Reuben Cunningham, Co-founder and COO of national charity Angels Hope says “Most laws that are in effect are from decades ago and offer no real protection or recourse for the victims of bullying. With no solid examples of punishment being set, these problems will continue.”
Suicide is the top cause of death for 15-24 year olds in Australia and alarmingly, self-harming deaths go up 657% when comparing those between 12-13 and 14-15 years old.
We hear about it on the news, and we see the stories on our Facebook timelines. We shake our heads and say what a waste of life it is, what a tragedy, we may even shed a tear for the family left behind. But then, the majority of us get on with our lives, happy to bury our heads in the sand. If it isn’t happening to us, or our children, it isn’t our problem, right? There isn’t anything we can do about it, is there?
It is up to all of us to stand up against bullying. Whether it happens in the schoolyard, the workplace or on social media, we shouldn’t be the quiet spectators who silently watch it happen, relieved that it isn’t directed at us this time. We need to have those unpleasant and painful discussions, we need to listen to stories of families that have lost their loved ones and we need to teach all of our children what the very real ramifications bullying can be.
Do you recognise this girl? There is a good chance that you’ve seen Jessi’s happy smiling face pop up in your Facebook newsfeed sometime over the past few weeks, after her Mum shared a post that has since gone viral.
On the 7 December 2015, Mel and her son Jack stopped at MacDonalds on their way home from school to pick up Jessi’s favourite slushi for her. But when they arrived home they found the unthinkable.
‘Jack and I were to find my baby chook gone, left us, no life left.’
Jessi was just 14.
You can read the FB post in it’s entirety below.
With the loss of their darling ‘Chook’ as Mel affectionately refers to her daughter, still so very fresh and raw, Jessi’s family has taken steps to set up the Bobdan Foundation.
Jessi’s legacy will live on. When our process of grieving eases we are going to build the Bobdan Foundation to fight for teenage suicide. To battle for kids that have a big black dog. To show people that you can’t be an emu and just ignore this. (Source: Bobdan Foundation Facebook page)
We have contacted Jessi’s Mum Mel so we can all better understand the devastating effects bullying can have, and to help her and her family continue to push people to have these discussions.
Mel explained more to us about her family’s hopes and plans for the Bobdan Foundation and why they chose the name.
We want to educate kids parents and teachers on this topic and also make aware to the public that this can happen and no one is immune from this. We wish to head to schools, do fundraiser and help teenagers and parents alike to get through this.
The name Bobdan is my chook’s nickname from my husband (Jessie stepdad). One day my chook went with her dad, when she was really young for the day. When she came home her dad had got her haircut up to her ears. I was furious. My husband used to listen to Doug Mulray on the radio and he had a segment on there called ‘Bobdan and the Turnip Boy.’ So hence my chook got the nickname Bobdan. My husband used to go round since that day making songs etc and making fun of the Bobdan name.
In her many raw and candid posts on the Bobdan Facebook page, which reads as a journal of messages to her daughter about the challenges of getting through each day without her as well as updates on the steps they have taken in their mission, Mel expresses her anger and disbelief at having lost her daughter just 14 weeks ago. It is an emotion many of us can relate to, and is to be expected. What many other supporters have expressed surprise over though is Mel’s philosophy towards ‘naming and shaming’ the perpetrators. In even her darkest hours, Mel’s strength and kind-hearted nature shines though.
Naming and Shaming is totally not the way to go as these bullies do not need hundreds of kids turning up at their doorstep or sending them abusive messages and for the bullies to turn around and end their lives is totally not what I want. We have had some crap happen since Jess passed and I have been involved with Juvenille justice in a case that kids had death threats to another boy because they heard a rumour. These rumours were lies and these kids all took note of what I said and they were very sorry. Also we have had some naming and shaming on Facebook about a kid who posted something horrible about my chook. I spoke out and told all these kids that I will deal with it the right way and no one is to take this action in to their own hands otherwise it may not be good. We are trying to stop this bullying and I will not bully a bully and am trying to tell everyone not to either. In my heart I would love to name and shame these kids but that is what I am out there trying to stop so therefore I can’t do it myself.
However, amidst the outpouring of support, Jessi’s family has also been confronted with some negative comments, with some finding her Facebook journal and public grieving confronting.
Some of the family just don’t want this to become a daily life for us as they grieve in a totally different way. I myself need this to grieve. I keep saying to my family that we all need to grieve in different ways and that is ok but we need to let everyone grieve the way they need to and I need to do this for me and my chook. Its hard and its tiring and it takes a lot of effort and time, but at the end of the day I am only doing this and getting up everyday cause of the support I have out there.
In addition to this Mel and her family have had to deal with other negative judgement and victim-blaming from those outside the family and total strangers too.
Some negative comments are that when our story was on the news someone came on and said how dare National 9 News give us our 5 minutes of fame. Someone has come on our Facebook page and totally destroyed me as a mum and told me it was my fault. What sort of mum would not get her daughter diagnosed [with mental health issues and an eating disorder] for over 3 years and that I did nothing to help my chook. Also we have had some people say that I should just let it go and move on. I have had a teacher at a school say that I am only doing this cause I can’t let my chook go. In all this the support far outweighs the negativity. Although the bad comments do hurt and also hurt my family.
Despite the negativity, Mel and her family remain committed to their plans for the Bobdan Foundation and helping bullied teens.
Mel’s advice for teens who experiencing bullying:
Kids need to screenshot everything that comes to them and make sure that they take it straight to the police and school. They need to reach out for help and make sure that they are not putting up with this and make sure that they tell their parents and make sure that they push for this to stop happening. They need to continue to do this until something changes and the bullies stop bullying them. Don’t take it that something is going to be done until it has been.
For more information on bullying and how we can take a stand together visit www.bullyingnoway.gov.au
According to Australian human rights, the government must ensure that every person under the age of 18 is protected from all forms of violence and are also required to implement special measures to protect children and young people who are more vulnerable to violence, harassment and bullying.
However, as state laws have not yet implemented stricter and harsher action against those who bully, it leaves our children defenceless in the face of the abuse that they encounter in the playground or online. With bullying, in all forms, estimated to cost the economy $36 billion annually and the lives of our children it’s time to take a harsher stand.
Angels Hope are running an online petition on their website www.angelshope.org.au for each state in Australia, to strengthen the fight against the bully.
Some states require the current Education and Criminal Acts in each state to help protect those in need, while others need firmer wording and independent auditing.
Take a stand this National Take Action Against Bullying Day.
- Read and share Jessi’s story with your friends and family and your children. Have the discussions about the very real effects of bullying. You can show your support for Jessi’s family on their Bobdan Foundation Facebook page
- Visit bullyingnoway.gov.au for more information on everything related to bullying.
- Sign the Angels Hope petition angelshope.org.au to help strengthen the fight against the bully.