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August 19, 2020
A while back, as I nonchalantly scrolled through my Facebook feed, I came across a video clip of Lucy Alexander on ‘This Morning’. Lucy’s teenage son Felix, 17, took his own life after suffering daily taunts from bullies. It drew me in. This mum was speaking so bravely, so honestly and with such tragic insight, that I wanted to listen. I wanted to learn.
We hear the word, ‘bully’ so often now, we might almost wonder why it still exits when it seems to get bandied around so much. Why do bullies continue to get away with it? Why aren’t we – parents, teachers, work colleagues, team mates, friends – so aware of that word, that we are able to stamp it out?
The truth is the tragedy here. The truth is causing people to jump in front of trains, to take scissors to their arms and to hang themselves. Not because they are cowards, but because they simply cannot take any more. Their minds have been warped and twisted and turned so many times that they no longer know how to unravel it. And the truth is that as parents, teachers and sometimes even friends, we don’t see it.
We need to educate ourselves. In our Taekwon-do classes we teach our students how to stand-up to bullies and it is something both Simon and I feel passionately about. This is why Innae is supporting the StandUp Foundation, which raises awareness of the long-term, damaging effects of bullying and funds organisations who are tackling bullying in schools, at work, in communities, in sport and online. In their words:
‘Every person on this planet has a right to be true to themselves and be happy’
We need to be aware that bullying is not just calling someone names. It’s not just taking something from someone, nor is it just a punch in the stomach – although this is what it feels like to the victim, every time. It can be small things: little incidents that alone don’t seem to matter too much, but they build up and it is this layering of small things that causes the mind to warp, the mental state to turn.
Bullies may not realise they are bullying - this is the honest truth. So, parents, teachers, colleagues; we are the adults. We must be the vigilant ones. We must be the ones who shout and scream and get our voices heard when we suspect that something is wrong. We must be the ones who talk, who seek advice, who listen and then act.
As Lucy said in her interview, 'we must teach our children this: Think! Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind? – before anything they write on social media. Actions and words have consequences. Above all,' she said, 'please let’s teach our children to be kind'.
Yet some of the worst bullying I come across on social media is from adults. This is why we particularly wanted Innae to support a charity that recognises that adults can be victims of this too and not just on social media.
In a bid to prevent other young lives being lost, Lucy wrote a heart-breaking but poignant letter to appeal to youngsters, parents and teachers to never turn a blind eye to a child in need and it's so relevant to all of us. Here is an extract from her letter:
‘I write this letter not for sympathy, but because there are so many more children like Felix who are struggling and we need to wake up to the cruel world we are living in. I am appealing to children to be kind ALWAYS and never stand by and leave bullying unreported. Be that one person prepared to stand up to unkindness. You will never regret being a good friend.
You may see that I have repeatedly used one word in this letter and I make no apology for this. The word is kindness. I said this at our son’s funeral. Please be kind always, for you never know what is in someone’s heart or mind. Our lives have been irrevocably damaged by the loss of our wonderful son; please don’t let it happen to any other family.’
It’s so simple: please just be kind.
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