The case of Amy “Dolly” Everett is a tragic but all too common one. In my 40 years of working with young people, the issue of suicide, bullying, and now cyberbullying has come up far too often. Young people subjected to any form of bullying can experience significant social isolation and feelings of being unsafe, which can lead to emotional and physical harm, loss of self-esteem, feelings of shame, anxiety and a whole host of other mental health issues.
Unfortunately, Dolly seems to have fallen victim to the most severe effects of bullying. Bullying has always been a part of life, but that should not let us minimise or dismiss the effect it can have on a young person’s mental health as they develop.
Parents need to understand that they are their child’s main advocate and need to take bullying seriously. We need to be aware of any symptoms of bullying in our children, including loss of interest in school and extra-curricular activities; frequent complaints of illness to avoid attending school; lacking a network of friends; appearing sad, moody or depressed; loss of appetite; trouble sleeping; anxiety; or low self-esteem. As a parent, if you suspect that your child is a bully or is being bullied the first action you should take is to talk to them, ask subtle questions about their day at school and find out if something is concerning them. A parent should never blame the victim and should work with a child’s school to find a solution to the issue rather than acting on their instant emotional response.
I support Dolly’s parents in their efforts to establish a trust to raise awareness of the issue. Everything we can do to shine a light on the darkness surrounding bullying, anxiety, depression and suicide is a positive thing. Hopefully the conversations that this event has sparked will lead to a number of lives being saved.
Father Chris Riley,
CEO and Founder at Youth Off The Streets