Earlier this week I came across an article in The Courier Mail where a couple spoke of their child's suicide after experiencing bullying. Understandably, they were upset, and campaigning for change to laws to make bullies accountable for their actions (in this case catfishing was used). I'm definitely on their side, as I think bullies need to realise that their actions have consequences, and one way to do this is to stand up and say "we will not tolerate this". It may not be a physical assault, but bullying can lead to outcomes that are just as damaging, whether that be mental anguish or like in this particular case, suicide.
I wish I could say that I was never bullied. The truth is I don't think my bullies even consider what they did as bullying me. Grade 8 and 9 was filled with times where my so called friends would go through stages where they'd all talk to me, then they'd tell me that I was too annoying and I couldn't sit with them. They continued to make me feel "less than" and it led to a time where I lost myself, drifting from friend group to friend group trying desperately to find that place where I'd fit in. For a young teenager losing all your friends at once is very overwhelming (I often question if this is where all of my mental health struggles first started). It's hard not to lose yourself when you're constantly reminded that your "friends" find who you are, annoying. It's hard to remember to love yourself and express yourself. It's hard to stay existing, and you end up fighting against your own mind, with their words echoing, battling to stay alive.
My "friends" threw me a going away party when they found out I was leaving in term 4, grade 9. For me, at the time, I viewed this as a considerate thing, and was just glad to have my friends back. Little did I realise that their earlier actions would cause me to further question all friendships in the future, and to consistently hold back certain aspects of my personality that I perceived may be annoying to others. I grew up with a great fear of rejection and abandonment and I attribute much of this to this experience.
As I have grown and become an adult, I have forgiven those who hurt me and even have several of them as friends on Facebook. I know that in my case they were probably uneducated about bullying and didn't realise what they did was wrong. I truly believe if they knew the pain it would cause me, they wouldn't have acted the way they did.
This brings me to my next point. Whilst I believe there should be consequences for bullies to hold them accountable for their actions, we need to provide an education to our younger generations about what bullying is and the damage that it can cause. We can't punish people for bullying if they don't realise what they're doing is bullying. Our schools need more comprehensive education sessions about bullying and the damage it can do. They need to talk about what bullying looks like. They need to educate our kids that "jokes" aren't always funny for everyone. They need to talk about the teenagers and young adults that have committed suicide because they were bullied. They need to make it a real issue and talk about the consequences so that future bullies are deterred from hurting others.
Once we've educated our kids on what bullying looks like, I definitely believe there should be strict laws in place for dealing with bullying (including catfishing). Whilst the school should, no doubt, be involved with stopping bullying, there should be police involvement and persecution for those who've made another suffer unnecessarily. Bullying has been made easier with advancements like Facebook and other social media apps. It's 2022, it's a time for change, time to start looking after the next generation and put a stop to the pain caused to so many undeserving young people.