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VOICES

My bullies were not 'bad kids' – they were normal, average kids

I was about ten when it all began. I was excluded from everything, nobody wanted to talk to me and nobody wanted to play with me.

WHAT MAKES ME special? Why am I writing this piece? The truth is, nothing makes me special, just that my story is the same as hundreds of other young people in Ireland. My story is that I was a victim of bullying.

Like many others, from a young age I was subjected to things no child should ever have to go through. Was my case particularly bad? No. But it’s the emotional impact that it had on my family and that’s what I want to share with you.

I was about ten when it all began. People I had been friends with for years suddenly started to treat me differently. I was excluded from everything, nobody wanted to talk to me and nobody wanted to play with me. The worst part was that I did not understand why. What made me different? Why was I excluded?

My bullies were average kids, wanting social acceptance

It is only seven years on that I can see that there wasn’t a reason. I do believe, however, if the adults that were privy to this situation had handled things differently I wouldn’t be writing this piece. My bullies were not bad kids, they were not problem kids. These were average kids. A few were instigators, and the rest were brought along by craving social acceptance. They didn’t care who they had to step on to achieve that, that person being me.

The impact of being bullied was intensely difficult. I had zero self-belief, incredibly high anxiety, insomnia and depression. I wasn’t the only one affected by the bullying. To this day, my mum is extremely emotional about what I went through.

My school used the old fashioned approach of ‘shake hands lads’. That may have worked in the 1950s, but as times change, the methods in which we deal with situations must change as well. Children need to be given a clear and firm message that this is not acceptable.

We need to listen to young people

I can hear you asking, ‘what is the right thing to do?’ I’m not an expert, but I do have firsthand experience. My opinion is that we need to listen to children. Never dismiss a child’s words or feelings. Believe in them, support them and help them. Every school should have a zero-tolerance approach to bullying. It’s no good having an anti-bullying policy that sits in a drawer; it has to be implemented with determination.

My younger brother has been taught about the role of the bystander, bullying affects the morale of everyone in the classroom; from the bully to the victim to all those who stand by and watch it happening. School procedure can empower these children to stand up for what’s right, and to gain pride in the process.

Who am I now? What have I become as a result of all of this? I’m definitely stronger and have a greater belief in myself. I have courage to stand up for people and things I believe in. I have far greater empathy for the emotional struggles of others and I would do anything in my power to help them. I now present a popular radio show. I’m passionate about music, I love singing and playing the guitar. I’m back hurling and playing football after a long absence due to the bullying and I love every second. I feel more like the me I should have been.

Don’t lose hope

If you or someone you love is going through something similar, please don’t lose hope. You are better than that, you are strong, you are brave and you are amazing, don’t allow anyone to make you think otherwise about yourself. Keep pushing every single day to become a stronger better person. Then one can bask in the greatest feeling of all; sticking the proverbial two fingers up to the past.

If you’re a teacher, look after the kids you teach, believe in what they tell you and support them in any way you can. You have a duty as a role-model to shape these kids into future role-models. If you’re a parent, love your children like my parents love me. It helps build confidence, and they know you will always be a support for them. If you’re a child experiencing bullying, don’t let them win. You are strong and brave and courageous. You can do it!

If you or someone you love wants to contact me regarding this issue you can email me at LukeBullying@gmail.com. I would love to hear from you and support you in any way I can. Thank you for reading.

The ISPCC Shield Anti-Bullying Month will run from March 1st – March 31st 2015, with aim of tackling bullying and offering support to those affected by it. Follow the campaign on Twitter via #ISPCCShield or Text SHIELD to 50300 to donate €2

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