Think Pink and Stand Up to Bullying

It’s inspiring to watch something positive grow out of an initial negative experience.

It was seven years ago when a boy in Nova Scotia was being bullied for simply wearing a pink shirt to high school. In sympathy and outrage, two of his peers went out and bought pink shirts for their classmates to wear the next day. It was an important day for those determined to eliminate bullying in schools and communities across Canada.

It was this act of empathy which inspired Pink Shirt Day. The third annual event is set to take place on Wednesday, February 26 at schools and workplaces across Canada in support of bullying awareness.

I will be wearing pink on Wednesday as this is a cause close to my heart. Admittedly, there have been times in my life, I sadly admit, when I have bullied others, witnessed bullying (sometimes doing nothing, sometimes attempting to interfere) and have been bullied.

Did any of it feel good? No, none of it did.

It is unfortunate that the evolution of technology has created more opportunities to bully in today’s world. Cyber bullying allows rumours to spread faster, hurtful pictures to be sent to anyone and for participants in bullying to act anonymously, which heightens fear and isolation for those being bullied.

Research tells us that any participation in bullying increases the risk of suicidal ideation in youth. One notable case is that of Amanda Todd, the British Columbia teen who died by suicide in 2012 after being repeatedly bullied and attacked by her peers.

Bullying is an issue which extends beyond the school yard. Studies suggest 40 per cent of Canadian workers experience bullying in the workplace on a weekly basis in the form of gossip, eye rolling, yelling, discounting a target’s thoughts and feelings in meetings, criticizing, encouraging others to turn against an individual, and by withholding necessary information or purposely giving the wrong information.

Perhaps wearing a pink shirt on Wednesday will not put an end to bullying but we can stand up and say to our classmates and colleagues that we will not tolerate bullying in any way, shape or form.

Notable actor Michael J. Fox once said: “One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.”

I think his point is an important one to remember. Bullies can think what they want but nobody should lose that unique part of themselves. It’s what makes us who we are.

We should continue to act dignified, respectful, assertive, and genuine.

Visit http://www.pinkshirtday.ca/about/ to learn more about Pink Shirt Day.