‘Our pupils would have been on the scrapheap’: the school for bullied children

Every year, 16,000 children leave school because of bullying. Hannah Letters was one of them. She talks about how she got back on track

The bullying started when Hannah Letters was 11. “I struggled with the transition to secondary school and found it hard to make friends.” Her classmates made snide comments about her appearance. When her mother was diagnosed with cancer, the comments got worse. She was sent messages on social media, telling her that no one liked her. “One of the girls turned and said to me, ‘If you had looked after your mother better, she wouldn’t have got cancer.’ I had such low self-esteem by then, anything she said I believed. I started to blame myself.”

By the time she was 13, Letters was self-harming. The bullies were constantly on her mind and she would wake up screaming from nightmares. She wasn’t happy with the response she got from her school, and “each time my mother or I complained, the bullying got worse”. When the bullies physically attacked her, it was the last straw for Letters’ mother. She took her off the school roll. That meant her school was absolved of its legal responsibility to provide her with an education. She became yet another statistic: one of the 16,000 children aged 11 to 15 who, each year, “self-exclude” from school due to bullying.

By then, Letters was a wreck and could not contemplate starting a new school. “I felt worthless, stupid, ugly and fat – I didn’t see the point in being alive. I had no motivation to learn.” more

Saskatoon teen creates mental health app for victims of bullying

A Saskatoon teen who was bullied in school starting in Grade 2 has developed an app to help other kids address and cope with mental health and bullying. 

Kelli Lemstra says the bullying began in Grade 2.

“I was struggling with the relationships with a lot of my friends,” she said. “It got really hard when everyone started getting cell phones which was in Grade 7 and 8.” That’s when the 16-year-old said things became unbearable.

“(People) were texting me awful things, commenting on all of my social media, making rude accounts about me, calling me on my phone on unknown caller telling me to kill myself,” she said.

With what Kelli thought was a lack of support from her school, and no way to make the bullying stop, the teen and her parents didn’t know where to turn.  more

UQ efforts see bullying recognised globally as contributor to mental illness

Bullying has been recognised globally as a risk factor for mental illness, thanks to a University of Queensland research team.

UQ Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr Hannah Thomassaid the inclusion of bullying as a risk factor for major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders in the Global Burden of Disease study was a major milestone.

“For the first time on the global stage, bullying has been formally recognised as being a causative factor for mental illness,” she said.

“Being bullied increases someone’s risk of developing a depressive or anxiety disorder later in life.  more

Teen upstanders: What you can do to help a struggling friend deal with anxiety, depression

Cicela Hernandez felt the stab of every cruel word.
Harsh comments about the way she dressed or the hair on her legs, which was longer than many of the boys’ in her class.
There were girls who, with intention, made her feel like she wasn’t good enough, pretty enough. Like her family didn’t have enough money to fit in.

She felt ashamed. Humiliated.
So Hernandez turned the tables. She became the bully.

She picked out classmates who were smaller than her, going into the girls restroom and pushing them around. She believed that others couldn’t — wouldn’t — hurt her anymore if they were afraid of her.
But, at home, Hernandez was a victim of sexual abuse in the house she and her mom shared with another family. She was the one who felt scared.

She needed an ally, a friend. Someone to speak up for her when she did not feel safe enough to do it for herself.

And, in truth, she wasn’t alone.   more