When I was younger, I was bullied by two older boys who walked home from school behind me, saying nasty things and kicking my backpack.
As mum was a bit of a nomad, I went to more schools than I can remember; always the new kid, the vulnerable one.
At college, bullying continued and I had suicidal thoughts. I was depressed, suffering anxiety and sleep problems. One day when I was confronted by three bullies, something changed.
I was tired of just 'taking it'. I told them to do their worst and they could have beaten me to a pulp easily, but instead, they left me alone and became friendly. Standing up and speaking up changed my life.
I now have four beautiful daughters and they all experienced bullying, especially in their teens, but my youngest Melany has sadly seen bullying on a larger scale than the others.
Melany experienced severe depression and anxiety due to how she was treated at school, and it was very hard to watch her going through it.
Bullying is different for kids today. I could leave my school bullies behind at the end of the day and have a break. Nowadays, social media and cellphones allow bullies to come home in your pocket, and it’s 24/7!
After the holidays, life improved for Melany. One girl who was unkind to her had some time to think about her behaviour and apologised to Melany when school started back.
Without a ringleader, the other bullies fell away. Now, I’m proud to say, when Melany sees someone being bullied – for their sexuality, a disability, or any other reason – she reaches out and offers friendship, understanding and invites them sit with her and her friends.
Melany has inspired me to find ways that I can continue to prevent bullying. I am now a licenced Anti-Harassment Advisor for the NZ Defence Force. I identify incidents of bullying or harassment, and help work through bullying issues. This work educates people about what is acceptable behaviour, and what is not, as well as encourages people to speak up.
Melany and I share strong beliefs in educating about the effects of bullying, so go on: Speak up. Stand together. Stop bullying.