“It's not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It's our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.” L.R. Knost, Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages

By Justine Hodgkinson, CEO of Advocacy Focus

I may be the leader of our charity, but first and foremost I am a Mum.  It’s the most wonderful job in the world and one that I had the least training or qualifications in when I had my first child.  It’s a role that doesn’t come with an instruction manual, but I was one of the fortunate ones. I grew up in a home where my Mum was loving and a positive role model.  Inadvertently she taught me how to be a good Mum. 

My children are my anchor and a constant source of inspiration to me.  They make sense in a way that many other things don’t, they ground me and they keep me on my toes!  But there is no getting away from it, parenting can be scary.  There is often that unspoken fear that if we put a foot wrong, the wheels will come off.  We see and hear horror stories unfolding in our communities and sometimes find it difficult to sleep at night in case our own children become a statistic.

Schoolboy, Sam Connor, was 14 when he diedOn Monday 16th July 2019 a young boy named Sam Connor, handed his schoolbag to his friends and jumped into the path of an oncoming train.  He was being bullied.  Sam felt that his only way out, was to take his own life.  He was 14 years old.  As a Mum, this makes my heart break.  As a member of the public, this makes me angry.  As a professional working in the third sector, it compels me to take action and stop this from ever happening again.

Sam could be anybody’s child.  We could all get the knock on the door that will change our lives in the most unfathomable way possible.  In a survey carried out by Ditch the Label in 2018, 1 in 5 young people between the ages of 12 and 20 said they had been bullied in the last 12 months.  Of these young people, 34% were bullied at least once a week and 11% of them had attempted suicide.  Many of them had experienced depression, anxiety and had self-harmed.

"1 in 5 young people between the ages of 12 and 20 said they had been bullied in the last 12 months."

Imagine that. A child or young person being bullied verbally, physically or emotionally every week of their young lives.  Is this in any way acceptable? Is bullying now just a fact of life? Or do we need to get our house in order and deal with this problem head on?  We know that bullying is a societal issue with no one specific root cause, so how do we go about tackling it?  Well we cannot do this in isolation.  As the African proverb says, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’.  As adults we all have a duty of care and a responsibility towards our young people.  We need to keep them safe and equip them with skills to deal with 21st century life and the ‘hyper-normal’ world we live in.  We need to teach them that in a world where you can be anything, be kind.

Sam’s basic human rights were not met.  He had the right to life, survival and development under Article 6 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).  It clearly states that Governments must do all they can to ensure that every child survives and develops to their full potential.  We failed Sam, like we have failed many other children and young people before him.  Over 200 school children per year to be exact and that’s the ones that completed suicide, not the many others that have tried. 

"Sam’s basic human rights were not met.  He had the right to life, survival and development under Article 6 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)."

As a charity we are committed to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of all people, that’s why our senior team are trained to Mental Health First Aid instructor level.  All our team are trained to recognise the signs and symptoms of mental ill health in either children or adults.  Trained to prevent people from reaching crisis point.  We are doing our bit where we can, such is our commitment to the people in our communities.  But we need your help. 

If we can raise much needed funds to deliver mental health training to professionals working with children and young people and also for parents and carers that have the most important job of all, then we can help in some way to address this issue.  This training will help people support young children into adulthood and lessen the impact that bullying can have.

As for bullying, Government needs to act to uphold their duty in regards to protecting our children.  They pledged to uphold the UNCRC, they need to be taken to task when they fail. Advocacy means giving people support to have their voices heard.  Let’s start using them.

Donate online now and help us provide free Mental Health First Aid Training to carers and parents.