If you’re asking yourself the question “Am I being Bullied?” – rest assured, you’re in the right place!

This quiz will help you to determine whether the negativity you’re experiencing, at school, work, home or elsewhere is bullying.

Is It Bullying?

The very fact that you are here, reading this and are about to take this quiz indicates that yes, you probably are experiencing bullying. These questions should help you clear some things up and put you on the right track to getting things sorted out, once and for all!

Answer three simple questions and find out the best course of action to take:

Check out these articles:

If you’re still unsure, contact a Digital Mentor at Ditch the Label by joining the community and sharing your problems – What ever it is, we wanna hear about it!

dan bull interview

DTL Interviewed Dan Bull – but you may know him as “Douglby”…

With 1,351,285 subscribers on YouTube and 102K followers on Twitter, Dan Bull is literally #winning at the internet right now, but it hasn’t all been fame and glory for the geeky gamer come comedy rapper…

dan bull interview

DTL caught up with Dan to talk about bullying IRL, online and how he gets his Inspo…

DTL: Hi Dan thanks for chatting with DTL! First up, can you tell the DTL readers a bit about yourself?
Dan: My name’s Dan and I make rap videos and comedy sketches on YouTube – usually about geeky stuff such as video games.

DTL: What’s the funniest/weirdest comment you’ve ever received on one of your videos?
Dan: I honestly don’t know because I try not to read all the comments, there’s so much weird stuff in there and YouTube really ought to do a better job of keeping it respectable!

DTL: 7 in 10 people experience bullying online before the age of 18 – as someone who has an enormous online presence, is online abuse something that you have experienced? If so, how have you dealt with it?
Dan: I haven’t received it to the serious degree that some others have, but I’ve occasionally had people trying to wind me up or upset me to get a response. It sounds like a cliche but the best thing to do is just ignore them and keep doing whatever makes you happy yourself. People that leave bad comments online often have nothing better to do, YOU do!

DTL: What’s the best and worst thing about being a famous YouTuber/rapper?
Dan: Well, I don’t feel very famous because my fans are spread throughout the world, that means I can easily walk down the street without being recognised. I suppose the best thing is being able to do my hobby of making music and videos as a living. Every day is fun!

DTL: 64% of the people we surveyed had been trolled in an online game? Any advice for people who are dealing with trolling online?
Dan: The main reason people troll is not because they mean what they say, but because it’s the easiest way to get a reaction from other people. The most powerful thing you can do is completely deny them any reaction and act as if they’re not there. It takes away all their power over you. If the trolling is serious and doesn’t stop, there should be ways to report it to the people in charge of the game. If it’s more serious than that, you can also speak to the police who will be able to advise and assist you.

“The thing which feels most meaningful to me is hearing from people whose personal lives have been helped because of the music I’ve made. It feels better for one person to really value a song, than for a thousand people to just enjoy it a bit.”

DTL: What’s been the ultimate highlight of your YouTubing career so far?
Dan: A lot of cool and weird things have happened but the thing which feels most meaningful to me is hearing from people whose personal lives have been helped because of the music I’ve made. It feels better for one person to really value a song, than for a thousand people to just enjoy it a bit.

DTL: Where do you get inspiration for your tracks?
Dan: The easiest way to be inspired is to just think about the things that give you an emotional response. Whether it’s happy, sad, angry, afraid, excited, etc. Those are all powerful emotions that you can channel into creativity. I would actually recommend to people reading this to try out being creative, whether it’s writing, drawing, recording videos – anything you feel like. It doesn’t have to be good and you don’t have to show it to anyone else. It’s just a great way to get those thoughts and feelings in order.

DTL: Have you ever experienced bullying IRL – if so could you tell us a bit about it?
Dan: Yes, I have been bullied at different points in my life. Mostly at school and mostly verbal bullying, but was occasionally punched, kicked etc. Looking back at it now I can see that the problem was always with the person who bullied, and not with me. People bully others because they feel inferior themselves, and they want to get a feeling of superiority or belonging to a group, by picking on someone – so that THEY aren’t the one who’s different themselves. It is quite sad really, but it’s still no excuse to victimise another person.

“The differences that make us stand out, are the same differences which will help us make a mark and be happy in life.”

DTL: If you could go back in time, what’s one thing you’d tell yourself before your YouTube career really kicked off?
Dan: That it’s OK to be you, to be interested in the things you’re interested in, to dress how you like to dress, and that the people who won’t like those things about you, don’t matter anyway. If you allow yourself to be who you really are, you will attract people who like the real you.

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DTL: Biggest pet peeve?
Dan: Bullying! Any situation where somebody tries to exploit vulnerabilities in others, whether it’s picking on someone in the playground, scamming people online, or abusing animals. I think that kindness and understanding is a great responsibility and a privilege, and it takes more guts to do than picking on someone.

DTL: Anything exciting coming up in the near future?
Dan: I never like to talk about future plans because things can change so often. I’d say only 20% of the things I plan actually happen!

DTL: Anything you’d like to add?
Dan: Yes: All the most interesting and fun people I know were bullied at school. The differences that make us stand out, are the same differences which will help us make a mark and be happy in life.

If comedy and gaming is your thing, check out Dan’s channel and follow him on Twitter for latest updates and lolworthy rap videos…

What is xenophobia

So, What is Xenophobia?

…Nope, it’s not a bizarre fear of xylophones. That would be Xylophonophobia (true story – it’s a real thing).

Xenophobia (pronounced ‘Zeno-phobia’) is a dislike or prejudice towards people from other countries. The ‘phobia’ part is a bit problematic really, because Xenophobia isn’t actually a ‘fear’, it’s a societal or political problem. A bit like homophobia – when we say ‘-phobia’ we imply that it is an irrational fear that can’t be helped when in actuality, it can be helped.

An example of xenophobia would be a group of people at school, excluding Sandra from activities because she is Polish. They are not scared of her, they are prejudiced towards her because of her nationality.

Racism often gets mixed in with Xenophobia and the two often come hand in hand, however, xenophobia usually refers to a persons nationality and culture rather than exclusively their race. Unfortunately, there has been a significant rise in Xenophobia in the US and UK in recent times. The term, ‘go back to your own country’ gets thrown around a lot 🙄. If you’re on the receiving end of Xenophobic abuse, remember that the problem lies with that person, not with you.

Reasons why some people are Xenophobic:

  • They are unfamiliar with a particular nationality
  • They had a bad experience with one person of a particular nationality or heritage and therefore associate bad feelings towards everyone of that persuasion
  • Because of something that happened historically between various countries – for example: WWII
  • Ignorance or narrow-mindedness (so they don’t like, what they don’t know)
  • Prejudice
  • Belief in stereotypes (particularly negative ones)
  • Blindly following what the media says about immigrants (which is usually always negative)
  • Racism
  • Intolerance to religions other than their own
  • Inexperience with diversity – fear of the unknown
  • Not agreeing with the politics of a person’s country of origin
  • Opposition to the cultures of other countries/nationalities

 

Are you experiencing Xenophobic bullying?

A sharp increase in the (often negative) discussion of immigration both in the US and the UK online, in the media and in schools, means that more people are experiencing Xenophobic bullying and bad attitudes towards their nationality and culture. For example, in England ever since the European Union Referendum, hate crime has increased by up to 100% around the country.

Examples of Xenophobia and Xenophobic bullying include:

  • Making fun of someone’s nationality
  • Making prejudiced assumptions about a person based on where they come from – for example, saying that all French people like to eat snails.
  • Imitating or making fun of a person’s accent
  • Saying that someone is not welcome because they are from a different country
  • Actively excluding someone from events or conversations because of their nationality
  • Saying hurtful things about a person’s culture
  • Assuming that one culture is better than another
  • Physically harming or attacking someone because of their nationality
  • Sending hurtful comments online about someone based on where they are from/where they were born
  • Hating an entire country because of something that a handful of people from that country have done in the past
  • spreading hateful messages about a culture or nationality on social media.
  • Accusing immigrants of ‘stealing jobs or national services’ from the native inhabitants of a country.
  • Using derogatory names or ‘nicknames’ to refer to a person from a different country.
  • Not employing someone because they are foreign, even if they are fully qualified for the job and speak the required language fluently.

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Reporting it

If you’re experiencing negativity at school or work which is based solely around your nationality or culture – you should report it. Xenophobia is considered to be a hate crime and you should not have to put up with it. We are lucky enough to live in a multicultural society which means we can share and enjoy lots of different traditions, foods, languages and cultures which is something that we think should be celebrated, not used against someone.

Start with reporting it to an adult such as a parent or teacher first. If it is serious – report it to the police. You can get full advice on how and where to report hate crime in our Ultimate Guide to Hate Crime, below.

If you need further advice, check out:

If you’re unsure and would like to talk, join the DTL community where you can get advice from our awesome digital mentors or chat with other users about xenophobia today.

What is Revenge porn? Sounds scary doesn’t it? Here, Carmel Glassbrook from the Revenge Porn Helpline breaks down the top 5 things you need to know about revenge porn from her experience working with the organisation:

1. It’s not always about “revenge” and it’s not really porn.

So, the story goes; “Boy meets girl. Girl sends boy nudes. Girl and boy break up, then, in fit of rage and jealousy, boy shares nudes all over the internet.” 😱

…Well, not always. Catfishing and sextortion are also a reality. This refers to the horrible situation some people find themselves in when they think they’re having sexual exchanges over webcam with an unbelievably sexy person. Only to later get blackmailed with the video of them masturbating for £££!

At the Revenge Porn helpline, we’ve even had cases where nudes were shared in adoration. The perpetrators are often completely flabbergasted that anyone would consider what they are doing was wrong: “But I think she’s really hot and I just wanted more pics of her!” 🙄

The word “porn” is also a misnomer. Porn is something sexy and enjoyable. FYI, having your intimate images spitefully shared is not sexy. Nor is sharing someone else’s nudes… for any reason!

2. The difference between “sexting” and “revenge porn”?

Revenge porn is the non-consensual sharing of intimate images of anyone OVER the age of 18.
Sexting usually refers to intimate image sharing of anyone UNDER the age of 18.

If you are under 18 and share nudes of anyone over 18, you could be criminalised under the revenge porn law. But (stay with me, it’s about to get even more confusing) due to a law created in 1978, a naked image of anyone under the age of 18 is an indecent image of a child, which could carry quite a substantial punishment for possession or production.

SO, you can have sex at age 16 but if you take a nude you are committing a very serious crime. Clear as mud, right?!

The Revenge Porn Helpline supports people over the age of 18 only. Not least because we have to search for, view and report images and we couldn’t do that if the image is of someone under 18, because that would be illegal. Thankfully, the IWF (partner in UK SIC) are very successful in removing indecent images of under 18s from the internet.

3. What does the revenge porn law cover?

When it was passed in April 2015, the law made the non-consensual sharing of intimate images a crime, carrying a potential custodial sentence of up to 2 years. The prosecution has to prove an “intent to cause distress”- as if having your nudes all over Facebook isn’t proof enough.

Recently the law has been updated to include “threatening” to share people’s nudes. A massive win for us on the Helpline! Too often, callers have been turned away from the police because the person hasn’t shared anything, yet! Threats and blackmail were already covered by the ‘Malicious Communications Act’, however this generally had a poor response. To make it easier and clearer for police to prosecute – this has now been included. But there is always room for improvement.

Unfortunately the laws are most effective if the victim and perpetrator are in the same country. In theory, someone in America committing RP against someone British should be simple. Most US states have a similar law so why wouldn’t they be arrested there!? However, there are a lot of factors that get in the way – lack of police resources being one. Despite this, it is possible to prosecute a perpetrator of RP across the pond. Unfortunately, if the perpetrator was elsewhere – in the Philippines for example, it’s a completely different story.

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4. Where is revenge porn?

You’d think that seeing as it’s illegal to upload this content, it shouldn’t be anywhere online. WRONG! The images themselves are not illegal and sites are not breaking the law by hosting them. There are still dedicated RP websites moving their hosting sites so often that they’re impossible to catch.

The dark web hosts some disturbing content, where RP might feel like the least of our worries. RP is shared on social media daily but there have been some incredible moves to tackle this. Facebook and Instagram have implemented a hashing technology. Meaning if an image is removed for being RP, they will code this image so it can’t be shared on their platforms again! Fear not, there have been a few notable prosecutions globally for running abhorrent RP sites – so it has been done before!

5. What should I do?

The best thing anyone can do is not add to this culture of humiliation. If someone has trusted you with their nudes, don’t share them. If you split up with someone, delete their pics. It’s really simple when you put it like that.

If your images have been shared- don’t panic! Get some support from a loved one and report it to the police. No social media accept RP on their platforms, so take control and report the content.

Most importantly, call the Helpline. We will provide a helping hand to support you through this, giving you emotional and practical advice. Lastly, don’t be a bystander- if you see or know someone is being abused in this way-  help them by always reporting it!

Got a question about Revenge Porn? Join the community and ask one of our digital mentors!

Keep up to date with the work that the team do at RP Helpline on Twitter 

in game abuse

Ditch the Label and Habbo have teamed up to find out the extent and nature of online bullying and in game abuse within digital gaming environments. Here’s what we found out, in a nutshell:

In:Game Abuse

57% of people have been bullied in a game
64% have been trolled in an online game
57% have been subjected to hate speech in game
47% of people have received threats
40% have experienced unwanted sexual contact
38% have been hacked
34% have had personal information shared in a game

 Read More

Those who experience bullying in real life, are more likely to use video games as a way of escape and distraction from the hassle they get offline. Imagine getting home after being bullied at school, only to go online to receive yet more abuse in games from absolute strangers – no one should have to put up with that!

80% of those surveyed said they have never bullied somebody in an online game, this may be the case, however this could also be due to the fact that some may not even realise that they are displaying bullying behaviours. Let’s enjoy games the way they are supposed to be played by taking a united approach to tackle bullying online.

Find out more

Check out our gaming content below for help with trolling and cyberbullying and you can even take our quiz to see if you’re showing signs of trolling behaviours online:

Confused by all this gaming lingo!? Click here to find an ‘Easter egg’ of gaming terms that may have been baffling you and your mates!

Get Help

Need more help? You can talk anonymously with one of our digital mentors who can help you overcome online bullying and trolling, for once and for all! Maybe you’ve got something to say about trolling? Simply join the community and get typing!

What is trolling?

If you would prefer the easier to read version, please click here.

“Trolling” in an online game is most commonly used to described when players go out of their way to annoy everyone and make other players rage. The acts of trolling can range anywhere from committing friendly fire to just telling other players that they suck, repeatedly. Now, while this seems like harmless fun on the surface, it can have some really bad effects for those on the receiving end. Not only is the game ruined for everyone else but in some cases, the consequences can be way more severe than just a broken controller. 😡

So, what’s the problem?

Phrases like, “there’s no real harm” get thrown out a lot. This infuriates me because the point of trolling is to cause harm and effects of trolling are mostly all negative. One form of trolling is spamming game chats so that players reading it will be distracted and depending what kind of game you’re playing, the effects will vary. For example; in an FPS, the reader will likely die… (in game) this could ruin their hard work and KD ratio.

Another example would be if you’re playing online and the game chat is being spammed, half of the player’s screens are blocked. This prevents them from being able to score or defend. When people are trolling servers, it makes other players more likely to rage quit. This ruins games for everyone else because in most cases they will be replaced with a bot and who wants to play an online game filled with AI?!

Dear Trolls…

You might think “…but making them angry is the point?!” Well, my response is this… where’s the fun in that? What is the point in going out of your way to make someone that you can’t even see angry? In most cases it won’t affect their day, however in some, it can have a more serious effect. Trolling can have deeper impacts than you might think. For example, when taken too far, trolling can lead to paranoia and can affect sleep. I know this because of my own personal experiences online.

What games are doing to combat trolling

Aside from your usual timeouts or server bans, developers are taking steps to combat the trolls and prevent trolling. A prime example of this is Blizzard. Blizzard are the creators of the popular online shooter, Overwatch. What they have done is, when common trolling phrases are used such as “GG EZ” the text will automatically be changed into a randomly generated phrase by Blizzard. This can be anything from polite gestures to self-deprecating insults. Some examples include:


“Well played. I salute you all.”

“Gee whiz! That was fun. Good playing!”

“It’s past my bedtime. Please don’t tell my mommy.”

“I’m wrestling with some insecurity issues in my life but thank you all for playing with me.”

This was a wonderful idea from Blizzard and has had an overall positive effect to their online game chats. Hopefully, this will become commonplace amongst all Blizzard titles moving forward.

But wait… there’s more

In hardcore modes of Call Of Duty, players that team kill are kicked from the game. While this has been around for a while now, it is important to recognise the importance of the feature introduced all the way back in 2007. Simple things like this can be done to prevent trolling in online games.

It’s far from over

Despite developers best efforts, trolling is still a massive issue that continues to slow down the development of online gamers and gaming. Games are still being ruined by these unfunny people – we all have to do what we can to put an end to it. Not only must we block, mute and report them, but we have to do our best to make in game chats positive, safe spaces again for all gamers. As well as this, we have to let them know that they’re not affecting us, by not reacting to them at all. Don’t give people who troll the satisfaction of a response.🙄

Other than that, all we can really do is play on.

Have any experiences or thoughts on trolling? Disagree with me? Let us know in community. If you enjoyed this and want some more, click here for an article on some gaming terminology.

It is no secret that the landscape of bullying continues to change, which is why we stress the importance of researching trends, attitudes and behaviours so that we can continue to innovate and develop world-class interventions and ways of tackling cyberbullying.

But, what do the stats say?

Latest statistics are taken from Ditch the Label’s Annual Bullying Survey 2017

Frequency

As were are increasingly living more and more of our lives online, cyberbullying is something which can affect anyone at any time:

  • 17% of those surveyed have experienced cyberbullying.
  • 29% of those surveyed reported experiencing cyberbullying at least once a month.
  • 16% surveyed said they were cyberbullied at least once a week.

Impacts of cyberbullying

Cyberbullying can have serious impacts on the self-esteem and mental health of people who experience it:

  • 41% of people who were cyberbullied developed social anxiety
  • 37% developed depression
  • 26% had suicidal thoughts
  • 26% deleted their social media profile
  • 25% self-harmed
  • 25% stopped using social media
  • 20% skipped class
  • 14% developed an eating disorder
  • 9% abused drugs or alcohol.

What counts as Cyberbullying?

When asked about the nature of cyberbullying, here is how our respondents answered:

  • 35% had sent a screenshot of someone’s status or photo to laugh at them in a group chat
  • 25% had trolled somebody in an online game
  • 17% liked or shared something online that openly mocks another person
  • 16% had done something to subtly annoy somebody they didn’t like online
  • 12% had sent a nasty message, either privately or publicly to somebody they know offline
  • 5% had created a fake profile and used it to annoy or upset another person.

What have you experienced?

When asked about what happened to those who were cyberbullied, here’s how they responded:

  • 39% had a nasty comment posted on their profile
  • 34% had a nasty comment posted on their photo
  • 68% has been sent a nasty private message
  • 18% had their profile wrongfully reported
  • 23% had been bullied in an online game
  • 24% had their private information shared
  • 18% had somebody impersonate them online
  • 41% had rumours about them posted online
  • 27% had photos/videos of them that they didn’t like

Find out More

Want to know more? Have a read through our past research papers to get an idea of the stats around bullying and other related issues from the last 5 years…

We caught up with Gareth Emery and HALIENE post-launch of SAVING LIGHT

DtL:  Hi HALIENE, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

HALIENE: I’m HALIENE, pronounced HAY-lee-en (rhymes with alien). I have been singing and writing songs since I was a very little girl. Growing up, my mother would often say I sang before I could talk. I grew up in a few places… I was born in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, but when I was 7 years old moved to southern Utah. I lived there until about 14, at which point my mother and I went on the road in pursuit of my music career. I finally settled in Los Angeles a few years later when I signed a major record deal. I got to tour the world with some amazing people, but at the time my project was all soft pop/ adult contemporary. Eventually my love for electronic sounds led me to dance music!

DtL: Have you ever experienced bullying? If so can you tell us what happened?

HALIENE: Yes, I have. Middle school was terrible for me. My music career had me leaving school quite often to perform in Las Vegas and LA. One year I was gone for 100 of the 180 school days! Yet, I still managed to do all my schoolwork in the car while my mother drove me to my performances. The kids in the small town I grew up in didn’t understand why I got to be gone so much. Slowly, I lost almost all my friends. There were times when none of the kids would even stand on the sidewalk if I was on it. There was name-calling and taunting. At one point the most popular girl at school took away all my friends, telling them they had to choose between me or her. I lost almost all my confidence and could barely say “hello” to classmates when I saw them outside of school for those years.

“There were times when none of the kids would even stand on the sidewalk if I was on it”

 

DtL: What advice would you give to those that are being bullied?

HALIENE: As a young girl, my dream was bigger than the tiny world of “school”. I kept my eyes focused on that. My mother saw what was happening to me and told me to “stand up straight, look people in the eye, say hello” and remember how loved I am and how much I am worth. People that bully are only giving back what they carry inside of them, or perhaps reflecting what they have seen in their own home. People that bully are often being bullied even worse by someone else. If you are being bullied you need to find a balance of stating a boundary, standing up for yourself, but also recognising that their negative actions and words are coming from a place of pain in them, not necessarily malice.
Also, it is never you that is really the problem, so don’t let them bring you down! If it happens at school, remember school isn’t the rest of your life. The same people who bullied you when you were young, will look at your success in the future and brag about how they “always knew you’d be successful”. In fact, they might even ask you to sing at their weddings. Yes… that happened to me! Instead of letting the negative energy drag you down, let it propel you. It’s difficult, but keep your head up, keep feeding the dream in your heart and keep your eyes on the future.

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DtL: What inspired your track Saving Light? The video’s narrative is also very powerful – what do you hope the video and single will achieve in terms of message?

HALIENE: “Saving Light” was inspired by my own personal journey with pain. When I was seven, I thought that my parents’ divorce would be the most painful thing I’d have to endure. But a few years ago, when I lost both of them to cancer, only six months apart, it utterly destroyed me. My heart and my life were shattered. I was 23 years old and as an only child, all the responsibilities were left to me. I was extremely close with my parents. My mother was everything to me. I talked to her every single day. But that loss was only the beginning. Soon after, the record company I was signed to refused to pay me what they owed. To survive I was forced to work for minimum wage at a retail store in LA, all the while hearing my own songs play on the radio there. Over the following years, I lost relationships, friendships, and the dreams of my career. It seemed like everything was purposefully being stripped out of my life beyond my control, and I was helpless to stop it. There were many times, when I thought about how easy it would be to just leave this world…that there wasn’t much left in it for me anyway. I missed my parents so much, and I felt so alone. Here I was, in the massive city of Los Angeles with my dreams left in ashes.

But that’s when I went to my first dance music festival and things began to change. This was my first real experience of dance music. Having grown up in southern Utah, I’d never been very exposed to it. My mother used to play Delerium and Enigma CDs when I was a kid, but I had no idea there was so much more than that! There was a whole new world, a culture of peace, love and unity. This music, this culture, these people, breathed new life into me. Through the music I found a fresh vision for my life, a new dream. In the times of despair when I didn’t want to be alive anymore, there was always a small voice reminding me just how much I had to be grateful for, how much was ahead of me, how much I still had yet to give, that life had only just begun for me, and that the future was bright. In the dark times, I felt it, like the tiny flicker of a candle – my Saving Light.

“When I didn’t want to be alive anymore, there was always a small voice reminding me just how much I had to be grateful for”

 

I found myself being grateful for every breath in those moments, for my bed, for a good nights sleep, for food, and for people with a smile on their face. The music saved me. The people I met in the culture of dance music saved me. I found a purpose beyond this world, a calling that was higher than just entertainment, to be that same Saving Light for the many others that suffer like I had. With this song, it is my prayer to give back to all those beautiful spirits who loved me and showed me light during my darkest times, to remind those in pain, those who are lost, how much they are really worth, how much they have to be grateful for, and how bright their future is if they never stop reaching for it.

DtL: What has been your recipe for success?

HALIENE: Never. Give. Up. Tirelessly follow your path. Stay positive, always. Treat others with kindness. Own who you are, but never try to sell it. Just be it. Work efficiently, don’t do everything, or you’ll get lost. Find a focused point to work towards, find a hole in the marketplace that only you can fill. And last but not least, have a quiet confidence, a way of being that says you know who you are, what you are worth, and you don’t have to shout it on every street corner. It’s a twinkle in your eye.

DtL: If you could go back in time, what one thing would you tell your younger self?

Gareth: There’s so much, but also, in a way, nothing! If I’d known everything I know now when I was younger, my life would have been very different, and I have no regrets about the lessons I’ve learned in life and the points at which I’ve learned them. That said, if I’d worked out it was OK to be my authentic self earlier, rather than always trying to fit it, I would have saved myself a lot of hassle, and found happiness in my life sooner.

DtL: What motto do you live by?

Gareth: I have many, but the overriding one is a constant desire to improve myself. Whether it’s becoming more efficient, learning new things, making better art, being a better person, having more time for my family, being happier or whatever. We’re all works in progress, and it’s incredible how many things about your life you can change, if you’re willing to work at it. There are a few amazing podcasts that have helped me with this: one is The Tim Ferriss show (and his various books) which I listen to for general life advice, the other is one called MFCEO which is great for giving you a kick back into the world if you’re feeling sorry for yourself.

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DtL: What does the future hold for HALIENE?

HALIENE: So much more exciting music to come! Lots of new inspired releases but also some legendary collaborations. Stay tuned for new tours as well… and definitely some solo HALIENE tracks.

DtL: Why did you decide to team up with Ditch the Label?

Gareth: We knew we had an incredibly powerful song with Saving Light, and wanted to make a music video to accompany it that could make people think, and impact people’s lives in a positive way – rather than your typical music video. Soon, we hit on the concept, but wanted to make sure we addressed the issue in a way that was authentic and sensitive. Ditch the Label were fantastic partners, working with us to make sure the storyline made sense, and being there for people affected by these issues to reach out to.

DtL: Is there anything you would like to add?

HALIENE: May the light that shines in me, also shine in you.

We interviewed YouTuber Riyadh Khalaf about his experiences with bullying, his new TV series and what it was like coming out to his parents

DtL: Hi Riyadh! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Riyadh: Hey, I’m Riyadh. I’m an Irish guy who moved to London earlier this year to focus on my career and personal growth. I’m a YouTube content creator and Documentary filmmaker with BBC.

DtL: Have you ever experienced bullying?
Riyadh: As a kid, I experienced a lot of bullying, both on and offline. The first experiences of this were on the school playground where I was called a whole list of cruel names and it made feel like an outcast.

The trolling online began when I decided to set up my YouTube channel at the age of 16. I was making videos for about nine months when I began receiving daily death threats and multiple abusive comments about my mannerisms, voice and appearance. I went to the police to make a statement but they just told me to stop making videos and the comments would stop. I went offline for seven years and then decided about 18 months ago to make a return to the site that I loved so much.

“I began receiving daily death threats and multiple abusive comments”

 

Since my return, I have seen an unbelievable wave of love and support that overshadows any trolling I get. The reason I came back to YouTube is because with age and wisdom through my teenage years I grew a tough skin and the ability to not care anymore. The most important thing to me is my happiness and if I am not creating content then I am not happy. I began to flip the negative comments into a positive by using them for funny ‘Reading Mean Comments’ videos which my viewers love. I take the cruel and uncalled for hate and make fun of it, I troll the troll or make frivolous remarks about the comment which in turn takes the power and sting away from the hateful words. I do it for fun but also to empower others to see that these words can be dangerous and incredibly hurtful but if you have the right believe in yourself and self-loving attitude, then you can tackle them.

“I take the cruel and uncalled for hate and make fun of it”

 

In school, I just battled through my bullying on my own. I had little or no support from friends or teachers when it was at its worst. I didn’t realise just how anxious, sad and lost I was at the time because those feelings just became my new normal. I found happiness and a safe space in my own home with my parents who became my best friends.

DtL: What advice would you give to those that are being bullied?
Riyadh: Speak up if you’re being harassed or bullied. Ask the person why they are doing it, tell them the effect it is having on you and if they still don’t stop then seek help from a person in power – A teacher, parent, someone who you trust. Suffering in silence and just ‘putting up’ with it as I did is never a good thing. It will eventually make you afraid of the world and worried about every person you speak to.

What you need to realise is that there are millions of people in this country and all over the world who are silently supporting you and on your side. You are never alone. It’s just about reaching out and finding one of those people who can help you take some steps to stopping the bullying.

Sometimes all it takes is a dose of reality for those that bully to understand the impact of their actions and therefore stop. Some cannot be spoken to and that’s just a reality of life but once again, this is not a battle you have to fight alone or should feel embarrassed asking for help in. Teachers and elders are there to assist you but they can’t help unless they know what is going on.

DtL: Do you have a coming out story? If so can you share it with us?
Riyadh: My coming out story began with me coming out to myself and being comfortable with my sexuality.

It took me about four years to build up the courage to begin telling friends and family. My mother was great about it and supported me. She was mainly upset that I had been holding it in for so long.

I came out to my dad nine months after my mother and initially he was fine but the following days he broke down and was incredibly upset. He is Iraqi and although not a practicing Muslim he had a lot of worries about what other people would think. He was having a lot of difficulties coming to terms with it. My dad recently admitted that he was considering suicide the night after I came out. It was heartbreaking to hear as you can imagine.

“My dad recently admitted that he was considering suicide the night after I came out. It was heartbreaking to hear as you can imagine”

 

In the months following this household drama my father began to relax and take time to learn what being gay means. We worked hard as a family to repair the broken relationships and learn to love again. My dad came with me to Pride and I can vividly remember seeing him have an ‘ah ha!’ moment. He saw how beautiful, open and loving our community was and he felt proud that his son was part of it. He embraced me and told me he loved me. Since then both my parents have been to multiple Pride events, have marched in marriage equality rallies and have appeared in multiple TV documentaries about the LGBTQ+ community. I am incredibly lucky to have them!

DtL: What are the best and worst things about being a YouTube sensation?
Riyadh: Hahaha I would use the term sensation lightly!

I love being my own boss and having 100% creative freedom in all that I do. I don’t have to run any ideas or concepts past anyone – I can just make it! I get the joy of travelling the world for work and making friends in every new location I land. I really couldn’t ask for a better job.

On the downside, it can have an impact on your mental health and anxiety as you worry about the performance of your channel and videos wondering if it is dying and if you need to change things constantly. This is why I make sure to step away from the computer and phone a lot and give myself some digital breathing space.

DtL: If you could go back in time, what one thing would you tell your younger self?
Riyadh: “Riyadh, it’s all going to be ok in the end” or “Work hard, love hard, surround yourself with great people and never let anyone tell you something is impossible”.

DtL: What has been your proudest moment so far?
Riyadh: My proudest moment was getting the chance to publicly campaign for equal marriage in Ireland. I was one of the faces of young Ireland and the ‘Yes’ vote. I worked for months campaigning on national and international media including BBC, CNN and MSNBC then standing with thousands of Irish LGBT’s at Dublin Castle as the result was read out. It was the most amazing experience of my life.

Riyadh on sexuality: “You are not sick, you are not shameful, you are just human”

 

DtL: What does the future hold for Riyadh?
Riyadh: I’m working on a BBC Three documentary series about LGBTQ culture and issues in the UK including homelessness, racism, body image, femme shaming, porn and more. It’s a dream come true to be making documentaries with BBC and something I’ve wanted to do for countless years.

Beyond this I hope to continue growing my channel, begin working more in entertainment TV and eventually, one day have my own talk show! I have hope! 🙂

DtL: What advice would you give to those who may be struggling to come to terms with their sexuality?
Riyadh: Look into yourself and take away all of the societal, media and family ‘norms’ and expectations. When you have removed all of those external pressures, what do you feel? Who are you drawn to? What is your heart saying?

You are not sick, you are not shameful, you are just human. Go online and find others like you. Speak to like-minded people and begin to truly love yourself and your identity. Then and only then should you consider telling the people around you in my opinion. Your future is bright but it is brighter when you are free!

Bullying Can, and Does Have Deathly Consequences. Fernan Balsalubre blogs about losing his friend Kurt Cunningham to suicide after he experienced cyberbullying

I always looked at Kurt Cunningham like a human phoenix. Long before I met him, he was a bit of a legend in the small LGBT+ community of San Diego. Besides his work in the community, he was well-known for constantly reinventing himself, and picking himself back up from rock bottom. I met him after his mother, Lisa, passed away, when he felt like he lacked a clear purpose. He had been her caregiver, and after her death, he felt like he had no purpose. He had battled depression throughout his life, and this tragedy pushed him into a deep depression.

Most of us watched him very closely. It wasn’t until he began working as the LGBT+ outreach coordinator for Mental Health America that he began to find his groove once more. There is nothing more glorious than watching your friend climb from rock bottom, and when Kurt began working for MHA to teach those in the LGBT+ community about mental health and suicide, it was like he was reborn. His mental health advocacy didn’t end at work; he educated each of his friends about their own mental health. Though some of us disagreed with Kurt on how to approach our own well-being, we always listened to each word. Unfortunately, it may have been one of these friends he attempted to help who ended up cyberbullying him.

“It may have been one of these friends he attempted to help who ended up cyberbullying him”

 

Kurt agreed to help his friend (a fellow member of the LGBT+ community) find help regarding her own mental issues. It was a disagreement about both the Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter movements that brought an end to their friendship. While it should have stopped there, Kurt’s friend began to cyberbully him by leaving comments on MHA’s Facebook page about how ineffective Kurt was in his role. She did not stop there; she asked her friends to begin bombarding the MHA page with negative comments. Kurt and his co-workers were also doxed by these individuals.

A month after the cyberbullying began, he went to a work conference in Orange County. He posted excitedly about the people he was meeting, and the things he was learning. On the third day of the convention, we learned that Kurt had died by suicide. His overwhelming depression coupled with the cyberbullying made him feel like he had no control. It’s been a year since we lost Kurt, and we are still trying to make sense of what happened. Each friend of Kurt’s that I talked to believe that the bullying played a part in exacerbating his depression. While bullying is a problem in the LGBT+ community (where it is okay for people to post #noblacksasiansfatsfemmes on personals profiles), the cyberbullying Kurt experienced may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“His overwhelming depression coupled with the cyberbullying made him feel like he had no control”

 

Bullying made him feel like he could not control his own life, and therefore, could not help others who needed him. What he didn’t remember was that we were there to help him, but when you are being bullied, you feel like the world is against you. As someone who also experienced bullying, I know firsthand the powerless feeling one encounters when being bullied. You don’t want to ask for help, because you don’t want to be perceived as weak. However, asking for help is actually a sign of strength (something I learned from Kurt).

After his death, the San Diego LGBT+ Centre established the Kurt Cunningham Counselling Services Fund. This was his dream come true; community members of all ages seeking help for their mental health. I wish he was still here to see it.

“Asking for help is actually a sign of strength”

 

Please seek help, if you need it. If you know someone who needs help, find a way to help them. It is better to lose a friend to an argument, than to lose them to suicide.

As a society, we really need to do better with how we treat one another. There is harmless teasing, and there’s bullying. You should never incite a mob to cyberbully another person. And, I believe the LGBT+ community needs to stop bullying its own members. We have to be very vigilant to do our best not to bully one another, and to stop bullying should we see it. In light of the result of the presidential election in the United States, we must all do our part to stop bullying. The ideologies promoted by Donald Trump have emboldened those who seek to bully others because they are different. We are better than this. None of this will be easy, but we all have to be willing to do our part, so that we do not lose another to suicide because of bullying.

Kurt Cunningham Counseling Services Fund

Suicide is preventable and help is available to you. Regardless of whatever it is you’re going through, somebody else is going through the same thing and many others have been where you are right now. The most important thing to do when you are considering suicide or feeling like you want to die is to access crisis support. Reach out to speak to someone you trust or there are a number of helplines that you can contact 24-7/365.

In the UK, call the Samaritans on 116 123.
In the USA, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255)