5 things you can do if you are being bullied by a teacher

School can be tough, and sometimes it’s hard to know how to cope or deal with certain situations that arise behind the school gates. If you are being bullied for example, it can often be hard to identify what steps you can take to combat the prejudice you are experiencing. This is especially true when the perpetrator is someone you are supposed to be able to rely on or trust, especially in a position of authority – like a teacher.

If you are being bullied by a teacher you may be unsure of who to turn to for support or what to do next; with this in mind we have compiled 5 tips to help you. Remember that Ditch the Label is always here for you and that you can access further support here.

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

1. Tell someone you trust.

This is a great starting place.

When you’re going through a stressful or difficult situation, it can be hard to find perspective or see things with clarity. Bullying is something that affects the majority of people but worryingly, our research revealed that 45% of those who experience it, fail to report it through embarrassment, fear or a lack of faith in support systems. If you are experiencing bullying it is important you go through the appropriate reporting channels, even if you are being bullied by a teacher. Your first port of call should be confiding in someone you trust. This could be a friend, another teacher you trust, a parent/guardian/learning mentor or another trusted relative or family friend. You can always join Ditch the Label’s community for tailored advice too.

If somebody is exhibiting threatening behaviour, giving out personal information or giving you the impression that your safety might be at risk, contact the police or a responsible adult immediately.

2. Don’t suffer in silence.

Learning to ask for help is honestly one of the best things you can do for yourself and the younger you learn it the better! Even if you don’t want to report it, it is important you share with someone what you are going through – you shouldn’t go through something like this alone as it is extremely stressful, and can be emotionally draining to endure bullying. This stress can have an impact on all areas of your life, including your mental wellbeing, ability to communicate with others, performance in school, self-esteem and confidence. It is therefore incredibly important that you tell somebody you trust about what you are going through; it doesn’t even have to be an adult – it could be a friend or somebody at Ditch the Label. It is vital, during a traumatic time, that you have a support system and people who you can rely on when you are feeling low, or unable to cope.

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3. Keep a record of what is happening.

It’s important to keep a record of what is going on – the more detail the better! Write down dates, times, what happened/what was said. Did anyone else witness it? This evidence will be crucial if you decide to report it.

You usually start the reporting process by speaking to another teacher (some schools have a dedicated anti-bullying member of staff). If this doesn’t solve it then gradually escalate by reporting as follows: Senior teacher (this may be your Head of Year or Department) > Assistant/Deputy Head Teacher > Head Teacher. It is a good idea to read your school’s Anti-Bullying Policy (this is sometimes included in the Behaviour Policy) to ensure they are following the steps set out in this document. Most schools make this available on their website or you can ask the school office for a copy.

If the situation isn’t resolved, or you are unhappy with the outcome then the next steps are to raise the issue with the school governors (The Board of Governors) > Report the bullying to the Local Education Authority (LEA) > Make a formal complaint to OFSTED (Call 0300 123 1231 or email [email protected]) > Report to The Department for Education.

You can also contact Equality Advisory & Support Service (EASS) on Freephone: 0808 800 0082 or Text Phone: 0808 800 0084. They can advise on equality and human rights across England, Scotland and Wales. This includes discrimination based on unique characteristics such as (but not limited to): race, colour, nationality, religion, belief, disability, sexual identity, gender identity or sexual orientation.

4. Talk to us.

We are a leading global youth charity and we are always here for those who have been impacted by bullying. If you or anyone you know needs help or a push in the right direction, please do not hesitate to get help here.

5. Be brave.

It turns out courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s feeling the fear and still taking the action anyway! That’s why it’s so important we don’t wait until we feel brave enough to share something that is causing us pain. Be brave, seek the help you need. We promise you won’t regret it.

Remember we have a dedicated support community here with mentors that can help you – we’re here when you need us the most.

Why you need to stop saying “that’s so gay”

It’s not uncommon to hear the expression “that’s so gay” used as slang to describe something negative, annoying or unwanted.

If you use the term, you might be unaware that every time you call something gay in reference to something bad, you are linking homosexuality with negativity.

Think of it like this: How would you feel if someone was using your first name to describe something sh*tty that had happened? How would you feel if people latched onto the saying and suddenly all around the world, your name was being used to describe bad or annoying events?

Not great I bet. You might even start to feel ashamed of your name, or pretend to others that your name is something else.

Below we have created a little exercise to help hammer home the point – maybe next time you flippantly go to say ‘that’s so gay’, you’ll think of the impact your words might have upon members of the LGBT+ community.

1. *Drops phone in the loo*
Say out loud: “That’s so *insert the name of one of your parents*”

2. Having to get up early for work when it is still dark outside.
Say out loud: “That’s so *insert your BFF’s name*”

3. Getting dumped.
Say out loud: That’s so *insert name of your crush*”

4. Arguing with your best friend.
Say out loud: That’s so *insert your own name*”

5. Failing your driving test.
Say out loud: “That’s so *insert name of your first pet*”

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.

Edyn Jacks talks about why she bullied others

We know from our research that those who bully others have complex issues that are not being addressed elsewhere, and that bullying can also be a learnt behaviour. After all, none of us are born with the ability to draw or sing a song; nor are we born with the ability to discriminate against someone because of the colour of their hair, or their skin or any other unique factor. Unfortunately, instead of taking the time to understand or embrace that difference, some people act negatively towards the unknown.

Here Edyn Jacks talks about what motivated her to bully others.

 

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!

‘Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs’ – Pearl Strachan Hurd

Our actions define us, and in society, we tend to label people or categorise individuals based upon the behaviours they exhibit. For example, we describe people that play instruments as musicians, those that paint we call artists – and although these particular examples are seemingly harmless descriptors of interests, hobbies and careers – they allow insight into the potency and permanence of a label – after all, a musician is still considered a musician even when they are not actively playing their instrument.

In these instances we know that labels such as ‘musician’ and ‘artist’ are not a comprehensive representation of an individual’s entire personality – it is absurd to think that one word could adequately summarise the complexity of human nature. Yet, we very flippantly ascribe limiting and even damaging nouns and adjectives to people, including ourselves on a regular, if not daily basis. If you take a few moments to consider how often a label has actually positively impacted your self-esteem or confidence, you will find more often than not, they serve to be reductive and restrictive, promoting both conscious and unconscious prejudice.

“It is absurd to think that one word could adequately summarise the complexity of human nature”

 

Unlike a noun describing your profession – which is obviously subject to change depending on your employment – labels weighted with negative connotations such as ‘bully’ can be hard to shift. They dehumanise the person behind the word and can permanently tarnish a person’s reputation regardless of whether or not they are actively participating in aggressive behaviours. It implies that humans are incapable of change – an oxymoronic statement, because to be human means to be in a constant state of evolution. ‘Our actions define us’ but we should be aware that the definition is not indelibly inked.

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This is why at Ditch the Label we refuse to call people ‘bullies’ and ‘victims’; although such labels may seem an accurate reflection of their experience at this precise moment in time, by calling someone a ‘bully’ you are implying that is who they are at their very core, that they are inherently ‘bad’, rather than acknowledging the fact, that sometimes, good people do bad things. We are using Anti-Bullying Week this year to spread the message that it isn’t okay to label people as ‘bullies’ or ‘victims’ anymore, because it’s counterproductive.

Just as none of us are born with the ability to draw or sing a song; nor are we born with the ability to discriminate against someone because of the colour of their skin, their sexuality or any other unique factor. We believe bullying is a learnt behaviour, not an identity and although we can’t always identify the exact reason why somebody decides to act in this manner, we do know that those who bully others have issues that are not being addressed elsewhere.

“At Ditch the Label we refuse to call people ‘bullies’ and ‘victims'”

 

One of the first steps we take in helping those that want to stop bullying is to remind them that they are not a ‘bully’ and to stop thinking of themselves as such as it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead of subscribing to villainous stereotypes and persecuting those that bully, we look to address why they are behaving in such a way. Often, we find they are responding aggressively to a stressful situation – for example, a bereavement of a family member or their parents’ divorce. It is also a good indicator as to how the person doing the bullying sees themselves; for instance, if somebody is constantly poking fun at how others look, it is more than likely they are doing so to deflect away from their own appearance-based insecurities. Likewise with sexuality; homophobia is usually a product of insecurity and a lack of education – unfortunately, instead of taking the time to understand or embrace difference, they act negatively towards the unknown.

We must start to encourage those that bully to seek the support they need. In order for them to feel comfortable enough to do that, we need to stop branding people or giving them the impression that they are undeserving of help.

Bullying is one of the biggest issues currently affecting teens and we believe that we can overcome it if we start to think differently about how we approach things. Ceasing to use disempowering labels such as ‘bully’ and ‘victim’ is a great place to start during Anti-Bullying Week 2016.

 

If you are being bullied, or are bullying others and want to stop, you can get help in our community

Devon Carrow, alopecia, bullying, hair-loss, inspirational stories

Devon Carrow on living with Alopecia and coping with appearance-related bullying

As part of our Annual Bullying Survey, we asked young people how they felt about their appearance. Our research revealed that – given the opportunity – 1 in 2 young people would alter how they looked in order to feel better about themselves, even considering dangerous and invasive surgical procedures such as liposuction, botox and breast implants.

Appearance was also cited as the number one aggressor of bullying, with 51% saying they were bullied because of attitudes towards how they look; 26% said their weight was targeted; 21% body shape; 18% clothing; 14% facial features; 9% glasses and 8% hair colour.

Unfortunately we can’t identify the exact reason why somebody decides to act in this manner but we find that bullying, is usually a learnt behaviour. After all, None of us are born with the ability to read or sing a song; nor are we born with the ability to discriminate against someone because of the colour of their hair, or a unique facial feature. People who feel the need to bully others normally feel threatened or intimidated by a factor that is not well-known to them or that they have limited understanding of. Unfortunately, instead of taking the time to understand or embrace that difference, they act negatively towards the unknown. If the person bullying is specifically homing in on physical attributes, it is more than likely they are doing so because they feel bad about their own appearance and are projecting their insecurities onto other people.

In this video Devon Carrow talks about living with Alopecia and her experiences with bullying because of attitudes towards this factor.

 

If you are experiencing bullying and need support, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Tyler Clementi

In 2010, Tyler’s death became a global news story, highlighting the impact & consequences of bullying

Tyler was smart, funny and talented, with a big heart and a determined spirit, but internally he was struggling with depression and suicidal tendencies. He ultimately took his own life at just 18 years old. It has been surreal to piece together these two very different people: the Tyler I knew and loved, and the one I never knew at all.

I have struggled to process how anyone could want to hurt Tyler. He was hard not to love. He never had problems with people that bullied in high school, so when I learned that he had been violated and abused by his college peers, I was in total shock. Tyler was the good kid that never got in trouble. And when he finally was in trouble, he didn’t know what to do.

In September 2010, my brother was starting his freshman year at Rutgers University in the US. He had come out to me (actually, we came out to each other) earlier in the summer. I was very supportive and encouraged him to reach out to me no matter what the situation. Tyler came out to our parents only two days before leaving for college. They were shocked, but they advised him to be careful and guarded in his new environment. A new living situation with strangers can be risky, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people are at a higher risk of being targeted than their straight peers.

“Tyler was the good kid that never got in trouble. And when he finally was in trouble, he didn’t know what to do”

 

My brother had been closeted in high school and he was excited to finally be out, to be himself for the first time. He was expecting to find a world that embraced him, but instead he soon realised that the start of his college experience had become a nightmare scenario that was far worse than he could have anticipated.

Tyler asked his roommate for and was granted permission to have privacy in their shared dorm room so that he could be alone with a date. What he didn’t know was that when Tyler’s roommate left, he went across the hall to another student’s dorm room and turned on her computer and remotely accessed his webcam, which he had left deliberately pointed at Tyler’s bed. The roommate invited a group of students to have a “viewing party” in the room and sent tweets to students at Rutgers as well as high school friends, detailing exactly what was going on. Tyler’s privacy was violated in a vulnerable moment.

My brother soon realised what had happened. He read his roommate’s Twitter account, which was filled with nasty, homophobic comments about Tyler and the encounter, which clearly was intended to be private. Tyler spiralled into crisis mode, and could not see any way out. I was there, and would have dropped everything to go to him and help him. But he didn’t reach out to me. The shame and stigma of what Tyler experienced pushed him toward a permanent choice that cannot be undone. That much cruelty and intolerance was too much for one gentle, shy young man to bear.

Over the last several years, my family has had to grapple with the questions of why this happened, and how we could have prevented it. No matter how much we want to, we can’t travel through time to bring Tyler back. But we have channeled our love for Tyler to serving other youth who feel isolated and targeted by bullies by creating the Tyler Clementi Foundation. We have chosen to use our personal tragedy as a teaching tool for others, so that more lives like Tyler’s are not senselessly lost. This fall, our foundation launched a research-based initiative that we believe will help other families avoid the sort of tragedy and pain that befell ours: the #Day1 Campaign.

“The shame and stigma of what Tyler experienced pushed him toward a permanent choice that cannot be undone”

 

The two biggest questions we have wrestled with are: “Why would someone want to hurt or humiliate Tyler?” And, “How can we make sure that other youth who are being bullied reach out for help before they take a self-harming action?” #Day1 addresses both of these issues. While it may seem obvious that we should always treat others with respect and dignity, the reality is that middle, high school, and college level students are not hearing this message from their teachers or administrators at school.

The #Day1 campaign explicitly spells out for young people exactly how they are expected to behave towards their peers. It states that mistreatment and abusive, cruel behaviour that will not be tolerated against any student for any reason. After students have heard the #Day1 pledge, they know exactly what is expected of them as part of the school community, and there is no room for misunderstanding. If Tyler or his peers had heard this statement at the beginning of their freshman year, it may have drastically impacted the way he was treated.

In regards to my second question, I believe the biggest obstacle for young people reaching out for help is the shame and stigma they feel when they experience bullying and harassment. It is my hope and belief that by having teachers and school administrators read the #Day1 pledge to students, it will send the message, “You are not alone. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Let us help you. We are here to help, and we want to help.” When a student hears their school’s principal read the #Day1 pledge during an assembly, or their history teacher read the pledge in the classroom, it sends them the message that they are not the only person that this is happening to. It lets them know that their school has an environment of support and acceptance for those who are different, and they are empowered to speak out if their dignity is being violated in any way.

Written by James Clementi (Tyler’s brother)

Learn more about the Tyler Clementi Foundation at http://tylerclementi.org

 

Una Foye, Research Officer for the Mental Health Foundation on the link between bullying and eating disorders

I’ll never forget the day in secondary school when someone told me my legs were ‘too skinny’ and looked like ‘something that would hang out of a birds nest’. It’s not uncommon to hear things like this as a teenager (and sometimes as an adult too). How we look, our weight, or clothes and image can be a target for comments – in fact, recent Ditch the Label research found that appearance was cited as the number one aggressor of bullying. Whether it’s just ‘banter’, teasing or a more aggressive form of bullying, who we are physically is frequently something that is used against us.

With that in mind, it’s not surprising to learn that bullying is highly linked to eating disorders. In 2012 B-eat (the leading eating disorder charity in the UK) found that 86% of people felt bullying had contributed to their eating disorder and 75% felt that the bullying they experienced still affects them. It’s important to point out that not everyone who has been bullied gets an eating disorder, and visa-versa, but this strong link between the two suggests that there’s something there.

We’ve all heard the phrase “stick and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me” but that that simply isn’t true. The comments about how we look and who we are hurt us – not because they say you look too fat/ skinny/ tall/ short/ whatever it is; they hurt us because they imply we are are less important, are a bad person or are worthless. And that affects our self-esteem. Self-esteem isn’t about loving yourself, or thinking you are amazing, it’s about how you see your own worth. For eating disorders, low self-esteem is believed to be one of the major underlying factors.

While anyone would (naturally) get upset or feel hurt by such negative comments, someone with low self-esteem might take them more seriously. Because self-esteem is about how you see and value yourself, being told you are ‘wrong’ in any way by another person can reflect and confirm your own self-doubts. This is how it’s been described by many people to me; whether they have anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder. It is often when someone else starts to point out your flaws that these self-loathing thoughts begin to grow, and this can impact your mental wellbeing and lead to things such as an eating disorder.

Think of it like a garden (bear with me on this one). Hurtful comments, bullying, negativity from others and all of those things that people say to you are the seeds to an eating disorder. Some people are like concrete and are resilient to the comments – you throw the seeds there but they don’t grow. Some people are like freshly watered soil and absorb – you throw the seeds and they are quickly sown. The same seeds create different outcomes. The bullying might not “cause” an eating disorder, but it provides the seeds for it, if there is fertile ground for those seeds to sow those negative thoughts.

When I was told how skinny my legs were, I didn’t get angry at the girl for saying it, I didn’t think about why she was saying it, I simply agreed that my legs were horrible and ensured for the next ten years of my life I covered them up. And that’s something I’ve heard over and over again from people with all types of eating disorders; ‘the people that bullied me aren’t wrong, they’ve just reminded me what a worthless person I am’. An eating disorder isn’t about extreme dieting as a result of someone saying you are fat, it’s about hearing those words and letting negative thoughts spiral towards self-hatred.

“What makes eating disorders difficult to overcome without professional help is the insidious way they progressively damage an already impaired self. They ultimately become a person’s identity rather than merely an illness the person experiences.” (Andersen, Cohn & Holbrook, 2000, p.185).

If there is one thing that I’ve learnt from my experiences, it is that we are often our own worst bullies. And you don’t have to have an eating disorder for that to be true. Just think about how you talk to yourself when getting ready in the morning. Have you ever looked at yourself and said “look at the state of you” or changed ten times because no matter what you wear it is never good enough? We talk to ourselves in negative voices every day. Would you ever talk to a friend or stranger in the voice you talk to yourself in? When is the last time you gave yourself a compliment, or allowed someone else to compliment you (rather than arguing they are wrong)?

How we talk to ourselves and how we values ourselves is one the major predictors of our mental wellbeing. I’m not saying we all have to love ourselves, just try and value yourself as a worthwhile human. And remember, that it’s okay to feel a bit rubbish about yourself sometimes – behind every superhero is an alter ego who doesn’t feel good enough. It’s about not letting that take over and become the norm.

Written by Una Foye (@unafoyeResearch Officer at the Mental Health Foundation

We spoke to Connie Chiu – the world’s first albinistic fashion model

DtL:  Hi Connie! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your story so far? 

Connie: I was born in Hong Kong, and come from a big family; I have three sisters and one brother. We moved to Sweden and grew up in a society where solidarity and equality was encouraged and taught in school. There I studied arts and radio journalism and never planned to become a model. My big sister studied fashion design and asked me to model for her college show – I enjoyed it and got good feedback from friends and family, so I wanted to see how far I could take it. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but there were people I admired in the industry and wanted to work with. I posted a black and white photo of myself with my name and phone number on the back to the French designer Jean Paul Gaultier. A few months later I was invited to Paris and did my second catwalk – for Jean Paul Gaultier! My career took off from there really; photoshoots for magazines such as Dazed and Confused, advertising, TV commercials…

DtL: What would you say has been your recipe for success?

Connie: Being myself. Don’t get me wrong, it takes time and work to get to know yourself and grow into the person you are happy and comfortable with. I think you work best with people if you are quite secure as a person, you can be open to new ideas and experiences on your own terms.

And good timing. When I first started modelling, there was no other model with my look, or albinism. I was quite surprised when a makeup artist called me a ‘pioneer’, on reflection, I suppose it was true. My priority and focus was to do good work, creating beautiful images.

DtL: How do you feel the media represents people with Albinism? What needs to change?

Connie: I don’t mind fairytale and science fiction inspired images, as long as there is variety and balance overall in the images and movie characters representing or represented by people with albinism. I can tell you from my own experience that these things matter and do influence people’s view on those with albinism. Many years ago there was a Chinese horror film featuring a character called ‘White Hair Devil Woman’; some Chinese people who thought I didn’t understand the language called me by this name. Last year, in a Chinese restaurant in Central London, a young Chinese waiter said to me that my hair was beautiful. ‘Like Frozen’, he added. ‘Thank you,’ I replied with a smile, ‘But no magic’.

 

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DtL: Have you ever experienced bullying or negativity based on attitudes towards your appearance? If so can you tell us what happened and how you overcame the experience.

Connie: I think some people make assumptions about me based on my condition and my appearance. I was not bullied in school, but every now and then, people try to provoke or upset me. Once I was in Hong Kong, travelling on the underground by myself and after a while I felt that someone was staring at me. The population in Hong Kong is mainly Chinese and not mixed, like for example, London is. So I do understand that some people in Hong Kong are curious and can’t help but look. But this was different. I turned around and glanced at a couple of women who were staring at me; their faces were twisted with anger and hate. The tension was tangible; they were standing a few feet from me. There were plenty of people in the carriage, and that probably stopped them from verbally or physically attacking me. How did I deal with that situation? Well, it became quite clear to me that their intent was to make me feel hated; it wasn’t enough that they hated me. So, I decided not to be bothered by them. I was calm and relaxed as if I hadn’t noticed them. They were strangers and I had not done anything to upset them. Their feelings and attitudes had nothing to do with me, but with their own issues. A few stops later, the two women were getting ready to get off the train. It was fascinating to see the change in their demeanour; they turned very timid, apologetic and almost scared of the other passengers as they carefully stepped off the train.

DtL: What challenges do you face and how do you overcome them?

Connie: My condition comes with some physical challenges, such as light-sensitive eyesight, and skin that is sensitive to sunlight. I have learnt to live with it. The same could be said about dealing with people’s attitudes, for example, there is a difference between staring and staring. Most people are just curious and are in general nice and positive. Others want to insult and make you feel inferior. Those people are in general, unhappy, frustrated, scared, and probably in great need of support and understanding.

DtL: Do you find modelling empowering?

Connie: It can be. I always ask and discuss ideas before accepting a modelling job.

In many ways it is more empowering to be an independent jazz vocalist. As a model, you portray and become part of someone else’s idea. But as a jazz vocalist, I choose the songs, the style and the image I want the audience to see.

DtL: Our research not only revealed that 47% of young people want to change the way they look, but appearance was also cited as the number one aggressor of bullying. What advice would you give to readers who may be struggling to embrace their appearance?

Connie: Would people who are happy and secure in their own skin bully other people? No. People that bully are always scared and often jealous. I would like to say to everyone, including those that bully others, don’t always believe what people say about you. Be strong, be kind and find your own way in life.

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

Connie: Keep going. You’re on the right track. Remember to be kind and treasure people who help you and love you for who and all that you are.

 

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DtL: At Ditch, we believe it is our differences that make us unique, and find they are often our strengths! What is the best thing about having albinism?

Connie: Not letting albinism define me. Not letting any one label define me. This may be surprising, but I think having albinism enables me to understand how complex identity can be. I appreciate all the things I am; not in any particular order, being Chinese, being a woman, growing up in Sweden and having a Swedish nationality, having albinism, loving jazz, being a chocoholic… I don’t want just one aspect of me to define and limit what I am, and what I want to do. I like my white hair, pale skin and violet eyes. But I also like my Chinese features. You see…complex.

DtL: What does the future hold for you?

Connie: I am in discussions with a photographer; we are planning to collaborate on a project – lots of close ups of face and body in beautiful landscapes. It will be on location, probably a beautiful beach somewhere. I love doing photoshoots on location.

I have just done an interview with a French magazine that will be published in a couple of months and I am also preparing for a gig next month singing songs from my debut EP, My Huckleberry Songs. I already have two music videos on YouTube and will release a new video soon.

So all in all, more modelling and more music. You can find my music on my YouTube channel.

http://conniechiu.com/