According to Statistics Canada, hospitalization rates associated with self-inflicted injury per 100,000 population (2020-2021) are highest among girls aged 10-19. But these statistics tell only part of the story.
M., whose full name is not being disclosed to protect their privacy, is a 14-year-old Airdrie teenager who has become part of those very statistics.
The bullying started one year ago when they were in Grade seven and even though M. is now in Grade eight, things have not improved.
"If everyone doesn't like someone, they're all going to go to that person and bully them and harass them until they make them feel worthless," M. said.
According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, 85 per cent of bullying takes place in front of other people.
That feeling of worthlessness and isolation means that most days M. is unable to find the motivation to get up from bed and go to school.
"When you get bullied for a long time, kids eventually get into habits that they probably can't get rid of like drugs, alcohol, depression and self-harm," they said. "They do things to themselves, where it makes them feel like they're actually better. It starts building up and that's the point where the bully can't get enough and most kids [the victims] end up dead."
M. said that they themselves have contemplated suicide and engaged in self-harm, though they are currently in therapy.
"Ever since I've been bullied I've gotten to a habit of writing my feelings down by writing poetry; there's nothing really else because it's hard to get motivated."
When asked if they believe the bullies would stop if they knew that their actions had such traumatic consequences, M. said they are not convinced a bully can stop.
"There's nothing that can really make a person feel bad unless they've actually seen a person die from it. Nobody feels bad until it's too late."
They also believe that the role of social media has amplified bullying because it no longer is confined to incidents in school; they can occur anytime and anywhere through the use of various applications.
M., who attends a Rocky View School District (RVS) school said they wish that the adults would pay more attention to what is happening because the signs, in their opinion, are very clear when something is wrong. Discover Airdrie reached out to RVS for comment on how they support students whose mental health suffers due to school bullying or harassment and also inquired about statistics regarding instances of bullying in the district. RVS did not respond.
"People need to pay more attention to other people and how they act because how they're acting, is what's happening with them. Sometimes someone just needs to ask if you're okay," they said.
The bullying that M. experienced turned physical in January with alleged death threats also being directed towards them online. The RCMP, who had been previously involved in the investigation of the incidents, have said they have concluded their involvement. Police added that no further details would be released.
Discover Airdrie also asked the RCMP for comment about how school resource officers are utilized, especially when it pertains to bullying in schools. The RCMP previously cited that, between January and March, Airdrie officers attended Airdrie Schools 184 times for patrols, meetings, presentations, lockdown drills and investigations. However, they were not able to provide specific statistics as to how many of those investigations involved bullying.
When asked why certain aspects of bullying, especially online death threats are not pursued via criminal charges, Cpl. James McConnell of Airdrie's Community Policing Unit said that online messaging can pose challenges with identifying persons responsible.
"As pseudo names are often used in social media communications and as devices and accounts can be used by more than one person. Establishing who sent a message is a challenge investigators face in any investigation with an online component," Cpl. McConnell wrote.
He added that cases involving youth are often dealt with through extrajudicial measures, citing that the Youth Criminal Justice Act states that "extrajudicial measures are often the most appropriate and effective way to address youth crime.”
And as far as the city's anti-bullying bylaw goes, according to Airdrie's Municipal Enforcement, to date, no charges have been filed under that bylaw.
"In most cases, the RCMP investigates these allegations and relies primarily on the Criminal Code (e.g. harassment, assault)," Airdrie Municipal Enforcement stated in a written response.
M. noted that much of the bullying they experienced in school occurred when adults were not present and even if a peer tries to report it, they are ostracized, making for a vicious and endless cycle of silent complicity.
Although M. said it is difficult to give advice to others who are victims of bullying because they themselves never received any advice on how to cope with this, they were determined to let others know that things can get better.
"It will get better; [it] just takes time."
According to statistics from Public Safety Canada, it is estimated that 47 per cent of Canadian parents have at least one child that has been a victim of bullying and around one-third of teenagers have been bullied recently.
If you or someone you know is experiencing bullying or a mental health crisis there are resources available:
- Bullying Helpline – Call 310-1818 or text 310-1818 or chat online for support, information or referrals.
- Family Violence Info Line: 310-1818
- Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-387-KIDS (5437) for help 24/7
- Sexual Violence One Line: Call or text 1-866-403-8000
- Abuse Helpline: 1-855-443-5722
- Mental Health Helpline: 1-877-303-2642 for mental health advice 24/7
- HealthLink: Call 811 to find health care and get health advice 24/7
- Kids Help Phone
- Mental Health Helpline – 1-877-303-2642I
- 211 AlbertaCrisis Text Line - Text CONNECT to 741741
- Family Violence – Find Supports – 310-1818
- Local Resources & Support - Crisis Services Canada
- MyHealth.Alberta.ca: List of Important Numbers
- Talk Suicide Canada: (833) 456-4566
- Alberta Mental Health Help Line: 1 (877) 303-2642
- Alberta Addictions Helpline: 1 (866) 332-2322
- Distress Centre (Calgary and area): (403) 266-4357
- Distress Line of South Western Alberta: (403) 327-7905
- First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line: 1 (855) 242-3310
- Rural Distress Line: 1 (800) 232-7288
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