Our ECMP355 class had the privilege of listening to Carol Todd, mother of Amanda Todd. She shared with us her journey and experiences in regards to her daughter’s death. If you are not familiar with Amanda Todd’s story, her video is linked below and an account of Her Story; explaining where she was from, a victim of cyberbullying and sextortion, and the process of finding the suspect and putting justice to the end of cyberbullying.
Carol Todd’s visit to our class and the words she spoke really stood out to me. She shared with us her experiences as a result of the loss of her daughter, and provided us with an outlook on her position and input throughout the trial. Something that stood out to me as she spoke was:
“Mental health is so challenging, the only way to destigmatize it is have these open conversations and not be afraid to discuss and talk about these terms of suicide, depression, etc.”
I agree with her words completely and can relate, in a small way, as I also have depression and experienced situations where I’ve had suicidal thoughts, to the point where I was hospitalized in 2015.
Here is a poem that I would like to share that I wrote before I was hospitalized. It gave a voice to my feelings and looking back on it now, helps me realize that I am important, valued, cared for, loved and have a place in this world.
Life is filled with complications and confusions;
Why must I live a life full of allusions?
I’m trying my best to be different from the rest;
Yet I fail miserably, wanting to be like everybody!
Please somebody tell me what I’m doing wrong;
I just want to fit in and feel like I belong.
But people are meant to be different and born to stand out;
But the complications my life bares,
Makes me want to scream and shout!
Why am I confused, Why do I feel so used?
I just want to be different, I want to be someone else…
Because life would be much better that way than being myself.
I wrote this poem not only to express myself throughout my life journey, experiences with bullying throughout my elementary and high school years, but also as a reflection shortly after a young girl took her own life here in Regina, SK. She was a youth that attended the youth group that I volunteer for and I am stilled involved in today. I was close to her and enjoyed spending time with her weekly. She seemed to be outgoing on the inside, but deep inside I could sense that she kept her emotions and feelings to herself. I reached out to her saying that, “I am always here for you, if you need someone to talk to, share stories and experiences with, or even just a shoulder to lean on.” These are words I still live by today, and I’m more than willing to offer my time for anyone who is struggling and needs a friendly face to look upon.
I remember that day… our youth minister called a team meeting and asked for all of us youth leaders to meet at the church. As soon as I walked into the room I could sense that something was wrong. He then showed us a picture of the 13-year old girl that attended our youth group. Immediately I panicked, thinking of different possibilities and questions that I had: What happened? Was she in a car accident? Is she alright? Is she in the hospital? Can we go and visit her?. The next thing our youth coordinator said was heart breaking… He explained to us how she committed suicide and had taken her own life. Other youth leaders started crying and rushed towards me looking for comfort (as I was the oldest and in my graduating year, whereas the other youth leader’s ages ranged from 14-16). I hugged them, embraced them in my arms, saying things such as “everything will be okay… we can pray for her,” as I had no other response during that time. But once I came home, I started bawling and went to my parents for comfort as I explained to them what happened, as they held me in their arms. I blamed myself for not noticing any signs of depression from her, wishing that I could have done something to prevent herself from doing this.
I moved forward from this unfortunate situation by talking with youth about what happened. I believe it is important to address mental health and illnesses (anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, etc.) and to have these conversations that help children, youth, and our future students to realize that we need to go against society’s stigmatisms on mental illness and try to “normalize” the conversations around it in support of mental health.
Just as Carol Todd said, “we need to take out the word ‘day’ too,” so instead of only addressing mental health and illnesses one day a year, we can have conversations about it daily so that everyone can feel safe in regards to their psychological and emotional well-being.
I would like to give Carol Todd a special “Thank You,” for being open and willing to share with us her knowledge and how she has taken such a personal, tragic experience with her daughter and turned it into an opportunity to speak on mental health (the affects cyberbullying, sextortion, and other online exploitation have on individuals) and how educating children and students on digital citizenship is important in teaching them how to be safe when using technology.
Some resources that teachers can use to help students be aware of mental health, have conversations about mental illnesses, and end the stigmatizes against it are:
– Bell Let’s Talk
– Pink Shirt Day (bullying)
– Robb Nash Project
(Musician who writes music based on his life experiences with mental health).