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‘It’s about being kind’: Pink Shirt Day raises awareness of childhood bullying

Manitobans were encouraged to wear pink shirts on Wednesday for the annual Pink Shirt Day, which aims to raise awareness of about bullying, especially in schools.

The Anxiety Disorder Association of Manitoba (ADAM) is one of the organizations that wants to help spread the word about resources that are available for families struggling with childhood anxiety.

Scott McFayden, ADAM’s executive director, told 680 CJOB’s Connecting Winnipeg that bullying is widespread in schools, but can also be present in workplaces, in homes and online — with cyberbullying often feeling more overwhelming due to its 24-7 nature.

“It’s about being kind, and that kindness extends to yourself and making sure you take good care of yourself,” McFadyen said.

“We can not only take care of ourselves at the end of the day, but we can also be kind to others.”

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ADAM offers peer support programming throughout Manitoba for parents of anxious kids 12 and under, based on principles of cognitive behavioural therapy.

McFadyen said there are resources out there for people in immediate crisis, including Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868) and a new suicide crisis helpline that can be reached any time of day in Manitoba by dialling 988.

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“There are resources out there, and if we can reach one person today … if you’re feeling as though you’re going to self-harm: ‘988’. Write this number all over the place.”

In a release Wednesday, Dr. Jason Ediger, a psychologist at the Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Institute of Manitoba, repeated McFadyen’s plea for kindness.

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“Anxiety can often be like being bullied without actually needing someone else to do the bullying,” Ediger said.

“And just like when someone else is being mean, kindness is the answer. Be kind to yourself and don’t forget who the hero in your story is.”

Elsewhere, students in a public school in Winnipeg donned their pink shirts and took part in anti-bullying-themed activities. At the Athlone School, some students practised their choir performance and the day coincided with what school principal Ryan Miller said was a monthly “Grand Buddies” visit.

Several students at the Athlone School in Winnipeg donned pink shirts and practised their choir performance before meeting with their Grand Buddies on Feb. 28, 2024. Talha Hashmani / Global News

“We have a connection with Sturgeon (Creek) 1 residence, a retirement home in the community…. We match up our kids for intergenerational contact. They get their buddies, and they connect at their residence and also our school for events throughout the year,” Miller said.

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To the principal, the monthly event is everything that Pink Shirt Day is about. It’s accepting and acknowledging, Miller added, that everyone’s special and unique.

“We value the relationships we make with everybody,” he said.

The Grand Buddies event sees students partnering up with seniors from the community retirement home and partaking in activities such as colouring and anti-bullying discussions.

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Child and youth studies professor Tony Volk says while awareness of bullying is on the rise, there needs to be more done at all levels to curb it.

“The news is mixed and mostly bad. When we ask teenagers today, compared to 10 or even 20 years ago, how aware they are of bullying, their awareness of bullying is higher … but the number of kids who report that they’re being victimized by bullying has stayed the same over the last decade,” Volk told 680 CJOB’s Connecting Winnipeg.

“It’s not easy. It’s hard to catch the bullies — they’re often the popular kids at the head of the class so they know how to get out of trouble. They know how to make it look like they were just playing games.”

Many bullies, he said, are engaging in selfish behaviour to get something they want from their social group — not necessarily from the victims themselves.

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“We really have to step up as parents, teachers, community members and crack down on it …  but also, importantly, set examples of how we can behave with each other without engaging in bullying.

“When kids are … being picked on, it makes them feel especially vulnerable, especially isolated, and especially rejected, so days like today are days when we can step up and remind them that they’re not alone, that we’re there to support them — and we need to do that on a more regular basis.”

— with files from Global’s Iris Dyck.

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Cool 2 Be Kind campaign

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