Bullying Prevention and Awareness Week is a national campaign started by Canadian educator and Bullying.org president Bill Belsey. The campaign runs annually during the third week of November with the goal of raising awareness about bullying and providing youth with real-life solutions.
According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, some 23 per cent of Ontario students reported being bullied at school in 2019. Those who are bullied often experience social anxiety, loneliness, withdrawal, physical illness and low self-esteem. The long-term effects can be devastating.
And while the world has changed a lot since 2019, especially with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the crisis of bullying continues. With the explosion of social media and other virtual communication platforms, we’ve witness the rise of cyber-bullying, and its effects are just as destructive.
There has also been a rise in childhood-related mental illness during this difficult time, with kids also forced to navigate the isolation and anxiety of this global health crisis. For children and adults alike, this has contributed to the pandemic within the pandemic; the mental health pandemic.
While Bullying Prevention and Awareness Week typically targets Canadian students and youth, its core principles are also relevant in our workplaces and union activities too.
That’s why bullying, harassment and discrimination are never tolerated when OPSEU/SEFPO members, and staff, gather; we welcome all peoples, because diversity is the foundation of our solidarity. These aren’t just words in OPSEU/SEFPO’s Statement of Respect, they are our union’s core principles.
We believe that no one should ever go to school or work afraid of being harassed or bullied. At OPSEU/SEFPO, we remain committed to providing safe and inclusive spaces within our union, and to ensuring our members are protected at work too.
This week, let us be reminded that whenever we witness bullying, we must speak up – no matter how innocuous it might seem. You never know what someone’s really going through, and speaking up could very well save a life.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer