You’ve all heard by now, I assume, about the tragic case of Amanda Todd. She was a young teenager from Port Coquitlam who committed suicide as a result of senseless, continuous bullying. It was scarcely a year ago when the country was shocked to hear about Mitchell Wilson, the disabled boy who took his own life out of fear of a bully’s reprisal. These are just the stories that make the news; there are countless other, similarly heartbreaking stories that play out across the country, shattering families and communities. The tragedy of these deaths is twofold: for a brief period of time, the national consciousness is stirred and there are always calls for action, for more education, more legislation. And then, these slowly fade as society moves on. How many more news stories must we see, how many tears must be shed, before serious action is taken?
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, suicide accounts for 24% of all deaths among 15-24 year olds. Despite increases in education and the availability of crisis support, teen suicide seems to be endemic within our society. Christy Clark’s comments today calling for an increase in education, not legislation were somewhat concerning. Growing up, I remember being constantly bombarded with classes and posters decrying bullying, while the message was salient, the medium was poor. For me, lessons about the ills of bullying were experiential and often instilled within the family. Perhaps in that regard, Christy Clark is right, but the education should be focused on parenting, not in the classroom, where social dynamics negate much of that learning.
However, in this case, education is clearly not the solution. Ms. Todd was subjected to consistent, focused and technologically sophisticated attacks. The methods employed speak to a systematic attempt to destroy her. This is not something that can be easily stymied by education; this is an early manifestation of antisocial, destructive behavior In instances like this, those responsible must be tracked down and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Legislation needs to be enacted to allow more aggressive prosecution and harsher sentences for bullying that extends to these levels. School and legal systems have failed to keep pace with the advancement of technology, making it hard to track these bastards, and even harder to prosecute them. Stop making superficial changes to nebulous, poorly enforced codes of conduct and provide a real disincentive to this kind of behaviour: convictions and serious penalties. It’s clear the path that society has been following thus far is failing to have an impact.
I freely admit that I don’t have a catch-all solution to this problem, and much of what is written is purely emotional. However, it is evident that the currently system has failed society, failed Amanda Todd, failed Mitchell Wilson and will probably fail more youth before something is done. I think that warrants a meaningful, lasting national discourse.