New Democrat MP Dany Morin arrives to speak to the media at Parliament Hill Oct 15, 2012, in Ottawa, Ontario. Morin is urging colleagues to support his motion to take leadership and develop a national strategy to prevent bullying.
Credits: ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY
Ten years ago, after 15-year-old Greg Doucette came home from school and hanged himself, his distraught mother had one word to describe the cause of his death.
She called it “bullycide.”
There could not be a better description.
According to Wikipedia, bullycide was coined the year before Greg Doucette took his own life by authors Neil Marr and Tim Field in their book Bullycide: Death at Playtime, and obviously refers to suicide attributable to a young victim having been bullied to the grave.
To launch the four-part series I wrote about the hows and whys of his death, and the courage of his parents to finally go public, the Toronto Sun ran a front page with little more than Greg Doucette’s youthful face staring back at its readers.
The headline read: “Bullied to death.”
That, too, said it all.
Facebook, today’s main bully pulpit among our youth, wasn’t even launched to the wider public until 2006, four years after Greg Doucette’s picture went up on his school’s memorial wall.
So Greg Doucette was bullied the old-fashioned way — in the hallways of Brampton’s Notre Dame Secondary School, northwest of Toronto, where he was in Grade 9, and where he was taunted in the schoolyard, harassed on his way home, and humiliated in public.
Why? Because he had severe acne.
But do the reasons really matter? Bullying has been around since the beginning of mankind. It didn’t just suddenly jump out of the bushes, and teen suicides didn’t just recently become the second-leading cause of death among young people.
But, despite what recent events might imply, teen suicides have not suddenly become epidemic.
According to a study by the Canadian Medical Association, the numbers in fact have been virtually static for years, down slightly from 6.2 per 100,000 in 1980 to 5.2 in 2008.
It’s just that this is 2012 and not 2002, the year Greg Doucette came home in his school uniform, went to the basement, and hanged himself with an extension cord.
No longer are they faces that occasionally appear on the front pages of newspapers, but faces in the cyberworld of social media sites such as YouTube and Facebook, now the virtual world of our youth and their go-to venue to air their anguish, vent their anger and, if they want, to cyberbully someone like 15-year-old Amanda Todd into taking her own life, and then to cruelly taunt her in death.
While it may look good for young Quebec NDP MP Dany Morin to claim that he to was bullied in school, and to demand the Commons strike a committee to take an in-depth look at bullying, there is no political way to stop the next Greg Doucette, or Amanda Todd, from being victimized into killing themselves.
Teaching our children well is where the path begins, and it starts in our homes and schools, not in some Commons committee.
Following the publication of the series on Greg Doucette’s death, and the shock that it sent through his school, scores of e-mails from teachers across Ontario claimed they would be using the series as a teaching tool to curb bullying in their own hallways.
Then, as months wore on, the e-mails petered out, and Greg Doucette became just another statistic for the Canadian Medical Association.
In the wake of Amanda Todd’s death, the Coquitlam District School Board, overseer of her last school, is seizing the opportunity of tragedy to send a letter to parents about the cause and effect of online bullying on their children, and how they can address it before the shock of Amanda Todd’s suicide melts away.
This is the right thing to do because, just as Greg Doucette’s death melted away, so too will Amanda Todd’s.