For a parent, or a shy child, all worst fears are now confirmed: Childhood bullying can ruin a person's life.
The anti-bullying cause took a more sobering tone this week courtesy of a powerful viral video and a new medical study on the long-term effects of bullying.
Framed around the words of B.C. poet Shane Koyczan, who was bullied as a kid, the seven-minute video titled To This Day delivers the most powerful anti-bullying message you will ever see. The format features fleeting animated sequences (produced by Vancouver's Giant Ant studio) set against Koyczan's prose about the lingering emotional scars suffered by those subjected to bullying and physical abuse.
Best known for his recitation of the poem We Are More at the Vancouver Olympics opening ceremony, Koyczan's anti-bullying message is eloquent and unique. The video relates his own experience being bullied in school while growing up in Yellowknife, as well as the stories of two other victims, a girl with a birthmark on her face and a boy stricken with depression.
In Koyczan's own words: "We were freaks/Lobster-claw boys and bearded ladies/Oddities juggling depression and loneliness/Playing solitaire, spin the bottle trying to kiss the wounded parts of ourselves and heal."
Since being posted on YouTube last Tuesday, the video has earned more than 1.3 million views and has generated glowing coverage on Canadian and U.S. media outlets. The video was made in consort with Pink Shirt Day, an anti-bullying awareness event taking place in Vancouver on February 27. The video has also inspired other people to offer up their own tales of childhood bullying.
Serendipitously, a new U.S. study released Wednesday confirmed that children, regardless of sex, face an elevated risk of developing anxiety disorders, depression and suicidal thoughts as they move into adulthood. Based on more than two decades of research, the study warns of long-lasting psychological scars in bullied kids.
All clinical data aside, more people are likely to absorb the straightforward message in the video by Koyczan, who has spoken out before about bullying. Following last year's death of B.C. teen Amanda Todd, who committed suicide after being tormented online, Koyczan was part of a group of prominent Vancouverites who advocated for better monitoring of Facebook.
And so the change toward anti-bullying awareness begins, one small step at a time. Winnipeg school psychologist Chantal Wiebe posted the following message on Koyczan's Facebook page. "It's stories like yours that prompt me to do my job better, wholeheartedly, authentically. The way I would want my own children to experience the education system. Thanks for your willingness and vulnerability to tell your story."
Have you watched Shane Koyczan's video yet? What was your reaction?