School aims to stop bullying

March 14, 2018

Ready to make a difference: Cobram Anglican Grammar School principal Steve Gale with a Resilience Project booklet which began at the school Thursday.

When Northern Territory teenager Dolly Everett tragically took her own life in January after being mercilessly bullied online, the nation was rocked to its core.

Dolly’s death may have provided more questions than answers, but it became a topic of public discussion.

A 2016 report by mental health organisation Orygen found that suicide rates among young Australians were at their highest peak in 10 years.

Some of the statistics were sobering: a third of all deaths of young men were due to suicide; 41000 young people aged 12 to 17 made a suicide attempt; and twice as many 15 to 19-year-old women died by suicide than in 2005.

Cobram Anglican Grammar School is aiming to make a difference.

On Thursday the school officially introduced the Resilience Project, which aims to inspire school communities to practice the evidence-based strategies that build resilience and improve mental health.

School principal Steve Gale said the program was a vital step in combating the dangers of mental health problems among students.

‘‘We’re not alone in this space — all schools are facing these issues and we are just doing the best we can to help students cope with life, I suppose,’’ Mr Gale said.

‘‘The Resilience Project is something we’ve wanted for a little while. We contacted them last year and received a very kind counter offer suggesting that if we wanted them for 2018, we would have to book a year in advance.’’

Mr Gale said the school had also applied for a grant for the Rockit program, which helps school students deal with cyber-bullying.

He hopes to roll out the project at the end of the year.

The pitfalls of social media for teenagers were particularly laid bare in the wake of Dolly’s premature death.

In the digital age, it seems impossible for young people to escape the dark side of social media.

Mr Gale said unfortunately bullying had always been present in schools, but the current social media landscape had altered the way it functioned.

‘‘It’s always been there, but social media means it is now a constant cycle and I think young people and even older people just can not get away from it,’’ he said.

‘‘For a lot of people, social media forms the colouring in of their lives and when nasty things happen on social media, people find it very hard to deal with, just as if it were to happen in the school yard or in the workplace.’’

Schools can often be caught in the crossfire when it comes to cyber-bullying especially, but now more than ever they have a crucial role to play in positively influencing the behaviours of young people.

Mr Gale believes while school institutions have a major part to play, he said there needed to be a co-ordinated approach from all relevant parties.

‘‘It’s the kids and their friendship groups, it’s the parents, it’s the school, it’s the extended family — it’s a very broad net that supports students and I guess we are a part of that net and it is when one of those groups fall down that students may think life is harder than it may need to be.

‘‘We are acutely aware that as educators, the lives of young people can be very tough, and that means we have to be on top of our game in the way we present our curriculum and the way we connect with families and students so that they know they are supported.’’

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