21 November 2023
Meet Eden, a 20-year-old from Northern Ireland who is on a mission to break the silence surrounding bullying. In this interview, Eden shares her personal connection with bullying, her campaign work, and her experiences advocating for disability awareness, mental health, and education. From co-designing logos for anti-bullying week to judging creative arts competitions, Eden sheds light on her impactful journey with the Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum. Join us as Eden opens up about her own encounters with bullying, coping mechanisms, and her vision for a more supportive and aware society.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
Hi, my name is Eden I’m 20 from Northern Ireland. My social action is centred around disability advocacy and awareness, mental health and education including anti-bullying. I’m really passionate about raising awareness of this issue and ensuring young people know where to go to for support.
Can you tell me about your connection with the topic of bullying?
My connection is with the National Childrens Bureau I am a member of the Northern Ireland Anti Bullying forum which has now joined with the anti-bullying alliance in England
Could you tell me about your campaign work on bullying
I have been a member of the NIABF since 2021 after finding out about the opportunity through social media. This has been my first experience with social action and It is something I’m really passionate about. I decided to take part and campaign as I wanted to help those who might be struggling with bullying and help raise more awareness in schools and communities. Through my time on the Northern Ireland Anti Bullying Form, I have helped to co-design the logo for anti-bullying week each year and discussed it with other members the theme. I’ve also helped to judge the creative arts competition held during anti-bullying week for all young people in Northern Ireland and the school staff award which is for a. Special member of staff from a school in Northern Ireland who does significant work to try and prevent bullying. I have also spoken to local MLAs and the mental health champion in Northern Ireland allowing them to see the work that we are doing and try to help support, promote and advocate for the cause as well. Furthermore, I helped to create videos and resources for schools that are shared across the country. I also have created a blog detailing my experience on the forum and videos for the mix on how to best support.
Do you have any personal experience of bullying, if so could you tell me a bit about it?
I have had 2 personal experiences of bullying unfortunately-one in primary and one in secondary. The first was I have life-threatening nut allergies and one of my close friends kept bringing Nutella into school eating it beside me intentionally and then she went away to play with other friends. She was putting my life at risk and despite me telling her to stop she persisted in doing this every break time. This went on until my parents and subsequently teacher stepped in and she then left me alone. The 2nd instance occurred with 2 people in my local sports club. I am passionate about taekwondo and have found it to be a safe space for me but unfortunately for a number of months, I had a difficult experience with 2 of my club mates. This in summary included things being thrown at me, spam calls and texts, judgemental looks and even death threats. My parents, a number of my close friends/club mates and my coach all stepped in to help support me and investigate what had been happening and it was put a stop to very quickly with a warning being put in place for both members
What, if anything, helped you cope with this experience?
What really helped me through the experience was supportive friends and family. In both situations, my parents were my biggest advocates and really helped me through a tough time period. In both circumstances, my teacher and coach were very supportive and understanding and helped put a stop to the bullying very quickly. In the sports club incident, my friends outside the club in school really helped me take my mind off things and I was able to ask them for advice and support and vice versa for the bullying incident in school.
What do you think are the main types of bullying that young people experience?
There are a lot of different types of bullying that young people experience but definitely one of the main ones is cyberbullying. With young people having access to the digital world even more so than when I was younger this means that the bullying can be occurring 24/7 and young people can feel there is no escape. I also think that verbal bullying is very common, especially to those unfortunately with visible differences/special characteristics such as a disability or an individual from an ethnic minority background.
What do you think needs to change in terms of the support available for bullying?
What I think needs to be changed in terms of support for bullying would be more awareness raised on the services that are there to support children and young people who might be experiencing bullying and charities that could support them get the help such as The Mix and the NSPCC in particular childline. Another thing that needs to be is that there should be more workshops in schools but mostly in community groups or youth groups as I think that when young people move into secondary school bullying becomes more of a stigma and they might be less aware of some of the different types of bullying and less likely to reach out for help and support. I also think that there should be more education for adults as well as and training in workplaces as bullying can continue at any age. This year’s theme for anti-bullying week is Make a Noise about Bullying which encourages young people to really get involved and help reduce the stigma around bullying and hopefully encourage open conversations for young people who may be or might experience bullying in the future
What one change would you make if you were prime minister to reduce the impact/existence of bullying?
If I were the prime minister the one change I would make would be to have social media more closely monitored and fund for more staff across the different social media channels to do so as I believe that this would help stop some of the impact. I also would ensure that there are at least part-time counsellors in schools or in local youth groups who are trained as I think in some circumstances young people might want more anonymity and won’t necessarily feel comfortable going to a teacher so having another member of external staff to support would be beneficial. I’d make sure that services are more widely spread across the country and that young people and adults are more aware of the help that they can receive and where to go to if they need help
What can the media do to prevent the spread of bullying?
Journalists can make sure that they are accurately reporting statistics around antibullying and the significant impact that this is having on children and young people and their mental health and well-being and how it can also carry into adulthood affecting their confidence and self-esteem. They could also help to promote resources shared on social media or through schools and communities during key periods of the year not just during anti-bullying week as bullying occurs during the whole year so even during back to school, anti-bullying week, exam time and then summer holidays would be important.