Be brave: wear a pink shirt.

At one point in our lives, most of us have either witnessed someone being bullied or have experienced it ourselves. Bullying has emerged as a serious problem in our schools, workplaces, homes and on the internet. And, a study now confirms that childhood bullying can have far-reaching impacts later in life.

Wednesday February 26th is Pink Shirt Day, a grassroots movement started by two students in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It is an opportunity for everyone to think about the impacts of bullying and to send a clear message that it is simply not acceptable.

United Way staff support Pink Shirt Day on February 26, 2014.

Canadian Institute of Health Research has released some sobering statistics:

  • Out of 35 countries surveyed, Canada has the 9th highest rate of bullying in 13-year-olds,

  • 1 in 3 adolescent students in Canada have reported being bullied recently

  • 40% of Canadian workers experience bullying on a weekly basis.

Much like poverty, bullying results in a loss of self-esteem, identity, privilege and power. It causes mental, emotional and physical distress. For some students, bullying can create a cascade of behaviours and compounding problems: an inability to concentrate, missing or avoiding school, poor academic attainment, dropping out of school or turning to criminal or gang activity to feel accepted or gain sense of protection.

A study published in the Journal of Psychological Science confirms the long-term effects of bullying and the costs to both the individual and society as a whole. The findings conclude that “victims of childhood bullying are at increased risk of poor health, risky or illegal behavior” later in life. They have a higher risk of being “impoverished in young adulthood and have difficulty keeping jobs.” It also showed that adults who were bullied as children were more likely to suffer from depression in adulthood. The good news is that interventions early in life are able “to reduce human suffering and long-term health and social costs”.

United Way believes in addressing the root causes of poverty and invests heavily in interventions that focus on children’s health and well-being. We are currently funding and working in partnership with agencies that help youth address issues of self-esteem, abuse and vulnerability. In fact, one of our 12 Desired Results focuses on helping youth overcome the challenges they face in resisting and avoiding criminal and gang activity.

Wear Pink. Stand up. Speak out.

The cost of ignoring bullying is simply too high.