It’s no secret that most of us are addicted to social media. We wake up and check our phone, we fall asleep scrolling through our newsfeed.
Sometimes it takes a tragedy to cut through the noise and remind us that words can be used to lift us up or, if we let them, tear us down.
Dolly Everett, a beautiful young woman with the world at her fingertips, recently chose to end her life because of bullying.
Since then, news of her death has spread across our nation, picked up by the likes of ABC and The Today Show.
The news has even spread across the ocean, reported by Britain’s BBC.
As a journalist, it amazes me that her message is getting out in this way. For many years, the reporting of suicide has been carefully masked.
The word ‘suicide’ was not even in a journalist’s vocabulary; rather, it was reported as ‘a death under tragic circumstances.’
But all of that changed this week, and it saddens me to know that this cultural shift came after the loss of a beautiful life.
I really feel for the kids of today. Social media has become a powerhouse and developed an unparalleled reach over the past decade.
Where once we could leave the bullies in the school yard and return to the safety of our homes, we now carry those bullies around with us everywhere we go and they have the potential to have a hold over their victims like never before.
I know I’m not alone in saying that we all have dark days, where we feel overwhelmed.
Like me, the rural community is shocked and in mourning. I say shocked because, yes, I just cannot fathom how this happened, but also shocked because you don’t often hear of rural youths committing suicide because of cyber bullying.
Mental health and suicide prevention services are very much targeted at middle aged farmers in our rural communities, especially men. Campaigns from organisations like the Black Dog Institute and Beyond Blue aimed at this demographic are incredibly important and offer a starting point for how we can approach this issue for rural teens.
Country kids, if they choose, can relish in the wide open spaces, nature and the opportunities that life on the farm provides. It’s not the only solution but taking a moment to hop offline and look at the world around us can make a huge difference.
I don’t yet know the statistics on youth suicide in rural areas, and what role social media plays in it, but I definitely plan to find out more.
What I do know at this point though, is that one in four young people has experienced a mental health issue in the past 12 months – a higher prevalence than all other age groups.
Alarmingly, suicide is the leading cause of death of young people, accounting for one third of all deaths.
It’s my hope that Dolly’s death won't be for nothing, but I know that it is going to take a lot more than one beautiful life to change the culture around cyber bullying and take on the powerhouse that is social media.
So let’s stand up together, heed Dolly’s drawing to ‘speak even if your voice shakes’, and bring about a cultural shift like no other.
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