Local school divisions are once again promoting Anti-Bullying Awareness Day tomorrow by encouraging students and staff to wear pink to raise awareness about bullying. But this year, the event takes on special importance after a new group was formed to promote better mental health for local students.
Called Red Cross Pink Day, the event marks a coast-to-coast campaign by the National Red Cross that was started in 2007 when a student in Cambridge, Nova Scotia, was bullied by classmates for wearing a pink shirt to school.
“Bullying is something that schools and the school division are working continuously on,” said Light of Christ Catholic School Division Director of Education Cory Rideout. “We have a bigger strategy in our community around the needs for our youth.”
“We’ve experienced some tragic events in the community. We, as a community, need to wrap around our community, and do what we can to make it a better place.”
Rideout said the division is also raising awareness about mental health as part of its efforts. An organization has been formed, called Battlefords Better Together Team, that includes area partners hoping to encourage good mental health. The group has a Facebook and Twitter presence also.
The Battlefords Better Together organization formed as a result of a community meeting for parents held in North Battleford in January that included Living Sky School Division and Light of Christ School Division, together with agency partners - such as the health region, mental health, and emergency responders, as well as the city and town. Living Sky School Division, in partnership with Light of Christ School Division, organized the meeting in response to three youth suicides in the community, two of which occured in January.
Rideout said the group has come together for follow up meetings and hopes to "engage youth" and "come up with strategies to do that."
He said he hopes any youths who need help about something that is bothering them will speak up.
“The worst thing you can do is not talk about it. If you are feeling that way, talk to someone you trust. It’s ok to talk about it," Rideout said.
Living Sky School Division Superintendent of Education Brenda Vickers said in an email the issue of bullying is always a concern.
“It is very important to us for every student to feel welcomed and safe in our schools," she said. "Anti-Bullying Day helps to shine a light on the seriousness of bullying and provides us with an opportunity to discuss the matter openly.”
Living Sky spokesperson Shannon Lessard said all of the division's schools will be participating in events to recognize the day.
She added schools will "do their part in changing the culture around bullying in our province."
"Students and staff will wear pink to show their support for the movement, shedding light on the issues surrounding bullying and inspiring others to speak up when they see bullying happening," she said in an email to battlefordsNOW.
Lessard said McKitrick Community School will be involved in making pink hand pledges and will have them on display at the front of the school for Pink Shirt Day. The NBCHS Vikings will be playing P.A. St. Mary’s and will be raising money for the Battlefords Union Hospital Chemotherapy Unit.
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