Today is World Mental Health Day and many thanks to everyone who came to observe this day at City Hall. Alex Vander Vlugt, Founder of “Speak Out” gave a moving presentation on bullying and how to change our culture of bullying. He is a passionate and unwavering advocate of anti-bullying.
Here is an extract from my speaking notes today:
This event is one way we can:
- encourage an open community discussion about mental health
- raise awareness of mental health issues
- promote positive action among policy-makers, governments and local decision-makers
- reduce any stigma associated with mental illness
- helps change perceptions of mental health issues
One in five Canadians is affected by mental health problems each year.
I am pleased that our focus this year is on Bullying: Creating Positive Change When Youth and Community Work Together.
The topic is timely and relevant. Bullying and safety issues concern all of us.
I know our focus is on youth and the fundamental principle that no learner should feel unsafe at school. But let me first say that bullying is endemic in our society. Our structures and systems often reward bullying. The media frequently lionizes and enables bullies. We ignore bullying when confronted by it not understanding that what we permit we condone. We have all been guilty of being a bystander. I think we need to acknowledge this and as adults consider the conflicting messages we send to young people through our own behaviour.
The good news – 72 percent of our youth feel Guelph rates average or above in keeping youth safe. But this is a statistic where anything less than 100% is not good enough.
Over 80% of youth rate youth safety as a priority in the consultation to develop the Youth Strategy. This is why the Guelph Youth Strategy approved by Council recognizes the importance of youth safety.
I am glad to note that this week, our community came together to organize Rachel’s Challenge. Many thanks to the Guelph Police Youth and Crime Prevention Unit which attended a Youth Officers Conference in January 2013 and thought the Rachel’s presentation would be beneficial to our youth. Rachel’s inspirational story of kindness and compassion has been shared with thousands of Guelph youth. Kindness and compassion are important values that inspire individuals not to engage in acts of violence, bullying and negativity. I would like to thank the Guelph Youth Council for bringing community partners together in promoting Rachel’s Challenge in Guelph. Such collaborative approaches are important in working together as a community in an effort to end bullying. The City of Guelph and many other organizations funded the Challenge campaign. In particular, many thanks to:
- Upper Grand District School Board
- Wellington Catholic District School Board
- Winmar Restoration
- The Rotary Club of Guelph
Bullying is an important topic that we need to talk about and address it in all its forms – and that is why we are here today.