Teenagers and young school-aged children were given tips on coping and anxiety with cyberbullying incidents on the weekend at the Bill Barber Complex in Callander. The kids were part of a ball hockey tournament and casting call to potentially appear in the upcoming hockey-themed movie The Prospect. One theme in the movie is how trying to make it in the NHL can create mental health issues and the producers brought Chuck Bastie of Toronto with them to talk about strategies on how to deal with anxious moments or cyberbullies who can wreak havoc on young people's lives resulting in mental challenges. Bastie talked to the young people in coordination with the local chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association. Most of the children at the complex were from the local area but some also came up from southern Ontario. Bastie says technology has transformed how cyberbullying takes place. Bastie told The Nugget when today's parents were in school and were bullied, it used to be that when 3 p.m. rolled around and school ended, so did the bullying for that day. “Now it starts at 3 p.m.,” said Bastie. “Because of social media there's another layer of judgment parents today didn't have to deal with and it's new to them. And unless we have a conversation about this, it's not going to go away. “Cyberbullying is the boogeyman in the room for young people that creates anxiety, depression and isolation.” And Bastie says the situation only worsens when a social media attack goes viral and has people's attention for an extended period of time. Normally, young people don't have the skills to deal with these types of incidents and cyberbullying kills self-esteem and confidence. It also results in young people taking their lives. “We need to address this before it becomes a bigger problem and epidemic,” he said. Bastie tells young people that when they are the target of a cyberbully attack it's important they don't take it personally. “I tell them what other people do to you has very little, if anything, to do with you personally but rather everything to do with them and how they're hurting,” Bastie said. “People will do things to get what they want and to escape their pain. And people who are already hurt, hurt other people.” Bastie works on the principle that people need to be heard, understood, respected and accepted. He says when one of these conditions is missing, there's a disconnect and that's when people can lash out at anyone. The key here is not for the targeted person to judge the attacker. “We never know what another person is experiencing,” he said. “Are they angry, frustrated or misunderstood? There's a reason for their behaviour and we need to find out what it is as opposed to judging them. And kindness is what opens up that door.” Bastie says kindness starts up a dialogue and it's an opportunity for the healing process to begin. He says if the young people he talks to take anything away from his sessions, he hopes it's how to be kind to others. Bastie says acts of kindness create a ripple effect. “If I'm kind to you, chances are you'll be kind to me,” he said. “And if I'm unkind to you, chances are you'll be unkind to other people. And it's hard to be kind if no one is kind to you.” Bastie says it took him years to realize this. He says when someone is in bully mode “they're attacking their own sense of self worth or stature of where they are or the judgment that's put on them.” “When I acknowledge this, I recognize that they are not attacking me,” he said. Growing up, Bastie admits he was a bully and was also bullied. “And what's amazing is that I never saw myself as a bully but rather as a victim of bullying even though I was really good at bullying other people,” Bastie said. Bastie says fortunately for him he had some great teachers during his school years who saw potential in him even when he didn't see it. One teacher gave him strong reinforcement on his writing and told him one day he would be an author because his writing was so good. Bastie says that teacher is still living and some years back he called her to say thank you. Bastie says if not for the kindness of that teacher, the idea of writing for a living would not have been in his head years later. Bastie says kindness turned him around and strongly believes it can turn around the lives of other people engaged in bullying tactics and may even prevent it from taking root in some cases.
Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The North Bay Nugget