Building Resilience and protection against bullying
Like many Australians this week, I have been touched by the story of ‘Dolly’ and her suicide at the age of 14. My husband and I have been reading her story of life with mixed emotions. Often with tears welling up in our eyes. Many of you will not know, one of the main motivators for me establishing Educated by Nature with Daniel is connected with this story.
Eleven years ago, my sister, Emily, took her own life at the age of 28, after giving up a long battle with depression. The psychologists had thought her depression was also triggered by bullying at school. Social media, including Facebook, was not around when my sister died. But the bullying was able to touch the deepest part of her soul. She did not have the resilience needed to protect herself from its impact. I fear that life is getting worse for our children, not better. Recent statistics confirm suicide is the leading cause of death for children between 5 and 17 years of age *. This should not be the case!
In the months and years after my sister’s death, I asked myself, why I was able to protect myself from bullying where my sister had not. We shared some of the same genes. Both had the same up-bringing. We had similar exposure to the world, including bullying at school. Even though our personalities were different, which has a lot to do with susceptibility to depression, I realised I had stronger connection points than my sister.
On reflection, I had community connections outside my family and school with adult mentors who truly cared about me. When I was in these places I knew I was safe, and could seek help. I spent a lot of time in nature. I played in the front yard, the back yard, in a bush block on the way home from school, where a cubby was built at the bottom of a limestone rock. From the age of 10, I would put my pet dog on the back of my bike and cycle to a nearby swamp. Then as a teenager I cycled further to the beach. In addition, I also knew myself really well. I knew what I liked, and had the opportunity to test and experiment with my ideas. All these things contributed to building resilience in my life.
Educated by Nature for me is a hope. I hope that in the 2 hours, or a whole day that children spend with us, they are able to live a moment that is perhaps different to their normal day. That, in this moment, they may see and feel that life can be different. That they can have the power to live a life in the way that naturally suits them. Giving them hope that if they do not have the power now, that one day soon they will be able to live a life that is connected. That they have the power to seek help from mentors and seek refuge in nature.
I love when I hear the strong enthusiasm from a child at our KIN Village saying,
“Today is the best day of my holiday!”
“I feel like I am a wild child surviving in the bush!”
“Can we sleep overnight here in our cubby?”
This re-sparks my sense of hope – that this connection to self, others and nature is part of the key to building resilience and mental strength in children.
Dolly’s Dream Foundation
If you need to talk to someone, are thinking about suicide or experiencing a personal crisis, help is available.
Phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.
*Australian Bureau of Statistics
3303.0 Causes of Death, Australia, 2016 (LATEST ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/09/2017)