Phoebe Prince’s heartbroken father has told an Irish conference that bullying in schools is at ‘epidemic’ proportions.
Jeremy Prince, who now lives in County Clare, told the Dublin audience that bullying is leading to suicide, drug addiction and alcoholism among teenagers and young people.
The Irish Times has reported on Prince’s address to the National Anti-Bullying Coalition’s Safe Schools programme launch, over a year after his daughter took her own life.
He said: “If this programme had been in place in the school in the United States I think we would still have our daughter.” he said.
The report states that: “The Irish programme involves all members of the school being aware of the existence of bullying, its impact and how to support victims - both to cope and recover and for perpetrators to recognise the damage inflicted and address the reasons for their behaviour.”
Prince added: “The response of schools to bullying episodes very much varies from school to school. I call for a uniform approach where victims could speak about their situation, confident that it would be addressed.”
Ireland’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) has also announced its inaugural anti-bullying week.
“We are encouraging people to purchase a blue shield badge to indicate they are concerned about bullying and want to see it addressed,” said ISPCC chief executive Ashley Balbirnie.
“The campaign is as much about what bullying is not as it is about what it is. It is not a normal part of childhood. It is not a rite of passage. It is not acceptable.
“It is a critical issue, the impact of which can be detrimental to a young person’s wellbeing. It can negatively affect self-esteem and feelings of self-worth, increase social isolation, lead a child to become withdrawn and depressed, anxious and insecure. In desperation some young people even consider suicide.”
Director of services Caroline O’Sullivan told the paper it is as important to support the perpetrators of bullying as it was the victims.
“The reality is children who bully are hurting in some way themselves, and it’s important to get those children to talk about what’s going on for them too,” she said.