After six years of bullying, Chloe Callaghan considered ending it all last year.
The then 15-year-old said she had a “horrible life” in school where she had let schoolyard bullies “get into” her head.
And despite having a good family and circle of friends, she felt isolated.
“If you saw me a few years ago you would not recognise me,” said the 16-year-old at the annual ISPCC anti-bullying campaign, where a new online reporting tool for schools was revealed.
“I was really quiet, a lot bigger and during school I had a horrible life really.”
She said school bullies target people who were “different”, but not a specific type of person. They could be taller, smaller, bigger, outgoing, into sport — all types, she said.
“This time last year was a worrying stage,” said the west Dublin girl. “I was thinking of taking my own life. That’s how much it got to me. I let people get to me, I let people get into my head.”
She said they said things to her that were “beyond imagination”, often putting down her dreams.
The Clondalkin girl said she was “willing to throw it all away”, adding: “I had family beside me and friends I didn’t see. I still felt isolated. I knew something was wrong, I went to get help. I’m glad I did.”
A student at nearby Collinstown Park Community College, she got involved with ISPCC and said staff there gave her confidence. She soon became a member of the charity’s children’s advisory council.
Addressing a packed conference room yesterday, she said Irish people, including adults, had “a tendency to say I’m only having a laugh”, but said words affected people.
She said adults often “turn away at the sight of bullying” and said there needed to be a focus on how adults, as well as children, dealt with it.
ISPCC chief executive Ashley Balbirnie said recent details of a survey conducted by the country’s school principals had highlighted the scale of the problem. That survey reported a 33% rise in cyber-bullying incidents, with an 80% jump in people who had engaged in online bullying.
He said the ISPCC had launched their Anti-Bullying Shield Campaign three years ago, marked yesterday by the unveiling of a building wrap featuring rugby legend Brian O’Driscoll at Dublin’s Liberty Hall.
The list of celebrities who have backed their campaign include actor Colin Farrell, singer Niall Horan, actress Saoirse Ronan, band The Script and comedian Brendan O’Carroll.
ISPCC national anti-bullying officer Andrew Jackson said 100 schools were now using their Shield My School toolkit, which allows schools to evaluate their own bullying policy. He said they were launching this year an online bullying reporting tool, which can attach to a school’s website or facebook page.
David Ruddy, principal of Talbot Senior National School in Clondalkin, said children “live in a world of celebrities” and that the involvement of celebrities enabled schools to engage with children on bullying.
www.ispcc.ie/flag or text Bully to 50101 for text messaging support service.
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