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The stars who beat bullying

Bullies and bullied more likely to consider suicide by age 11

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The school bullies of today can have devastating effects on victims now and in adulthood. Bryce Corbett looks at why bullying is on the rise, the advent of cyber bullying and why all parents have a responsibility to stamp out the perpetrators.

The new school year is well and truly underway. Kids all over the country have tripped back to the classroom and spent the better part of the last month adjusting to their new surroundings, taking stock of their teachers, sizing up their peers and awkwardly jostling for playground social status.

Related: Ten things not to say to kids

Before the school year is out, one in four Australian students will be the victims of bullying. Not a simple disagreement in the canteen line or an isolated incidence of name-calling, but sustained physical, verbal or psychological abuse at the hands of their peers.

It’s an experience that has scarred school children for as long as there has been organised education – and one that four high-profile Australians haven’t forgotten in a hurry.

At first glance they may not fit the stereotype of the bullying victim, but Michelle Bridges, Hazem El Masri, Ruby Rose and Rebecca Breeds all suffered at the hands of schoolyard bullies.

When contacted by The Weekly to participate in this story, each leapt at the chance to share their stories in the hope they would serve as an example to bully victims – proof positive that a world of personal and professional fulfilment lies waiting just outside the school gates.

It was, they all said in interviews after the photo shoot, their desire to shine a light on what leading psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg calls “one of the most overlooked public health issues of our time”. Their two-pronged message to young people who are being bullied: “You’re not alone” and “It gets better.”

Ruby Rose, MTV VJ:

“It was only when I left school that I discovered there’s a whole world out there – and it’s a big, exciting, tolerant world, filled with people just like you.”

Michelle Bridges, personal trainer onThe Biggest Loser:

“I really believe my life started when I left school. When you’re at school, you can’t imagine there’s life outside. But there is. And it can be so good”

Related: How to protect your children from cyber-bullying

Rebecca Breeds, star ofHome and Away:

“The only thing I would say to parents is just love and support your kids. Be there for them and remind them whenever you can that school is just one experience in a lifetime’s worth of experiences.”

Hazem El Masri, rugby league player:

“My message to kids who are being bullied: Don’t give up. School is just a small part of your life. And try to talk to someone – a parent, a teacher, a coach. You don’t have to struggle alone.”

Read more of this story in the March issue of The Australian Women’s Weekly.

Your say: Were you bullied at school? Do you think children these days are bullied more than in the past? How do you think society should deal with bullies?

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