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May. 25, 2022 | Wednesday
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Canadian author visits Niagara to spread anti-bullying message
Canadian author and mental health advocate Tracey Maxfield is on a mission to help children stand up to bullying. (Dariya Baiguzhiyeva/Niagara Now)

As next Monday is the annual World Bullying Prevention Day, Canadian award-winning author and mental health advocate Tracey Maxfield is on a mission to help children and youth stand up to bullying.

On Monday, Oct. 7, students, schools and communities around the world are encouraged to wear something blue to show solidarity with the event.

Next week also marks Mental Illness Awareness Week, established by the Canadian Psychiatric Association in 1992 to raise awareness for mental health.

Maxfield, who lives in Kelowna, B.C. and will be staying in Niagara for a few weeks, said she had reached out to all mayors in the region asking them to proclaim next Monday as a World Day of Bullying Prevention, also known as Blue-Up Day.

Three mayors got back to her with a decision to make a proclamation next week: NOTL’s Lord Mayor Betty Disero, Fort Erie’s Mayor Wayne Redekop and Welland’s Mayor Frank Campion.

In a phone interview with The Lake Report, Disero said she will encourage town councillors to wear blue for the committee of the whole meeting next Monday in support of the event.

In Fort Erie, Redekop will meet up with the Greater Fort Erie Secondary School students at the Fort Erie city hall at 1:30 p.m. to read the proclamation. Students are also planning to wear blue T-shirts.

The proclamations are intended to raise awareness and ask all students to “cooperate by wearing blue and say No to bullying.”

As a nurse with 37 years of experience, Maxfield first encountered workplace bullying in 2011 when she started a new job. She said she had been bullied by her supervisor for four years until there was a “horrific meeting” in 2015, after which she said she "fell down a rabbit hole."

“It was so bad, with the harassment, and intimidation, and threats,” Maxfield said. “It just ripped my heart and soul out. It was so horrible, and mean, and nasty.”

Maxfield said she had her first suicide attempt two nights later after the incident.

Her experience battling depression prompted her to start a blog and later write a book titled Escaping the Rabbit Hole: My Journey Through Depression.

Maxfield is a frequent guest at schools, universities and hospitals where she gives talks about mental health and bullying prevention. She encourages anyone experiencing bullying to speak up and to remember that it’s not their fault.

“You have to tell someone. If you’re a child or a teenager, confide into a trusted adult. Talk to your friends,” Maxfield said. “It could be a school teacher or a councillor but it’s someone that you trust and you could be very honest with.”

She also advised using the so-called fogging technique when people who are bullied respond with neutral statements or as if in agreement with a bully instead of arguing back.

The District School Board of Niagara recognizes two events in relation to bullying, said public board's chief communications officer Kim Yielding.

One event is a Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week which is marked during the week of Nov. 18-22. Another occasion is a Pink Shirt Day celebrated on Feb. 26.

Some ways schools work with students on bullying prevention include creating anti-bullying T-Shirt designs, watching short videos about kindness and inclusion, participating in random Acts of Kindness Days and reading newspaper articles about sports teams that have celebrated Pink Shirt Day, Yielding said in an email response to The Lake Report.