MONTREAL — The sister of a 15-year-old boy who committed suicide is urging people to take action against bullying in the hopes of saving lives.
Karine Dufour’s message for anyone who experiences or witnesses bullying is simple: speak out and take action.
“It has to stop,” she said.
Dufour, 26, told The Canadian Press that her brother Simon died by suicide on Thursday.
In a widely shared Facebook post, Dufour described her brother as an energetic high school student who loved music and cracking jokes, but who was relentlessly bullied by peers.
Dufour said her brother was subjected to cruel comments that were often trivialized by others.
She said her parents discussed the problem with school administrators multiple times, but little changed.
She’s speaking out in part because she wants bullies to understand the ramifications of their behaviour, she said.
“It’s unacceptable,” she said. “It has consequences: there are depressions, self-esteem problems.”
Her Facebook post implores anyone who witnesses bullying to speak to a supervisor, a teacher, an administrator or their parents, and to persist if they feel they aren’t being heard.
The post has been shared more than 6,000 times since it was published on Friday.
Dufour said she’s since received a number of messages from parents who say their children are being bullied and that their schools haven’t taken the matter seriously.
She sees those messages as proof that the problem is widespread, and that the school system lacks the tools and resources to stop bullying.
“When I read those messages, I felt incredible pain,” she said.
“These young people must not become Simon. Schools must be equipped, resources must be deployed and accessible.”
Speaking on Sunday, Quebec Education Minister Sebastien Proulx said he was “extremely saddenened” by the Dufours’ story.
He said it showed a need for continued anti-bullying efforts and supports for schools and victims alike
“School is an environment which must be healthy, which must be safe, which is there for children to achieve success,” he told reporters in Quebec City.
“Not for them to find themselves in difficulty, or unfortunately in certain cases to commit a gesture that is as hard, as difficult to understand as the one that was done.”
More than a third of Quebec high school students have reported being victims of violence, according to a 2013 study published by Quebec’s statistical institute.
Young people experiencing suicidal thoughts are encouraged to contact Kids Help Phone at 1-800-263-2266.
Michel Saba, The Canadian Press