We need to listen
By Jenn Watt
Published Nov. 21, 2017
As a community, we haven’t been doing a good enough job listening to young people.
Among us we find examples of exceptional people going out of their way to help kids and teenagers, but as a collective we haven’t done enough.
Over the last couple of weeks, social media has become the gathering place for parents and students to raise alarm about a range of concerns.
Chief among them: young people are being bullied and they’re feeling helpless. There’s not enough for them to do and they don’t know where to turn.
In short, we’re not supporting them enough.
The individual posts are heart-breaking to read. As one student told Sue Tiffin in her story in this week’s Echo, other students have used social media to send her anonymous messages calling her ugly and fat, telling her that she wasn’t good enough for her boyfriend.
Another recent graduate from the high school recounted being laughed at, harassed and having things thrown at her while at school.
And there is a disturbing trend of students telling one another to “go kill yourself,” according to Facebook posts and people we’ve spoken to.
While supports in the schools and in the community exist, students are still struggling. Many say they’re not feeling heard; they say it’s too easy for bullies to get away with their damaging behaviour.
There is also a notable absence of places for students to go while not at school.
As Point in Time executive director Marg Cox pointed out, Haliburton doesn’t have a YMCA or Boys’ and Girls’ Club. There is no after-hours place for young people to go that is neutral and safe.
Efforts have been made to create these spaces on special occasions, but the institutions just don’t exist. “[They need] a space where they can come together, that they can help co-create and that they can get involved in,” Cox said. “And getting involved feeling like they have some control, feeling like they have some respect and an opportunity to be together and be supported by caring adults including themselves, is really the road map to helping us heal our community.”
Dysart et al has taken a big step in committing to the creation of the new skate park, which should be complete by spring. It’s a signal that the needs of young people are important and the town is willing to invest in opportunities for them.
We need to be doing more of this.
How often do we see teenagers or adults in their early 20s taking part in our decision-making practices? How often do we solicit their opinions as we plan events or invest in new projects? How often do we plan events and invest in projects explicitly for them?
There’s some very good work being done by passionate people in this town to support teenagers, but more of us need to be doing more.
Where do we start? Let’s ask them.
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