Hozier joins anti-bullying campaign

Hozier joins anti-bullying campaign

Today the Sunday World joins Childline, pop sensation Hozier and a host of celebs in a campaign to stand up to bullies.

For the month of March we’re backing Childline’s Shield Anti-Bullying Campaign to create awareness and raise badly-needed funding to help combat an issue that impacts on children and families all over Ireland. 

As well as Bray superstar Hozier, the campaign is joined today by sporting heroes Cian Healy, Bernard Dunne and brothers Alan and Bernard Brogan. 

We’re asking for your support too to make a real difference to children like Sam, whose mum today tells how she turned to Childline after he was viciously beaten by schoolyard bullies. 

We want to harness the power of our 700,000 newspaper readers, 340,000 Facebook followers and million-plus website users on to help in increasing awareness and funding for Childline’s extraordinary services. 

Last year the organisation received 1,800 calls EVERY DAY and many of these were about bullying. Research shows that it’s a huge issue in Ireland, with 37 per cent of nine-year-old kids saying they were bullied in the past year.

As well as existing supporters like Colin Farrell and Brian O’Driscoll, several new stars have joined this year’s campaign. 

They include music sensation Hozier, whose song Take Me To Church and its video’s depiction of homophobic bullying has become a global hit. 

Others who are lending their support include music stars Shane Filan, Enrique Iglesias, Nicky Byrne, golfer Padraig Harrington and comedian, Dawn French.

Over the coming month, we’ll be talking to families and front-line workers about the very real impact bullying has on our kids. This week, one family shares the traumatic experience of their child being bullied. 

We’ll also be informing and empowering parents on how they can prevent and tackle this issue, with advice from Childline experts you can use to build and keep your own anti-bullying tool kit.

For Sam, contact with Childline proved to be a life-changing experience. 

He went from being a happy primary student to being violently bullied on his first day in secondary school. Over the next few months he became fearful and withdrawn from his family. Now he helps other children by telling his story at schools and helping them to protect themselves. 

Cian Healy against bullying

“I was starting to become worried as Sam was late returning from school on his first day. I got a shock when I saw him, as his school trousers were torn and covered in blood,” remembers his mother Marie. 

“We spent the afternoon in the A&E department of our local hospital, where Sam had to have five stitches in his leg and a tetanus injection. Sam told me that another boy who was also cycling home had accidentally collided into him.

“Over the following weeks we saw a change in Sam. He was finding it hard to sleep at night, regularly coming home from school sick and was no longer interested in after-school activities such as football and seeing his friends. 

“He became moody and spent a lot of time in his bedroom. His grandmother described it well when she said: ‘It’s like someone turned a light off inside that child. He isn’t the child he used to be.’

“One Friday, Sam arrived home from school to his grandmother’s house and fainted in the hallway. I was so worried about him I often cried myself to sleep. I knew that there was something wrong and was upset because Sam wasn’t talking to me. We had always been so close.

“A few weeks later we finally found out that Sam was being bullied. He had gone to a local shop with his sister. On their way home a boy who was a second-year student in Sam’s school shouted at him: ‘We didn’t get you today, but we will get you on Monday.’ 

“The floodgates opened. Through his tears he told me that he had been bullied since his first day in his new school. There were about eight boys involved and the ringleader had been a year ahead of Sam in primary school. 

“What we thought was an accident on that first day was an attack by the ringleader and two other boys where they rammed their bikes into him, knocking him off his bike.

Every day after that Sam was called names, beaten or threatened. 

“I had watched my happy, confident, outgoing little boy disappear before my eyes. It was heartbreaking.

“I asked for a meeting with the school to inform them about what had been happening and to seek their support. Sam and I met with the school principal and another staff member, but they were very defensive and unsupportive. 

“We had no choice but to move Sam to another school and were very lucky to secure a place for him after the Halloween break.

“Sam settled in well to his new school and is really happy. Now, a few years later, he talks to first-year students at information evenings about the school’s anti-bullying policy and mentors first years to ensure that they have someone to turn to if they are upset or worried about anything in school.

“I have seen first-hand the affect that bullying can have on a child. If you as a parent see a change in your child and he is not talking to you make sure that he is aware of other supports like Childline so that he can get the help that he needs to deal with what’s happening.”