Heart-wrenching | 

Senator calls for RTE special on bullying of Eden Heaslip to be shown in schools

"Watching the Prime Time special featuring the Heaslip family will sadly leave them in no doubt about the terrible consequences of bullying"

Eden Heaslip

Neil Fetherstonhaugh

This week's heart-breaking Prime Time documentary that revealed the bullying torment that led to Cavan teen Eden Heaslip taking his own life at just 18-years-of-age should be shown in schools across Ireland, a Fine Gael Senator has said.

The hard-hitting RTE focus that told how Eden died last September after years of relentless bullying, left viewers reeling, with many sharing their own experience online after watching the programme.

Senator John McGahon, from Louth, said the Prime Time special was “one of the most heart-wrenching things” he had seen.

“Eden Heaslip’s parents articulated so clearly the terrible damage that bullying can do, not just to an individual but to their wider family,” Senator McGahon said.

“Eden’s tragic death must not be in vain. Unfortunately, we must show children and young people the terrible consequences of bullying. Showing this Prime Time feature in schools would really help to hammer home that message for them.”

Eden Heaslip

Senator McGahon said that while some schools may decide to do this themselves, he would also be writing to Minster Norma Foley asking that a recommendation be given to schools to show the programme during class time for appropriate age groups.

“The Fine Gael/Labour Government published an Action Plan for Bullying in 2013, which sets out the Department of Education's approach to tackling bullying and promoting an anti-bullying culture in schools,” Senator McGahon added.

“That plan is now undergoing a welcome review. A lot has changed even since 2013 and unfortunately cyber bullying has become more and more prevalent. Bullying in school is bad enough but now children bring it home with them too.

“With social media it can sometimes feel like there is no escape from it. The updated Action Plan must focus on this area and the new Online Safety Commissioner we are establishing will play a very important role in this area also.

“In the meantime, we must do everything we can to drive home the message to young people about mental health and looking after each other. Watching the Prime Time special featuring the Heaslip family will sadly leave them in no doubt about the terrible consequences of bullying.”

The programme reported how four months on from Eden’s death, his parents, Maggie and Raymond, and siblings, Chloe and Finn, have been left devastated.

The family shared how Eden was bullied for years during his time in secondary school and suffered from mental health issues as a result of the physical and verbal abuse.

Finn, Maggie, Chloe, Raymond and Eden Heaslip (left to right). Photo: RTÉ.

The family have started an anti-bullying campaign in honour of Eden, called Be Buddies Not Bullies, which Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, among others across the country, has helped support by sharing it on social media, but their lives will never be the same.

The shocking details of Eden’s short life and death left people across the country stunned and saddened, with some taking to social media to relate their own experiences at the hands of bullies.

Broadcaster Adrian Kennedy tweeted that he had “just been watching and hearing about poor Eden ending his life last September over bullying."

“I often wonder how I survived the bullying I suffered when I was Eden’s age. Happily, I did. I survived. But it never leaves you. It never goes away. RIP Eden.”

Dozens of people replied with one writing: “Bullies now are a different level, online, on the streets, in school etc.

"I was bullied for years as a kid. I'm now 50 and still get a knot in my stomach when I watch or read bullying stories. That poor kid Eden. There has to be a better system.”

Another added: “Watching that made me cry. That was nearly me many years ago but something stopped me. To his family and friends, I hope they’re ok. Bullying should result in criminal charges.”

Other social media users added their thoughts on the pain and anguish that Eden endured.

“Nobody should have to endure what Eden went through. More needs to be done. Legislation that makes bullying a criminal offence is needed ASAP,” one person wrote.

Another tweeted: “Bullying should be shown to every 6th class primary school. It would be a proper education.”

One person said: “Imagine making someone feel so bad about themselves that they want to end their life? Heartbreaking - ‘Be Buddies, Not Bullies’.

if you have been affected by the issues raised in this article, contact the Samaritans on 116 123; Pieta House on 1800 247 247 or text HELLO to 50808, a free 24/7 text support service for people going through a mental health or emotional crisis.

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