EVEN a three-year-old is not safe from bullies. Her mother had to move her from a crèche after she was continuously kicked black and blue by another child.
This is the challenge faced by children at some schools daily, with some left thinking the only way out is to take their own lives.
Yvette Winson gave up her cushy job as an accountant to run anti-bullying programmes at schools after her daughter became suicidal because she was harassed and bullied by her schoolmates.
In one incident in 2010, her daughter was attacked by her schoolmates and was so emotionally scarred that she had to under- go counselling.
The turning point in Winson’s life was when she discovered her daughter had become suicidal because she could not cope.
“I had a bottle of very strong painkillers and it went missing. It had 46 tablets in it. My daughter told me that she was going to swallow all of them and kill herself. She had done research on the internet about how to commit suicide,” Winson said.
The SA Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) operations manager, Cassey Chambers, said bullying was highly prevalent in schools.
She said 9,5 percent of teenage deaths were due to suicide.
Winson decided to tackle the problem head-on, not only helping her 13-year-old daughter but also other parents.
“I wanted to alert other parents about the problems our children are facing on a daily basis at school,” Winson said.
She devised her Stop Bullying Now programmes for primary and high school pupils.
Winson uses CDs and DVDs to teach children about harassment, intolerance, racism, sexism and violence, among other issues.
The programmes also equip pupils and schools with the necessary skills to deal with bullies.
Winson has addressed pupils, teachers and parents at 18 schools since the inception of her project last year.
Her interaction with children in different schools has revealed that cyber and verbal bullying was the biggest problem for teenagers.
Winson does not earn a salary for her efforts, but is happy to make a difference in other people’s lives.
“I don’t want any family to go through what my family went through,’’ she says.
“I was shocked when parents told me their children were petrified to go school.
‘‘A school is supposed to be a place where children learn.
“We don’t realise when we send our children to school that we are sending them to a war.”
l For help, contact Sadag’s Suicide Crisis Line from 8am to 8pm at 0800 567 567 or send an SMS to 31393.
Parents who would like to start anti-bullying programmes can contact Winson at 076 623 5442 or send an e-mail to [email protected]