Anti-Bullying Week Guest Blog: Anita Dennison16 Nov 2016
Hey folks, It was an absolute pleasure to be asked to write for RADAR NI. The work that they do is nothing short of incredible. My name is Anita Dennison and I am a 20 year old Queen’s University student. I have an award winning campaign that helps and advises young people and their parents 24/7 on all things bullying and mental health related, but sadly things haven’t always been this positive for me.
When I was just 16 and studying for my GCSE’s like thousands of other students across the country, I became the victim of a year long hate campaign on social media, which escalated on from an incident at my school.
I would wake up to messages such as, “don’t bother coming into school today, everyone hates you” and “why don’t you just do us all a favour and take your own life?” Within a few short weeks, I started to believe what people were saying about me online and although I had a fantastic group of friends and an amazing support network at school, I became paranoid that this would never stop and that it would haunt me on the school corridors every day.
As a result of being bullied physically, verbally and online I lost all my confidence. I gave up all of my hobbies, including Tae Kwon Do, Football, Dance, Gymnastics, and even thought of giving up on myself. I battled through depression and anxiety for 18 months with some support, but I wanted my questions answered, “Why me?” and “Am I the only one?” I decided to do some research to find out just how widespread this problem is. I found out from Childline that more than 160,000 young people suffer on a daily basis in schools across the UK and Ireland. I was distraught. Far too many young people are suffering when they should be living their lives to the fullest. I knew something had to be done to help some of these young people.
On November 21st 2012 (while I was battling with my own demons) I created a Twitter campaign and website in the hope that my experiences would be able to help at least one person in the same situation as me. Little did I know that posting positive content would help me gain confidence; I started to receive encouraging messages online and within months my social media nightmare had turned into one of the best things ever to happen to me.
Four years on and I couldn’t be happier. I have had the privilege of helping families from across the world. I have been given amazing opportunities to help families through the BBC, UTV, TG4, CoolFM and numerous other media outlets. I have spoken alongside Ireland’s most inspirational individuals at Zeminar in the RDS and at TEDx Omagh. Through running my campaign I have won a Diana Award, shortlisted for the Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards awards and in October I was chosen as 1 of 50 #iWill Ambassadors from across the UK. My role as an ambassador is to inspire and encourage other young people to get involved with social action within their local areas, and I’ll receive my award at the end of November in Westminster.
I hope you are able to see my story in a positive light. Individuals who tell you that you can’t or that you won’t succeed at anything in life know absolutely nothing about the true inner strength that you have. No matter what happens to you, your experiences do not define you. You can be and do whatever your heart desires, and nobody’s opinions or actions (especially your own) should stand in your way.
If you are affected by bullying or know someone who is please don’t be afraid to seek help and support.
Find more information on my story and follow me here:
To view Anita’s Ted Talk click here.