It was an absolute pleasure to be asked to write for Strong Young Minds. The work that they do is truly life changing and nothing short of inspirational.
My name is Anita Dennison and I am a 19 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, 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 Facebook, 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 only 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 online, physically and verbally I lost any shred of confidence that I once had. I gave up all of my hobbies, including Tae Kwon Do, Football, Dance, Gymnastics, and sadly I even thought of giving up on myself. I battled through depression and anxiety day after day for 18 months with the most amazing support, but I wanted some questions answered, “Why me?” and “Am I the only one?”
I decided to do some research to find out just how widespread this problem really was and indeed still is. I was heartbroken to find out from Childline that more than 160,000 young people suffer on a daily basis in schools across the UK and Ireland. Far too many young people are suffering when they should be living their lives to the fullest. I knew something had to be done.
On November 21st 2012 (while I was battling with my own demons) I created a Twitter campaign and website in the hope that my advice would be able to help at least one person in the same situation as me. Little did I know that posting positive messages would help myself become more confident once again, but I started to receive messages such as, “Thank you so much for your support, if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be here.”
Within only a few short months my social media nightmare soon turned into one of the best things that has ever happened to me. Over the past three years I have had the privilege of helping families from across the world, from Melbourne, Australia and San Francisco in the USA to Elgin in Scotland to as local as Omagh in Co. Tyrone. No matter where people need help, the key thing to always remember is that, “there IS ALWAYS someone out there who wants to help you, never be afraid to look for it”, as not only do you need this superb support but you deserve it also!
Three years on, I couldn’t be happier. I have been given the most amazing opportunities to help families through the BBC, UTV, TG4, and numerous other media outlets. I hope that by sharing my story through the media, someone, somewhere will be able to benefit from it. Through running my campaign I have won a Diana Award and I have been shortlisted for the Spirit of Northern Ireland awards.
On November 30th, I will be taking the stage at TEDx Omagh, alongside many amazing speakers. I am also delighted to announce that, I have been asked to MC a Diana Award event within Stormont Parliament Buildings Great Hall on December 10th. Honoured.
I hope you were able to see my story in a positive light. Please know that no matter what you may go through in life, there is ALWAYS a glimmer of hope, positivity and indeed life at the end of every dark tunnel. Take it from me, those individuals who told you that you couldn’t or that you wouldn’t succeed at anything in life, they know absolutely nothing about the true inner strength that you have deep within you.
Anita (@bully_dont) xx
https://youtu.be/1lBDzOJhRQ0 - standwithanita.com