A Napier teenager has taken a brave stand against bullying after she says a friend took his own life following constant threats and abuse from peers.
Fed up with the endless torment taking place in schools, Napier Girls' High School student Julia Seaward, 15, decided to speak out.
In a heartfelt Facebook post, she asked people to think about how their actions may be affecting others' emotional stability.
"The amount of suicidal, depressed friends I have is ridiculous," Julia said.
"And I'm not saying anything against them because they are amazing, caring, loving people. No, I'm saying it against the people who think it's ok to put them in that state.
"I'm not the nicest person either but never once have a ever told someone to 'go kill themselves' or that I 'truly hate them'. To some people, hate isn't a strong word but to others it is."
The post was backed by many, particularly those close to the Hastings student who recently took his own life.
"I got quite a bit of positive feedback, they supported me which was amazing to see. I just wanted to put the message out there that saying something like 'I dislike you' can actually push someone over the edge."
Malicious verbal assaults were made via the internet, either on social networking sites or photo sharing pages such as Tumbler, which has an anonymous message function.
"Cyber bullying is the worst thing because people feel comfortable sitting at their keyboard, instead of saying something face-to-face. It's all over the place."
Julia knew of cases where one person had fallen out with another, only to be ganged up on by a whole group. Bullying came in many forms too, with the most harmful being comments which made people feel usless, unloved or unwanted.
As someone who is openly against bullying, she has coached her friends and peers through hard times, telling them to stay positive and look to the future.
"If I see someone being picked on or laughed about at school I will private message them on Facebook saying that they can talk to me any time. I always say if they are down they can come and stay with me, my door is always open. I have become a rock for a lot of people."
While she had faced bullies of her own the previous year, Julia made a decision not to let them get to her and continued to surround herself with good people.
"It was just mean comments but I calmed down and told myself that in a couple of years I would be out of highschool and I don't get bullied any more. I try to surround myself with people who don't get bullied and who are not bullies."
She was not so naive to think the age old problem could be erased with words, but she hoped it would make people stop before they speak.
"Maybe if people are more aware and think about what they say, before they say it. They need to know it hurts seeing stuff like that."
Netsafe executive director Martin Cocker said specific policies were hard to implement but there were measures which could be taken to stop cyber bullies.
"In some cases you are able to block abuse, whether that be on a website or through your cell phone provider. The number one tip is to tell someone, whether that be parents, school or a friend - people being bullied often feel very isolated."
Mr Cocker said most cases they dealt with were generally very severe and complex.
"What we tend to see is the ones that are un- solvable, a lot of people ring frontline services and that is a satisfactory solution, so we are only dealing with a handful of cases a week. But they are at the more serious end of the scale."
Last week the Government unveiled tough new cyber-bullying laws whereby inciting someone to commit suicide will be punishable with up to three years in jail. The new laws, fast- tracked by Justice Minister Judith Collins, would also create a new offence of using a communications device to cause harm, punishable with up to three months in jail or a $2000 fine.
*For help with serious cyber bullying email: email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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