Bullengarook’s Sharina Mayman, 15, created a youth awareness campaign to tackle issues around bullying and mental health. The Macedon Ranges’ young citizen of the year talks to Matt Crossman.
You were a victim of bullying yourself. How and when did it start?
It started in year 7 and continued on until the end of year 9. I experienced face-to-face bullying and some cyber bullying. I believe it started because I am a little different, I think outside the square … I will stand up for myself.
What was the effect on you?
I took a lot of time off school; we call them “mental health days” at home. I lost my self confidence. I doubted myself all the time and lost sight of myself. I lost trust in people, I became withdrawn, and I would get upset really easily. I would dread going to school, I would often come home and just cry, I had panic attacks and meltdowns at school, and I felt unsafe at school.
How did the idea of the pens and the anti-bullying campaign come about?
As part of my year 9 assessment I was required to take part in a trade show. It was a self-directed project of my choice that I worked on from February to October 2015. Some of my friends had been bullied or were also being bullied, and they were self-harming, suffering depression, anxiety, developing eating disorders and talking about suicide. Lauren Proudfoot from [Macedon Ranges council’s] Live4Life worked closely with me. The initial campaign included anti-bullying and mental health posters, banner pens and video interviews. I produced 1000 banner pens and 10 posters.
Were there people who helped you develop the idea/spread the initiative?
Lauren … and my mum. My mum helped me a lot with the administration side of things and writing the sponsorship requests. I also received a lot of help and support from teachers.
Do you feel that bullying has become more invasive with the advent of social media?
Definitely, because it is not just at school any more. You can’t get away from it, you come home, you turn on your phone, iPad or laptop, and there can be 100 horrible messages. You don’t feel safe anywhere.
What’s next? Is the pen program something you plan or hope to roll out further?
My hope is to get enough money to produce up to 10,000 banner pens so all year 7-12 Macedon Ranges students have one; also medical practices and mental health agencies.
What’s your view on the support and opportunities available to young people?
Mental health support has come a long way. There are some amazing groups … but more are needed. The biggest challenge I see is getting the information direct to the individual that needs help. The other challenge is making bullies understand that they are bullying and making them appreciate the affect they have on people.