Mental health warrior stands beside Brian
A national mental health awareness campaigner has joined the chorus of voices calling for immediate change after relentless bullying caused Gympie State High School student Brian Birchall to attempt suicide last week.
Founder of the Gold Coast-based Heavy Hiterz Foundation Brent Simpson said he was "heartbroken” when he came across the 12-year-old's story last week before condemning the bullies in a video posted to his Facebook account.
The 42-year-old father of four included the hashtag #IMBESIDEBRIAN in the video, urging community members to band together in support of victims and shame the bullies.
Mr Simpson, who suffered a challenging upbringing marred by multiple forms of abuse, severe mental illness and suicidal feelings, said he was open to talking with Brian and his family in future to help them cope with the situation.
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"It was heart-wrenching for me to hear that a 12-year-old boy felt like there was no way out from what he was going through,” he said.
"Through my work with Heavy Hiterz, I've met a lot of people who have gone through it, and the rates of 10-12 year old kids considering suicide is horrible.
"I'd love to meet this young man, put my arm around him and have a chat.
"I'm a survivor of three suicide attempts, so I can relate to what he's going through.
"I want to tell him he's not alone, and that we'll get through this.”
"Heavy Hiterz is all about making sure people know they are never alone.”
Mr Simpson said it in attempting to combat the epidemic, communities must educate and communicate with bullies in addition to calling out their behaviour.
"I think bullying should be considered an illness in itself,” he said.
"I had to stand on my own to feet as a kid, so I think there was a bully in me because of what I came from.
"I was very protective of myself, I was wearing a mask to protect myself.
"How many other people are wearing that mask and exercising dominance over others because of their own pain and anguish? There would be a lot.”
Mr Simpson said "we are all responsible” in making a change to bullying culture.
Visit http://heavyhiterz.org/ for more on Brent's Mental Health Awareness Foundation.
If you need help, phone Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800 or phone Lifeline on 131114.