Speak up! It does make a difference

Mikayla Creswell, a student at Otago Polytechnic, knows all too well the effects bullying can have on young people. She’s taking part in Pink Shirt Day to show others that they’re not alone.

“I was bullied by a group of girls during my high school years. I had rumours spread [about me]. I got threatened and abused.”

The tipping point

One day the taunts became too much and Mikayla hit one of the girls who was bullying her.

“Something inside me just snapped. I thought damn this school, damn you girls! I punched one girl across the face. After I made the punch and the room was silent, I ran. I ran down the stairs and straight into the principal’s office. I was in tears telling him how I had just assaulted a student. I had told them how I was threatened and how they had planned to get me after school, but with just my word against theirs and, as a result of my actions, I was stood down from school for three days.”

A follow up investigation revealed a video had been taken showing Mikayla had been provoked prior to punching the girl.

More support needed

“It’s time we make it aware that verbal abuse can mentally destroy a person. Telling kids to just ‘ignore it’ ...well it’s not easy when it is constant. It chips away at a person. Like it did me until I snapped. I was afraid of what I could be capable of because I had all the hatred and anger built up. More support needs to be put out there for kids,” Mikayla says.

Family are your rock

Mikayla wants people to know that bullying affects everyone, not just the person it is aimed at.

“My mother had sleepless nights worrying about me. It’s not okay to make someone feel that awful that their parents are fearful for them.”

She credits her family for helping her through.

“Remember that family are your rock. They will stand by you. Don't be afraid to speak up and tell them what you are going through, because speaking up makes a difference.”

Mikayla is passionate about getting involved in Pink Shirt Day. She plans to approach schools in her area and hopes to speak to students about the effects of bullying and use her story to raise awareness and help others.

She’s also asking for people to donate to the Mental Health Foundation to grow the Pink Shirt Day campaign.

“Pink Shirt Day speaks up for those who don't yet have the courage to do so. Reminding people they aren't alone and there are people out there trying to make a change is a huge thing.”

Mikayla

“Being a part of a national movement towards positive change is such a powerful feeling. That we are all working towards making young people feel good about who they are, right across New Zealand.”

Pink Shirt Day participant