British Columbia

8 years after death of Amanda Todd, her mother speaks out in new cyberbullying documentary

The film, Dark Cloud, premieres Oct. 10 to coincide with World Mental Health Day.

Dark Cloud premieres on Oct. 10 to coincide with World Mental Health Day

Carol Todd (left) has become an anti-bullying advocate after her daughter Amanda died by suicide in 2012. (TELUS Originals)

Coquitlam-area teen Amanda Todd took her own life eight years ago after being bullied online and now, on the anniversary of her death, a new film featuring her mother is being released that sheds light on the life-altering impacts of cyberbullying in Canada.

Dark Cloud premieres online Oct. 10, the same day Amanda Todd took her own life in 2012, after posting a video on YouTube saying she had been blackmailed by an online predator. The date also coincides with World Mental Health Day.

Since her daughter's death, Carol Todd has worked to raise awareness about mental health issues and depression among teens. The film follows her as she connects with parents, victims, and experts to educate viewers about online harassment.

"I never thought I would be in this position where eight years later I would be able to have a voice and Amanda would still have a voice," said Carol Todd Friday on The Early Edition. "It keeps me going."

Amanda took her own life on Oct. 10, 2012, after posting a video on YouTube saying she had been blackmailed by an online predator. (TELUS Originals)

Amanda Todd was 15 in the video she posted online before her death. In it, she held up flashcards explaining how she sank into depression afer being taunted and physically attacked at school.

Her mother has watched that video countless times.

"You are a mama bear forever," said Carol Todd, adding she hopes sharing what happened to her child prevents it from happening to someone else's.

Dutch citizen Aydin Coban was convicted and sentenced in 2017 for fraud and blackmail in a series of cases of cyberbullying involving young girls and gay men. He's serving 11 years in a Dutch prison.

Coban's lawyer said earlier his year his client wants to fight Canadian charges against him in connection to the Port Coquitlam teen — extortion, criminal harassment, child luring and child pornography — in a B.C. court. But Coban has been unable to obtain valid travel documents from the Canadian government. 

The documentary also brings together other victims of cyberbullying, as well as experts who share helpful resources for people currently be victimized online.

Watch the trailer for Dark Cloud, available online Oct. 10:

 

Shaheen Shariff, an anti-bullying and social media expert who appears in the film, said she would also like to see children receive more education in school about cyberbullying and the mental health impact.

This, she told CBC News, can be woven into the curriculum by using art and music classes to vent frustrations creatively, and by working in mental health and suicide statistics into math courses.

She also said it is critical for adults to check themselves and see what kind of online behaviour they are engaging in.

"My biggest concern now, in 2020, is that adults are engaging in a lot of cyber bullying," said Shariff.

She said current conversations about race, sexuality and politics happening in the world right now are contributing to a heated online environment that is not setting the best example for young people.

"The modelling by adults has been significantly damaging for kids because they internalize and normalize it," said Shariff. "We need to promote leadership among kids."

In a YouTube video shortly before she took her own life in 2012, 15-year-old Amanda Todd told the story about how she was lured and sexually exploited over the internet, and the deep embarrassment and depression that provoked. (YouTube)

According to a Statistics Canada report, nearly one in five internet users aged 15 to 29 reported having been cyberbullied or cyberstalked.

Being a victim of either cyberbullying or cyberstalking raises the risk of having a reported emotional, psychological or mental health condition and a low level of trust in people at school, work, or in the neighbourhood, the report says.

According to Statistics Canada, nearly one in five internet users aged 15 to 29 reported having been cyberbullied or cyberstalked. (Marcos Mesa Sam Wordley / Shutterstock)

Cyberbullying victims generally reported mental health and trust issues, while cyberstalking victims were more likely to have taken steps to protect themselves from becoming victims of crime.

In 2013, Carol Todd started the Light Up Purple campaign and every year since, on World Mental Health Day, world landmarks and public buildings are lit in her late daughter's favourite colour to spark conversations about mental illness.

Dark Cloud's release on this date is fitting. 

The film is a Telus Originals documentary and will be available Oct. 10 for free on Telus.com and the company's YouTube channel.

If you are a young person experiencing bullying in B.C., you can contact the Youth Against Violence Line at 1-800-680-4264 and speak one-on-one with a support worker 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

To hear the complete interview on The Early Edition with Carol Todd and Shaheen Shariff, tap the audio link below:

Anti-bullying and social media expert Shaheen Shariff and Carol Todd speak with Stephen Quinn about "Dark Cloud". 9:48

With files from The Early Edition, The Canadian Press

now