British Columbia

Pink Shirt Day should not just challenge bullying but also promote inclusion, psychologist says

UBC professor Amori Mikami said the occasion is "the perfect day" for people to not only be anti-bullying but also pro-inclusion, by reaching out to those at risk of being ostracized and letting those individuals know they are welcome and belong.

Let those those at risk of being ostracized know they are welcome and belong, UBC prof Amori Mikami says

On Feb. 24, thousands of kids and adults alike around the globe proudly wear pink shirts as a statement against bullying. The event started in 2007 in Nova Scotia when a few high school students bought pink shirts to wear in solidarity with another student who was being bullied for wearing one. (Peter So Photography)

People across the province are wearing brightly coloured tops Wednesday to mark the 14th annual Pink Shirt Day, also known as Anti-Bullying Day — but one B.C. psychologist is asking that British Columbians consider taking their actions one step further than just sporting a showy shirt.

UBC psycholody professor Amori Mikami said the occasion is "the perfect day" for people to not only be anti-bullying but also pro-inclusion, by reaching out to those at risk of being ostracized and letting those individuals know they are welcome and belong.

"We can all think to ourselves today and in the future, you know, what's one thing we can do to reach out to somebody else who might not be feeling included and try to take steps to include them," Mikami said Wednesday on CBC's The Early Edition.

"Instead of stopping bullying, we should be thinking about moving toward inclusion."

'Lift each other up'

Mikami's point echoes the province's chosen theme for this year's Pink Shirt Day, "lift each other up," which was explained in a joint statement by Premier John Horgan, Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside and Carol Todd, founder of the Amanda Todd Legacy Society.

 

"Lifting each other up means accepting and respecting each other, regardless of race, culture, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity. It means seeing others for their strengths, abilities and things we have in common. It means taking the time to understand different points of view and share experiences," the statement said.

Todd's 15-year-daughter Amanda killed herself in 2012 after posting a YouTube video saying she had been blackmailed by an online bully.


Mikami said online bullying, while it has some similarities to in-person bullying, can be more relentless and invasive simply because you cannot escape it as long as you have an internet connection.

"If it's on your phone and your phone is with you all the time, you are always getting notifications," said Mikami, adding online torment can also be on display for a wide number of people quickly and a record of it can live permanently in cyberspace.

One way to combat the prevalence of online bullying, she said, is not only for people to practise inclusion, but also to simply think before they speak — or type.

"All of us have a tendency to assume that everybody else understands things like us, and that's where that's really not true," she said. "[If] you're not totally sure how they're going to take something, think and be kind, or ask."

Pink Shirt Day began in Nova Scotia in 2007 when Grade 12 students David Shepherd, Travis Price and a few friends saw that a Grade 9 student was being bullied for wearing a pink shirt on the first day of school.

Shepherd, Price and pals then went out to buy pink shirts and handed them out as a sign of solidarity.

LISTEN | Amori Mikami talks with CBC host Stephen Quinn on The Early Edition about Pink Shirt Day:

UBC psychologist Amori Mikami speaks with Stephen Quinn about Pink Shirt Day and the toll cyberbullying has on our lives. 9:51

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?

now