"If you're feeling like an island, S.O.S., you'll be heard"
That is the first line of the new jingle I've written for Kids Help Phone. No child should feel so isolated that they have no other option than the unthinkable.
B.C.'s Amanda Todd was 15 years old when she made a very public cry for help on YouTube. She was being stalked and tormented relentlessly by an adult predator. Amanda was left feeling the only way out of her nightmare was by ending her young life on October 10, 2012. One month before her suicide she posted a graphic, eight-minute YouTube video that ended with the words, "I have nobody -- I need someone." Why didn't her cry for help work? What more could she have done to S.O.S?
Amanda Todd's suicide has stopped all parents, educators and politicians in their tracks. How could she have made such a public plea for help and still not be saved? As a mom of two young boys, I have found it almost impossible to make any sense of this tragedy and yet, I know it's happened many times before.
I'm also struck by how much bullying has changed from when I was a kid. I remember a few weeks when my posse of Grade 6 girlfriends decided they didn't like me any more and I went home everyday after school by myself, ate chips and watched TV. Eventually they started to like me again and all was forgotten. Today, a bullied child can't escape. Reminders of the schoolyard are everywhere they turn. "Like" has a whole new meaning in the world of Facebook and a bullied teen's phone and computer beeps all night long with on-line insults and threats. No wonder Amanda Todd switched schools multiple times to try and start fresh. In our technologically-savvy society, there's a new strand of bullying called "cyber-bullying." No longer are the walls of bathroom stalls the medium to fear. Cyber-bullying can follow a child home from school to their bedroom and unfortunately for some, to their worst nightmares.
Now, I'm a songwriter not a social worker and I don't claim to have any professional training in helping children who are being bullied. What I do is write music with positive messages, to empower today's kids to be the best people they can be. In fact, through my kids pop act, Marlowe & the MiX, I've seen how one powerful song can change a child's mood, perspective and path.
Lately, I've found myself wondering about what kind of music Amanda Todd listened to during that last month of her life. I've also wondered if Amanda Todd knew the phone number for Kids Help Phone. This 24 hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week service that every Canadian child should be aware of, has professionally trained counsellors waiting for the calls of at-risk kids, who feel like they don't have anyone in their corner. Through Marlowe & the MiX, I've made it my mission to teach kids across Canada the Kids Help Phone jingle.
I wrote and recorded the jingle so that kids would never forget the 1-800 number. I've played it at every single one of my concerts, performed it at schools and taught it to kids as young as the age three. My simple reason for getting involved was if kids were old enough to memorize a pizza delivery phone number, I felt strongly that they were old enough to have the Kids Help Phone number in their back pockets too. No child should feel like they have no one to turn to.
I felt a great deal of responsibility in writing the 12 songs for my album, One Dancefloor. I knew I wanted the album to feel fun and positive overall, but it also needed to give children struggling through tough, developmental years the emotional support and musical hugs they craved. Throughout the writing process, I thought back to my own tween years, to relive the heart-wrenching incidents that inspired me to write my very first songs. What was I dealing with? How could someone have comforted me? What did I want to hear? With the reflection, I learned that it's not easy returning to those confusing middle-school years, even as an adult who's lived through it once already!
This past month I had the honour of performing at the one of largest bullying prevention rallies in Canada. The event had been in the works for months but it was bone-chillingly clear that everyone there has either witnessed or felt the effects of bullying. The Argos Foundation, who organized the event as part of the 100th Grey Cup Festival, had a brilliant idea and asked the thousands of school children who attended, to sign a pledge to "not stand by" and to "stand up" to bullying. I brought my two boys to the event and got teary-eyed to hear their voices amid the sea of students, admitting in unison that we all must commit to change.
I said the pledge too and I think that's all anyone can do. Promise to stand up, against any bullying we are witness to and to listen extremely carefully for the sounds of any child's S.O.S.
One Dancefloor by Marlowe & the MiX includes the Kids Help Phone Jingle bonus track. The CD is available through iTunes, select Indigo locations in the GTA and on the Marlowe & the MiX website www.marloweandthemix.com. Kids Help Phone can be reached at 1-800-668-6868 or www.kidshelpphone.ca