Youth Matter…

Last week, 15 year old Amanda – a Coquilam student –  died by suicide.  Amanda was bullied at school, and while I’m not privy to details, I can only speculate that she thought her death was the only way to stop her pain.  We are saddened by such events taking place in our society and our community.

Last January, I posted my thoughts on bullying after giving a talk on the subject.  I’d like to re-post this article for your review in the hopes that it may provide a platform for discussion at home, in schools and elsewhere about how to address this ongoing dilemma and also how to cease such behaviour that shatters lives and fractures families indefinitely.

Please find information from the Ministry of Children & Family Development below as well as my piece on bullying to follow.

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Oct. 12, 2012

Ministry of Children and Family Development


Resources for youth with suicidal thoughts


VICTORIA – The Ministry of Children and Family Development would like to remind young people and their families that if they are feeling alone, sad, or having thoughts of suicide, help is available.

Here are a few numbers youth and families can contact themselves or on behalf of someone else to get immediate help:

  • 1 800 SUICIDE (1 800 784-2433)
  • Youth in BC: 1 866 661-3311 (toll-Free). Youth in BC is an online crisis service, where you can chat 1-on-1 with a trained volunteer 24 hours a day.
  • Aboriginal People Crisis Line: 1 800 588-8717
  • Native Youth Crisis Hotline: 1 877 209-1266
  • Suicide Prevention Lifeline: A free 24 hour hotline in Canada or the U.S. 1 800 273-8255
  • Kids Help Phone: 1 800 668-6868. The Kids Help Line is a national organization offering bilingual, 24-hour toll-free confidential phone counselling, referral and Internet services for children and youth or their parents in English and French.

Most children and youth having thoughts of suicide show signs of their distress, although some do not. Some of the changes families and others may see in children and youth who may be at risk for suicide include:

  • Talking about suicide or a plan for suicide.
  • Saying things like, “I’m going to kill myself,” “I wish I were dead,” “I shouldn’t have been born,“ “I won’t be a problem for you much longer,” “Nothing matters,” or “It’s no use.”
  • Making statements about hopelessness, helplessness or worthlessness.
  • Complaining of being a bad person or feeling “rotten inside,” refusing help or feeling beyond help. Not tolerating praise or rewards.
  • Giving away favourite possessions or making a will.
  • Being preoccupied with death.
  • Showing a loss of interest in pleasurable activities or things they once cared about. Always feeling bored.
  • Feeling trapped, increasingly anxious, agitated or angry.
  • Showing marked personality changes and serious mood changes.
  • Withdrawing from friends and family.
  • Expressing plans to seek revenge.
  • Sleeping all of the time or unable to sleep.
  • Having trouble concentrating or difficulties with school work.
  • Complaining frequently about physical symptoms often related to emotions, such as stomach aches, headaches or fatigue. Changes in eating and sleeping habits.
  • Showing impulsive behaviours, such as violent actions, rebellious behaviour or running away.
  • Increasing or excessive substance use.
  • Becoming suddenly cheerful after a period of depression (may mean the youth has already made the decision to escape their problems through suicide).

The ministry has several initiatives around the province that aim to reduce the risk of youth suicide, for example, the FRIENDS for Life program:

This is a school-based prevention program designed to increase resiliency and reduce anxiety for B.C. students.

The ministry has compiled best practice information for practitioners related to youth suicide prevention, intervention and steps following suicide. This information is posted on the ministry website:



Connect with the Province of B.C. at:


Posted on


Recently, I provided a talk/discussion group for parents — here are some of the points covered in hopes that it might bring further attention to a large concern.

Barbara Coloroso, a leading expert in parenting, describes bullying as “a conscious, deliberate and willful hostile activity intended to harm.”  She states that bullying is not about anger or conflict — it is about contempt for another human being. It involves a sense of power and entitlement that allows the bully to control, dominate and abuse his or her victim.

  • It is someone who takes advantage of another individual that he or she perceives as more vulnerable
  • The goal is to gain control over the victim or over the bully’s social group
  • Most adults, if they think about it, have experienced bullying too

In October of 2010, a global report on school violence identifies bullying as the largest problem at US school playgrounds.

How it impacts:

  • All forms of youth violence — both in and out of schools cost the nation $158 billion in the US
  • The “safe” school playground becomes an ugly arena where children/youth pit themselves against each other
  • Up to 65% of children worldwide state that they suffer or  have suffered from bullying.
  • Bullying is under-reported — the actual % may be much higher
  • 1/5 of high school students said they experienced repeated, intentional bullying according to the CDC
  • Bullying behaviour  is higher in girls than boys
  • Being bullied may account for poor attendance at school
  • Impacts on learning or having the ability to learn
  • Can take place on the Internet — cyber-bullying, which can be relentless
  • Can increase suicidal thought and actions, as happened this last year in the US when several adolescents committed suicide after being bullied for being gay
  • Research indicates a close relationship between school bullying and youth violence
  • Youth violence-related death is the 2nd cause highest cause of death in the US — Canada is not far behind that statistic
  • Bullying can have serious and harmful psychological effects (words can never harm you — erroneous)
  • There is a “generational” aspect to bullying — if one is bullied, there is a stronger chance for one to bully another
  • In Canada, bullying happens every 7 minutes on the playground and every 25 minutes in the classroom
  • Adults may dismiss children bullying others as “kids just being kids”
  • The escalation from bullying behaviour to violence can be swift
  • High-tech bullying occurs on social networks such as Facebook
  • Bullying also happens through email, texts — all add new fire to the arsenal of the bully, who can use such sites as threaten his/her victim
  • Microsoft Canada (it tracks Internet safety) stated that in 2009, 40% of Canadian youth said that they have been bullied online — up 25% since 2004
  • Name-calling, putdowns and violence are considered valid entertainment (a Facebook site encouraged kids to beat up anyone with red hair on “Kick a Ginger Day”, started in response to an episode of “South Park”
  • Violence is all forms continues to be glorified through film, video games and extreme sporting events
  • The WHO ranks Canada 26th out of 35 developed nations for bullying behaviour (that’s worse than the US and 24 of the nations surveyed)
  • WHO calls bullying a global social health problem
  • The UK and Norway have instituted successful national campaigns to address bully problems
  • Canada dos not have a national anti-bullying programme
  • Canadian anti-bullying programmes exist in the private sector

Dealing with a Bully

It is critical to help your child regain a sense of worth and esteem after being bullied.

  • Do not tell the child to  act on the anger. Being angry with the bully further incites the situation, which is most likely what the bully wants
  • Avoid the use of physical force. It is uncertain what the bully can do in response — he/she may be physically harmful
  • Tell the bully to “stop NOW”. Then tell the child to walk away and ignore him/her
  • Inform an adult immediately.  Encourage the child to promptly tell an adult, teacher, school counsellor or parent about the bullying behaviour
  • Use the buddy system.  Have your child walk to school or take the bus with friends/others.  Tell your child to be with friends in halls and on the playground.  If the bully is in sight, it is less likely that he/she will strike with others around, and if he/she does, there is the potential support of friends to deal with this situation

How can you help your child deal with the bullying?

First, help teach him/her to avoid being an easy target. Start with posture, voice and eye contact. These can communicate a lot about whether you are vulnerable. Practice with a mirror or even videotape. Tell your child to avoid isolated places where no one can see or hear him. He/she should learn to be vigilant for suspicious individuals or for trouble brewing. If bullying starts, the child might be able to deflect it with humour or by changing the subject. The child should run over a list of positive attributes in his mind. This reminds the child that he/she is worthy of something better than bullying behaviour. Teach your child not to obey the commands of the bully. Often it is better to run away than to comply. The parent may help the child make more positive friends. If he or she sticks around with a group, he/she  is less likely to be a target. Finally, if the child sticks up for other children he sees being bullied, people may get the idea that he is not someone who tolerates bullies.

For families, dealing with a bullied child or dealing with a bully or his or her parent’s may require professional guidance and advice. Don’t hesitate in such cases to consult with WCWG or another clinical counselling service provider for information and support.

Alan Stamp


My personal understanding of spiritual wellness could be described as having a relationship with the part of myself that makes sense of the world and gives meaning to the life I’ve been given. There is a wonderful and mystical quote accredited to Chief Seattle:

“Humankind has not woven the web of life.  We are but one thread within it.  Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.  All things are bound together.  All things connect.”  

It is the modern “web” indeed, a permanent fixture in our lives that may  contribute to our disconnection to our spiritual life.  Our urban world moves fast; there has never before in history been a time when there have been more electronic gadgets  – mobile phones, hand-held devices, Internet – and ironically never a time where people may be so completely disconnected from Chief Seattle’s “web of life”.

It’s not hard to find people attached to their cells and Blackberries; eyes downcast on the street, fixed and fixated on the latest call, walking into solid objects, anticipating the next email or text (written in what seems to me to be a code for idiots, but that’s another story) and becoming apoplectic at the very mention of turning it off during a conversation with a dinner companion.  The devices that were meant to advance our connectivity seemed to merely advance our anxiety to perform and produce, which seems rather paradoxical, doesn’t it? There’s nothing particularly spiritual about taking a hand-held to a trip to Tofino to marvel at a winter storm approaching the coast and receiving texts and calls as the waves crash against a violent gray sky.

So, while no one will give up such technology, perhaps one can make better decisions about how and when to use it – if a person wants to connect with more than the spammer selling male enhancement products.

Here are a few ways that I have found to access my spirituality; perhaps this might be useful to you? 

  • Be quiet. Take time for yourself every day, even if it’s just before you go to sleep, or when you’re driving home.
  • Turn off devices that inhibit the process of being connected to others, to nature, to our human senses.
  • Be open. Spiritual experiences can happen anywhere at any time.
  • Practice being non-judgmental and having an open mind
  • Be receptive to pain or times of sorrow. It is often in these times when we discover how spirituality can help us cope.
  • Practice forgiveness
  • Pray or meditate
  • Live joyfully
  • Allow yourself to believe in things, that aren’t easily explainable
  • Try to find the beauty in the “un-beautiful” and in everyday life


Alan Stamp




We’ve gotten through some very festive times in December, and 2012  is now upon us.  It’s a time when many people set goals – some realistic and others improbable or even  impossible.  Setting objectives  is a laudable goal in itself, however in a moment let’s take a look at some goals that are achievable, important and will enhance your wellness.

Goals involve change – changing behaviour or initiating new behaviour.  Change involves 3 steps:

  • 1st Order Change This is the jumping off point, the motivation, the desire to be doing something different. If you smoke, 1st Order Change could be the contemplation of quitting if you had not been thinking of smoking cessation before.  So, this change aspect is perhaps the most basic – thinking about change!
  • 2nd Order Change:  This involves the actual change of a behaviour.  Using the smoking analogy once more, this change is the cutting back (a very hard challenge) or the complete cessation of smoking.  In a way, though perhaps difficult, 2nd Order Change is rather, well, exciting. It’s exciting because we have or may have told ourselves that there is a real and decided benefit to the change or changes we embark on.  This could be quitting smoking, or it might be something as simple as getting more sleep, eating healthier foods, drinking green tea, making a commitment to call a family member on a Sunday, etc.
  • 3rd Order Change: Without question, the most challenging of the change process is the sustainment of the change itself.  For example, never smoking again, maintaining weight loss, staying connected to a family member when you may not wish to, getting sleep when the lure of a long night out with friends is as enticing as that chocolate ganache cake that isn’t on your new diet plan.

It’s helpful to realize – and as therapists working with human behaviour understand very clearly – that change may well be good; it might be indicated as “healthy” or may even be imperative, however if the change goal is unrealistic, too lofty or otherwise cannot be sustained, then it should inform the individual that perhaps the objective of the change needs to be de-constructed into smaller bits or approached in a pace that will ensure the greatest possibility for success.

Here are some activities or behaviours that may well be within reach of many:


 Spend More Time with Family & Friends

Spending more time with family and with friends provides or can provide a sense of  well-being, connection and contentment.  In a world that has become very fast paced for many, committing to being involved in some capacity with family and/or friends can be important and satisfying to the spirit.


Regular exercise has been associated with more health benefits than anything else known. Studies consistently demonstrate   it reduces the risk of some cancers, increases longevity, helps achieve and maintain weight loss, enhances mood, lowers blood pressure, and even improves arthritis. In short, exercise keeps you healthy and makes you look and feel better. As simple as committing to walking 30 minutes 5 days per week can have tremendous health benefits.

Quit Smoking

If you have resolved to make this the year that you stamp out your smoking habit, over-the-counter availability of nicotine replacement therapy now provides easier access to proven quit-smoking aids. Even if you’ve tried to quit before and failed, don’t let it get you down. On average, smokers try about four times before they quit for good. Start enjoying the rest of your smoke-free life! Here in British Columbia, our Medical Services Plan is helping smokers butt-out – please follow this link:

 Quit Or Moderate Your Alcohol Use 

While many people use the New Year as an incentive to finally stop drinking, most are not equipped to make such a drastic lifestyle change all at once. Many heavy drinkers fail to quit cold turkey but do much better when they taper gradually, or even learn to moderate their drinking. If you have decided that you want to stop drinking, there is a world of help and support available. Here’s a link below:

 Get Out of Debt

Was money a big source of stress in your life last year? Money or lack of money can be a significant stressor on families, couples or individuals.  Living in Vancouver is costly and debt can quickly become seemingly insurmountable and affect not only our accounts, but also our emotional health.  From the BC Bar Association, here is a link for information about how to manage debt:

Learn Something New

Learning something new may be one of the easiest goals to achieve as we are often learning as we continue our life’s journey.  Perhaps now is a good time to pick up the oboe or harmonica?  Join a book-club? A new cuisine? Tackling bridge?  Form a knitting group? How about re-learning your high-school Francais?  Evidence points towards the importance of life-long learning as being very healthy for us cognitively, so make learning enjoyable and that provides the incentive to continue to acquire knowledge and greater understanding throughout our lives.

Get Your home Organized

On just about every New Year resolution top ten list, organization can be a very reasonable goal. Whether you want your home organized enough that you can invite someone over on a whim, or your office organized enough that you can find the stapler when you need it, being organized also tends to de-clutter our heads.  I notice that when my home is in disarray that I feel irritable, grouchy and still procrastinate about cleaning my bathtub.  However, when it is all done at the end of the week, with gleaming tiles, papers stacked and organized on my desk, fresh laundry and no dust bunnies careening on the carpets I am cheerful, feel accomplished and ready for the week ahead.     My goal would be to find a way to manage my home through the week – that’s the 3rd Order change – and as mentioned, can be a challenge.

As I’m writing this,  I’m not sure that making resolutions is a great thing…we tend to lose sight of them or their importance over time.  Perhaps setting realistic objectives and trying to incorporate them into our lives is a sufficient goal in itself.
Good luck!
Alan Stamp