Saturday 25 March 2017

Beating the bullies at their own game

Stars sign up to help children in new ISPCC campaign

Eurovision stars Jedward as they appear on posters for the ISPCC's anti-bullying campaign
Eurovision stars Jedward as they appear on posters for the ISPCC's anti-bullying campaign
Actress Saoirse Ronan
Westlife's Mark Feehily

Edel O'Connell

WESTLIFE'S Mark Feehily has revealed how he was subjected to a brutal campaign of bullying by fellow students during his teens -- and now he's doing something about it.

An anti-bullying campaign for the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) which was the brainchild of the Westlife star has resulted in a surge of calls to the organisation's helpline.

'X-Factor' judge Louis Walsh, actress Saoirse Ronan and Eurovision stars Jedward have also signed up for the campaign, which features disturbing photographs of themselves made up to look like assault victims.

The slogan on the Jedward poster reads: "Imagine if every child knew that nothing can ever happen that can't be fixed by someone who cares", while Feehily's states: "Imagine if every child went to sleep without fearing what the next day would bring".

The celebrities have all experienced bullying and agreed to get involved to encourage their young fans to come forward if they are being picked on.

Feehily recalls painful memories of creeping from class to class at school to avoid being brutally beaten, punched and kicked.

"The bruises and blood in my photo might be make-up, but it represents real blood and bruises I had as a result of a very real beating or three I received not long before I joined Westlife. To this day I still have memories of that experience within me that shape who I am," he said.

The singer said the bullying had a devastating effect on his life and, due to suffering in silence, he had some very "low and very lonely periods".

'X-Factor' judge Walsh said: "Going to school, I always thought I wasn't as good as everybody else, so I was lucky to find music but in my business there is a lot of passive aggressive bullying going on as people are in such competition with each other. That's why people drink and take drugs."

ISPCC chief executive Ashley Balbirnie said: "If we are receiving 2,300 calls a day and a sizeable amount of those relate to a form of bullying, that is an indication of how massive this problem is and yet we just accept it."

The charity's national fundraising manager Lloyd Byrne said it had received hundreds of calls over the weekend from children who were being bullied,

"Many of them said they felt encouraged to call after they saw the posters featuring their favourite celebrities," he said.

To contact Childline, phone 1800 666 666, text 'talk' to 50101 or send an email through the website at www.childline.ie.

Irish Independent

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