By COURTNEY BEAUMONT
Moved by the suicide of a 14-year-old girl in January, two friends are doing their best to combat cyberbullying.
Northern Territory teenager Dolly Everett took her own life in January this year after going through a troubled time that included sustained bullying by classmates.
People across the country responded to Dolly’s story, including Alexandra Townsend, 15, and Nellie Witt, 14, from regional NSW, who first became friends after both had been victims of cyberbullying.
“It felt very personal to me and it hit close to home. We wanted to rally together as many people as we could against bullying,” Alexandra said.
“We want to show that people will stand up against bullying.”
Alexandra, who had a class project to make anti-bullying posters to put up around her school, recruited her friend Nellie, who lives more than 600km away, to help her out.
Nellie organised the social media side, posting in the private Facebook group Girls Advice and asking for members to send photos of themselves in blue, Dolly’s favourite colour.
That post has now garnered more than 1600 likes and more than 800 photos have been sent in the comments thread.
Alexandra put the images together to make a collage of photos spelling out Dolly, along with a quote from a drawing Dolly had done.
Alexandra said cyberbullying in particular was hard to escape from once it started.
“It gets worse when you get older. With social media they can just hide behind a screen.
“People say just turn off the computer, but it doesn’t work like that, it doesn’t stop and you can’t just walk away,” she said.
They posted the collage across social media to show support for Dolly’s family and to join the fight against cyberbullying and youth suicide.
“We know what it’s like and we wanted to help,” Nellie said.
“Seeing Dolly’s death, it’s shocking and at the end of the day she felt she was alone and it was her last option.”
The girls have urged people to communicate more with their families – even just by asking how their day was.
“There needs to be a uniform approach to bullying in regards to consequences,” Nellie said.
“School and parents should be more involved and there should be an example set.”
Alexandra and Nellie said they had attempted to get in contact with Dolly’s parents to tell them about their collage, but had not heard back.
Since her death, Dolly’s parents have established a charity, Dolly’s Dream, in her memory.
The charity is aiming to raise awareness, support victims and prevent bullying in the community.
Studies from the Government Initiative Bullying. No Way! found more than 84 per cent of teenagers who are bullied online are also bullied in person, with one in five people under 18 experiencing bullying in any one year.
Headspace youth program team leader Amanda Purkiss said she teenagers should be encouraged to speak out against bullying.
“Victims need to know that there is someone behind them who will support them,” she said.
“Headspace aims to provide assistance to people in need. We just want to be a safe space where people feel comfortable.”
• If you or anyone you know is seeking support you can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14; Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467; MensLine Australia 1300 789 978; Kids Helpline 1800 551; 800; Beyond Blue 1300 224 636; Headspace 1800 650 890