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Pink Shirt Day

Putting a stop to bullying
By Dr. Rhonda Collins
Revera was the first company in the Canadian senior living sector to appoint a Chief Medical Officer. In her blog series, Dr. Rhonda Collins offers helpful advice for seniors to lead healthy and fulfilling lives.


The last Wednesday of each February is national anti-bullying day in Canada, also known as Pink Shirt Day. In 2007, a ninth grade student at a school in Nova Scotia was bullied for wearing a pink shirt to his first day of school. Two grade twelve students heard about this and bought and distributed 50 pink shirts at the school the next day. They also emailed their classmates and hundreds of students showed up at school wearing pink as a show of solidarity. The story spread quickly and soon Nova Scotia proclaimed their first anti-bullying day. Other provinces, states and countries have since followed suit.

While this campaign started in a school and was directed toward teaching children to stand up to bullying, it is recognized that bullying takes place not only in schools, but in homes, workplaces and on the internet. Many of us will experience bullying as an adult – even into our golden years. Ageism has been shown to be the most tolerated form of social prejudice and every day, older adults face this reality. It could come from a person posing as a friend, but is trying to control their lives, an aggressive salesperson, or a family member who is demeaning or condescending. Paramahansa Yogananda, the author of Autobiography of a Yogi, said “Some people try to be tall by cutting off the heads of others.”

“Some people try to be tall by cutting off the heads of others.”

According to a 2018 survey by Forum Research, while previous generations were more likely to have experienced physical bullying, verbal bullying is more common now. In the survey, 58 per cent of respondents reported verbal bullying versus 21 per cent who reported physical bullying and 19 per cent who reported emotional bullying.

Bullying can have serious and ongoing impacts on people’s mental health and wellbeing. It has been associated with low self-esteem, negative emotions, depression, anxiety, stress, fatigue and burnout, feelings of helplessness, post-traumatic stress disorder, deterioration in health, increased likelihood of drug and alcohol misuse as a coping mechanism and suicidal thoughts and behaviours.

If you are experiencing bullying, firmly let the bully know that the behaviour will not be tolerated, walk away and don’t get angry as this gives the bully the power. If this doesn’t solve the problem, speak up and let someone know that you’re being targeted by a bully. Something everyone should exercise is to THINK before you speak. Ask yourself is it True? Is it Helpful? Is it Inspiring? Is it Necessary? Be Kind.

Finally, this campaign is about more than just bullying. It is about treating each other with kindness and respect. The focus of the 2020 campaign is to “lift each other up.” There are so many ways to be kind and lift one another’s spirits. It can be as simple as holding a door for someone, buying a coffee, offering a compliment, congratulating somebody on a job well done, offering to help before it is requested and recognizing when someone is struggling. Let’s all make an effort to be kind to one another every day. And I hope to see lots of pink shirts being worn at the end of February.
Dr. Rhonda Collins, Chief Medical Officer of Revera
By Dr. Rhonda Collins
Dr. Rhonda Collins brings passion and expertise in memory care, dementia, falls prevention and clinical quality improvement to the role of Revera’s Chief Medical Officer. Dr. Collins is a family physician with a certificate of added competence in Care of the Elderly from the College of Family Physicians of Canada.