Vancouver, BC—As Nimrat Mann, 18, roams the halls of her North Vancouver school, confident and vivacious, looking out for the best interests of younger, less-savvy students, it’s hard to believe she was once the victim of extreme bullying—or heading down a dangerous bully path herself. The remarkable person she is today seems almost unfathomable in light of her past. But thanks to the unrelenting support of her mom and Youth Unlimited outreach workers, Nimrat is not only thriving, she’s giving back.
For Nimrat, her life changed from normal to terrifying in grade eight gym-class. A grade 10 girl singled her out with name-calling and hair pulling, that soon evolved to punching, biting and the inclusion of the bully’s grade 10 entourage. Then it went online.
Nimrat recalls the day she tried to get help. Her bully had dragged her across the school field by her ankles, in front of her peers who did nothing to help, only to laugh. The bully told her plainly: “Go kill yourself Nimrat. Nobody likes you.”
According to research from the Canadian Red Cross, 89% of Canadian teachers rank bullying and violence as serious problems in the public school—and cyberbullying as top on their list of concerns.
“According to the Canadian Institute of Health Research, one in three adolescent students report having been bullied recently, and cyber bullying is on the rise,” explains Mark Koop, Executive Director of Youth Unlimited, a non-profit dedicated to helping vulnerable youth.
“The impact of being bullied can be traumatic and persistent. Victims often skip school and their grades and interests plummet.” Koop explains that it’s common for emotional, behavioral and relational problems to therefore develop.
Nimrat’s response was consistent that assessment and evolved to the extreme. She skipped school often to avoid her bully and depression, cutting and suicidal thoughts began. Later that year her mom found her in the bathtub, nearly succeeding at taking her own life.
Nimrat was offered counselling and eventually a new school, but she didn’t have access to the depth or frequency of support she needed. An underlying, profound sadness evolved to anger; she became fascinated with school shooting stories and began to identify with the Columbine shooters.
“It was so weird and gross,” explains Nimrat. “I was in a bad place and becoming obsessed with trying to get revenge on my old school. I wanted them to feel what they did to me.”
Through a series of events, Nimrat’s plans were exposed before coming to fruition, and it started her down a new path in the opposite—and wonderful—direction.
A turning point in that journey was Nimrat’s decision to try a Youth Unlimited cooking class, where she met youth workers who soon became a major support system for her.
“Never in a million years would I have thought that they would care about me,” she says. “In a way, they kind of saved my life.”
Nimrat joined numerous other YU-run clubs. Feeling supported and safe, she flourished.
Koop explains that to really help both the kids who are bullied and the bullies, an anti-bullying stance is just the start.
“Anti-bullying rules are a good start,” he says, “but not hitting the root of the problem. What’s missing is compassion. Eighty percent of parents put achievement and happiness above the importance of caring for others. Teaching the affected community how to have compassion can do a better job of discouraging abuse then rules alone.”
In Nimrat’s life, she is not only learning compassion, she demonstrates it.
“I’ve seen Nimrat stand up for others when bullying becomes an issue,” says Cassia Phillipson, YU youth worker. “Because of what she’s been through, she understands the hurt.’”
Nimrat is enrolled in the Youth Worker program at Douglas College for September and plans to become a teacher to help kids who need support.
Posted on February 17, 2016