#28 Pink Shirt Day: Compassion curbs bullying

"If you want others to be happy, practise compassion. If you want to be happy, practise compassion." - Dalai Lama

This Friday 18 May is Pink Shirt Day; a day for us all to stop and think about what we can do to prevent bullying in our communities.

When we think about bullying we tend to immediately think of children, school kids and teenage peer pressure. But it's a much wider issue than that and applies to all of us, no matter our age or occupation.

Disabled people can be and often are the subject of bullying, as they go through school, enter the workplace, or participate in the community around them. It's interesting to think about some of the reasons why people may feel the need to bully a person with a disability. Is it because they feel uncomfortable and don't know how to interact with the person? For example, do they feel uncomfortable using NZSL, or helping an elderly person up some stairs? Is it because they have a misconceived attitude about the capacity of disabled people? Or is it because we are often too impatient and lacking in empathy in today's fast-paced world?

Hayley Holt filming the Pink Shirt Day anti-bullying videoClick here to watch this great video produced by Borderless Productions for the Mental Health Foundation which demonstrates that bullying happens to all people and that we all have the power to prevent it, whether we are the bully, the victim, or the person standing by and watching. They tell us that "Everyone has the power to ask for help, the power to change behavior and the power to intervene. What you do makes a difference, so take action."

The origin of Pink Shirt Day began in Canada in 2007 when a group of students stood up to defend a kid who was bullied because he was wearing a pink shirt. The students took a stand by all wearing pink shirts to show solidarity.

So what will you wearing a pink shirt this Friday do to help the cause? Well, you might start a conversation with someone about why you're wearing it, and in turn create awareness about the presence of bullying in schools, the workplace or even at home. Talking about this issue generates empathy and understanding, and will hopefully help to prevent it in the future.

Whatever the reason, bullying is never justified, and we all have the power to change the world around us for the better. Step up for someone that you can see being bullied. Do the opposite, and do something kind for a friend or stranger. Be patient and compassionate towards all people, no matter what their abilities are. We are all human beings and have the right to be respected, and included in our communities. Hayley Holt who appears in the Pink Shirt Day video told the NZ Herald that, "We need to celebrate our differences", rather than become bullies because of our fear our those differences.

If you'd like to know more about Pink Shirt Day, click here to head to their website or here for their Facebook page to read more about what you can do to stop bullying. And show your support by wearing a pink shirt this Friday!