Madison Wilson's friends say bullying victims should speak out
Cape Breton teen Emily Billard says she's looking forward to heading back to school this September — but the anticipation of new classes at a new school is tempered by sadness that she'll be going back without her best friend, Madison Wilson.
"I'm excited about school but I'm also scared because it's a new school. But I know that when I go back … I'll be a mess because Madison won't be there," said Billard, 14.
Wilson died by suicide on Father's Day, one of three teens who committed suicide at Sydney-area middle schools during the school year. Her parents say she was cyberbullied and taunted.
'I didn't see it coming'
Billard said she and Wilson talked about becoming paramedics one day. She said she never knew the extent to which Wilson was bullied and had no idea her best friend was thinking about taking her life.
"I wish she would have talked to me or someone," said Billard.
Rebekah Steele, another friend of Wilson's, said she was blindsided by her friend's death. She found out about it on SnapChat.
"I didn't see it coming. She always seemed happy and I felt guilty because I couldn't do anything," said Steele.
Provincial funding, recommendations
Last week, the provincal government pledged it would provide more support for Cape Breton following a report on youth suicides. Dr. Stan Kutcher, a mental health expert who was called in to investigate the suicides made seven recommendations related to improving supports for youth facing mental-health and other life challenges.
The province will spend $192,000 and immediately begin to implement some of the recommendations.
"It's good to have something done because some people, they might just need that one thing to hold on," said Billard.
Billard said her peers could be doing more to be kind to one another.
"It might be small, like it could be a smile or just say hi in the hallway. It may just hold on for one day, but one day is more," said Billard.
Steele said students need to be more supportive of one another.
"They should just be able to know that someone is there and cares about them and their feelings," said Steele.
"People could be more understanding and take a situation seriously and maybe give these bullies serious consequences for what they've done because they took a life away with words when they just could have been nice."