The mother of bullied teen Amanda Todd wants the fundraising efforts she has started in her daughter’s name to help shed light on mental illness and prevent more young people from taking their own lives.
Carol Todd, a teacher with the Coquitlam school district, says she hopes her daughter’s story can be used to accomplish something positive.
“This is my baby girl, and for some reason, people around the world have connected with her story,” said Todd. “My hope is that we can harness that interest, and some good can come out of this. Maybe we can save someone else’s kid.”
The Youtube video Amanda posted a month prior to her death detailing the harassment she suffered from an online predator and school bullies, how she descended into drug and alcohol abuse, as well as self harm, has been viewed close to 20 million times.
But Amanda was far from alone, says her mother.
Suicide numbers among females aged 10 to 19 have risen from 50 cases in 1980 to 77 in 2008, according to a report published by the Public Health Agency of Canada earlier this year.
“Personally, I would pay out of my own pocket for someone to look at reasons why young girls are committing suicide,” says Todd. “Until you work out the why, you can’t work out the how.”
To that end, Todd has established a trust fund to support youth mental health, as well as cyber-bullying education and a scholarship fund for students with learning disabilities.
Todd says she was inspired to start the memorial fund in the days after her daughter’s death, when she began to receive countless bouquets of flowers, and realized the money could be better spent elsewhere.
“I wanted all the money people were spending to go to a purposeful thing,” she says. “Then it took on a life of its own.”
Todd says one of the reasons she is sharing her daughter’s story is help shed a light on the problem of mental illness, and how it effects young people.
Before Amanda took her own life, she was treated in hospital for severe depression, receiving counselling and therapy for the anxiety caused by years of torment.
However, when Amanda was released, the bullies mocked her for her mental illness, something no one should have to endure, says Todd.
“Mental illness is invisible,” she says. “And if someone is suffering from mental illness, they’re just ‘crazy’ or ‘psycho.’”
The especially sensitive nature of someone suffering severe depression makes these barbs sting all the worse.
“You can hear all the positive comments in the world, but all it takes is one negative comment to put you right back down,” Todd says.
However, while Todd works to raise funds to prevent future tragedies, Internet scam artists are working to raise funds to line their own pockets.
In recent weeks, a number of fake fundraising campaigns with no connection to the Todd family have sprung up, soliciting donations in Amanda’s name.
“Some people are getting sucked into donating somewhere else, but that money is not going to the kids,” says Todd. “There are some really sick people out there.”
Donations to Amanda’s Memorial Fund, which will help fund mental health and anti-bullying initiates, and to Amanda’s Legacy Fund, which will support students with learning disabilities, can only be made through RBC bank branches, or through the Vancouver Foundation, which is administering the funds in order to allow international donations through the foundation’s website.
Todd says more than $12,000 in donations have already been collected through RBC bank, with more coming into the Vancouver Foundation.
“I don’t know how much they have collected so far, but I understand there have been some big benefactors asking about [the fund],” Todd says.
Currently, Vancouver Foundation manages more than 1,400 endowment funds with a total market value of almost $735 million.