From Niagara Falls and CN tower in Toronto to stadiums and city halls from Winnipeg to Langford, the world pledged to glow purple Thursday for Mental Health Day.
Oct. 10 also marked the first anniversary of Amanda Todd’s death, a Port Coquitlam teen who took her own life after struggling with depression and cyberbullying.
For the past six weeks, Amanda’s mother Carol has been drumming up support for the “Light Up the World Purple” campaign (purple being Amanda’s favourite colour), which encourages cities and organizations around the globe to light structures in support of World Mental Health Day.
“This is something we need to do to support one another and raise awareness about mental health issues,” Todd said.
Through social media, Todd got cities in Australia, the U.K. and U.S. to pledge their support.
Niagara Falls was set to light up purple on Thursday as was a bridge in Boston, the Los Angeles Airport, Mac the Moose in Moose Jaw, as well as Science World, B.C. Place and the Langevin Bridge in Calgary Alberta.
In Maple Ridge, the school district decided to focus on Mental Health Day instead of focusing on Todd’s legacy, although she attended school in the local school district for a period.
The concern – shared by other school districts – is that media coverage can contribute to already existing suicidal ideation in vulnerable students, said SD42 spokesperson Irena Pochop.
“So shifting the focus of the conversation to mental health was seen as a safer, healthier and more constructive approach. Carol Todd herself has become a great mental health advocate, so this is the focus for her today as well,” she added.
A few people chose to wear purple on Thursday, including Anelma Brown, vice-principal of Garibaldi secondary in Maple Ridge.
Since Todd’s death, there has been a greater awareness of bullying and harassment, and schools in particular have worked hard to develop strategies to educate students about social media.
For Brown, addressing bullying means building a school where everyone feels accepted.
“We try our best to eradicate it, but it’s high school,” said Brown, noting that social media is a game changer for many students and staff.
A few months before her death, Amanda made a video that described how she had been stalked and bullied online after “flashing” someone online.
The video went viral after she died.
“It’s easy to hide behind the anonymity of a screen and Tweet out. Unfortunately, it still hurts,” said Brown.
“We’ve really gone out of our way to create a culture of care and a culture of acceptance at Garibaldi. I make a point of making letting students know that this is a place where everybody is welcome, that everybody is here to learn.”
Song for Amanda
The story of Amanda Todd’s struggles with cyberbullying and depression after her online activities has been recreated in a tribute video.
Released on the eve of the one-year anniversary of her death, the video recounts Todd’s story along with a song called Believe, by Maple Ridge singer Beatrice Sallis.
Brent Hampton, a Port Coquitlam dad studying and working in the recording arts industry, was a consultant on the project and is helping to publicize the video. He said the images may be difficult to watch, but ultimately the message is positive because it encourages people to believe in themselves.
“The whole purpose of the video, and I think the purpose in the end, is to show people that they don’t have to succumb to people’s suggestions of what they think of you.”
– with files from the Tri-City News.