Bullied teen battles back

Alberta anti-bullying advocate uses her story to inspire others

BY ALYSSA PARKHILL

Bullying drove Alberta teen Mackenzie Murphy to attempt to take her own life.

Murphy was in and out of the hospital nine times in the span of three years. At only 13 years old Murphy dealt with discovering usual woes of puberty all the while battling mental illnesses that were taking over her life.

“Bullying fuelled the fire of my inner insecurities and underlining mental illness. I was brought to a really dark place where I believed everyone would happier if I was gone,” says Murphy, now 19.“Thus, began the chronic suicidal thoughts and self-harm to cope with these overwhelming, and sometimes unexplained bouts of sadness, anger and anxiety.”

Mackenzie Murphy, 19-year-old anti-bullying advocate. (Photo courtesy of Mackenzie Murphy)

On her final visit to the hospital, Murphy was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Trait. Different emotions flowed through her while digesting her new diagnosis; anger, relief, confusion and hope.

“To cope with this massive change in my life, I took everything one day at a time,” says Murphy.

In recovery, Murphy took it upon herself to reach out to her city mayor Peter Brown for an anti-bullying bylaw in Airdrie, Alberta that would fine those who inflicted torment on others. She did this to protect and provide support for victims of bullying, support that she wished she had.

She proposed this bylaw not to hurt the bullies, as she began to understand that they are victims too.

“I got to work on proposing a bylaw that would not only help victims of bullying, but support the bully through therapy as well,” says Murphy. “I understood both sides of bullying, and felt fining bullies wasn’t the answer.

“The bylaw was passed September, 2013. Now, after defining bullying as a repeated hostile or demeaning behaviour, through any means whatsoever, the court can order a fine of $500 for a first offence that can be reduced to $125 with the attendance of an anti-bullying counselling session.”

Murphy’s story has been told all over Canada, allowing her to connect and help others who are going through similar battles. She has been given the opportunity to share her story and speak about her mental illness struggles to help others.

“The scariest part about mental illness is thinking you’re the only one out there that knows this pain. Sometimes, it can feel like you’re carrying it all on your own,” says Murphy. “When I would hear the stories of others who had described to me the same scary and overwhelming hurt I felt, a sense of ease came over me. This entire journey has been about creating a community of people who can share that weight and feel understood

“Sharing my story has not only been about helping others, those in the audience are helping me heal as well by allowing me to feel understood.”

Murphy’s goal is to get through college. She explains that she would love to see herself working for a mental health organization like Centre for Addictions and Mental Health and be able to contribute to the mental health community. “I hope to see the next generation unapologetically proud of mental health and feel supported if they reach out for help,” says Murphy.

In 2014, Murphy won the Me to We award for social activism and received the International Diana Award named for the Princess of Wales for her dedication in being an anti-bullying advocate.

Murphy continues to inspire and support others dealing with mental health.

“The biggest thing I learned is that recovery is a lifestyle that you have to constantly work at. And when I don’t leave time to work at it, I slip, and those slips are natural and okay,” says Murphy. “They are reminders of how far I’ve come, and how important making the time for myself and to my mental health is.”

Alyssa Parkhill
About Alyssa Parkhill 5 Articles
Alyssa Parkhill is a Journalism student at Sheridan College. She lives in Mississauga, Ontario. Alyssa is an avid reader, and displays a strong passion for writing and all things literature.

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