"The Smile of the child" on the tragic bullicide incident of a 15-year-old boy in Athens, Greece

"The Smile of the child" on the tragic bullicide incident of a 15-year-old boy in Athens, Greece

Athens, 9 July 2018

Following the tragic incident of the suicide of a 15-year-old boy in Athens, who according to information was a victim of bullying, “The Smile of the Child” calls for the immediate action of all national and European actors and authorities in order to promote all the necessary measures for the empowerment of school communities and the protection of children.

“I am afraid to tell my parents”, “I don’t want to go to school”, “Kids are making fun of me”, “I can’t sleep at night”, “I give my pocket money to him every day”… are some of the reactions of children who call for help at “The Smile of the Child”. Can you fathom that your child does not want to go to school or he/she can’t sleep at night because someone is bothering him/her? Can you tolerate the thought that some children cannot take these kinds of “jokes” or the humiliation anymore and want to put an end to their lives?

The loss of one more child victim of severe bullying proves the absence of a National Action Plan for preventing and tackling this modern scourge, as well as the lack of a common European strategy and antibullying policy on what has turned into a public health issue that does not fall into the common types of violence. As a result, the phenomenon is not addressed in a holistic way, but only in a scattered manner by some teachers who have the personal willingness and interest in empowering students and the school environment.

In addition, this incident highlights once more the inability of competent actors to utilize and integrate existing antibullying tools and practices into the field of prevention and intervention, as well as the inability of the State to inform properly, train and empower teachers and parents who are usually the first to witness bullying incidents and should mobilize.

The immediate response of the Ministry of Education, parents/guardians, teachers and other competent actors, as well as society as a whole, is considered imperative to prevent similar incidents and situations that pose an immediate danger to the lives of children and young people with irreversible consequences.

Our experience, through our daily presence in all schools across the country, as well as the calls that we receive at the National Helpline for Children SOS 1056 and on social media, has shown us that bullying is not a passing “trend”, but a phenomenon that exists inside and outside the school community. Bullying is not a common violence among children or a game, but a problem that has become a public health issue that needs to be addressed and prevented through the development of proper tools and practices at the national and European levels.

Bullicide meets no borders. The suicide of a teenage girl in Piraeus, Greece, the suicide of Carolina Picchio in Italy or Amanda Todd in Canada are only some of the tragic incidents that came onto the surface of publicity.  According to a recent survey conducted by YALE University, children who experience school violence or bullying are 2 to 9 times more likely to think of suicide than children who do not have such a negative experience. Moreover, a recent UK research has shown that half of the suicide incidents of young people are related with school violence and bullying experiences.

“The Smile of the Child” through its actions of prevention, awareness and intervention has supported many children who experienced a similar situation and has prevented many children from hurting themselves, in cooperation with the competent authorities and more specifically with the Cyber-Crime Unit of the Hellenic Police.

Based on a Memorandum of Cooperation between “The Smile of the Child” and the Hellenic Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs, the Organization has set all its services, experience and internationally recognized good practices and tools at the disposal of state actors. Briefly:

  • Interactive interventions of prevention and awareness raising in school communities and training to teachers of primary and secondary education carried out by specialized Psychologists
  • Interactive educational tools of prevention and intervention and “Bullying Diaries”, a documentary produced in the framework of the EU-funded “European Antibullying Network” project
  • The Day Center staffed by a specialized multi-disciplinary team which provides individualized services of mental health to children and adolescents, victims of abuse, neglect, domestic violence and bullying
  • The cooperation between “The Smile of the Child” and Facebook based on the Trusted NGO partner status of the Organization with the goal to step up prevention and tackle the bullicide incidents on the Internet
  • The work, experience, tools and good practices developed in the framework of the European Antibullying Network (EAN), presided by “The Smile of the Child” and in cooperation with 22 members from Europe and the United States
  • The process of developing a tool of an antibullying certification and support to schools in Europe through the participation of the EAN network in the EU-funded “Anti-Bullying Certification-ABC” project, whose final goal is to encourage all the respective Ministries of Education across the EU to adopt criteria and mechanisms that will empower school communities and students
  • “ODYSSEAS”, the 1st Mobile Lab of Information, Education and Technology