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Staff at Oxford-Elgin Child and Youth Centre wore pink to highlight the need for awareness, support and resources for children and families in need of mental health supports

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Oxford-Elgin Child and Youth Centre staff donned pink shirts and clothing Wednesday to raise awareness about bullying and its potentially devastating outcome.

Andi Wawrzusiak’s job as youth engagement co-ordinator at the organization was actually created in light of a rash of youth suicides in Oxford County in 2016.

Wawrzusiak works one-on-one with local youth in schools and the community as their adult ally to help them create initiatives and groups, where they can come together for support and “let them be heard.”

“Youth recognize that bullying is still a prevalent concern for them in school,” Wawrzusiak said. “It removes their sense of belonging in schools.”

Mamta Chail-Teves, executive director of Oxford-Elgin Child and Youth Centre said often “bullying and suicide go hand in hand.”

“Unfortunately, a number of children and youth have committed suicide due to bullying which can take form in many different ways,” she said.

Chail-Teves said children often don’t know how to manage bullying especially when it happens on a daily basis.

“They become overwhelmed and depressed,” she said. “Suicide may become a factor when a child is under the impression that they are at their limit and feel that leaving this world is the only way that they will be able to escape from the daily torture.”

Pink Shirt Day, which is marked on Feb. 22 every year, is designed to start conversations that will increase awareness, support and resources for children and families in need of mental health care.

“It is important to lend a voice to this issue because we understand that many children and youth suffering mental illness have also been bullied and raise awareness of its impact,” said Chail-Teves. “By wearing pink we have an opportunity to help stop bullying and send a very strong message to victims of bullying that we care.”

Pink Shirt Day began after a male Grade 9 student in Nova Scotia was bullied for wearing a pink shirt and two other students bought and distributed 50 pink shirts to fellow students to wear.

While it started in Canada, it is now celebrated in different countries on various dates.

The youth group Free 2BU meets on Monday at Open Sky at 3 p.m.

HRivers@postmedia.com

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