I think the story behind Pink Shirt Day, which is celebrated on the last Wednesday of each February, is fascinating and uplifting and something we should aspire to every day.
In 2007, a ninth-grade student at a school in Nova Scotia had been bullied for wearing a pink shirt to his first day of school. Two grade-twelve students heard about this and bought and distributed 50 pink shirts at the school the next day. They also emailed their classmates and hundreds of students showed up at school wearing pink as a show of solidarity. The story spread quickly and soon Nova Scotia proclaimed their first anti-bullying day. Other provinces, states, and countries followed suit. It is now celebrated around the world.
“There are a hundred different ways to demonstrate kindness to one another.”
Bullying does not only happen in schools. Many people are bullied in their homes or workplaces as well as on the internet. The definition of bullying is “to seek to harm, intimidate, or coerce (someone perceived as vulnerable).” (1) This could be an aggressive sibling or domineering partner, a demeaning colleague, or a condescending boss. A survey from 2018 demonstrated that 1 in 2 Canadians had experienced workplace bullying, and despite 2 out of every 3 Canadians having workplace bullying policies in place, only 6 out of 10 felt the policies were effective. (2) A bulletin from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) reported that 10-20% of older adults living in senior living communities are mistreated by their peers through criticizing, ridiculing, verbal or physical abuse, and stealing or destroying property and/or lying about the victim to assert power or authority. (3)
Bullying behaviour can have negative consequences on the mental and physical health of both the victims and their bystanders. These include depression, anxiety, fatigue, burnout, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, headaches, and sleep disturbances. Further, a study from 2019 concluded that those exposed to workplace bullying are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease. (4)
This campaign is not simply about preventing bullying, it is about promoting kindness, inclusion and respect. There are a hundred different ways to demonstrate kindness to one another. We can all lift someone’s spirits with simple gestures such as holding the door for somebody, offering congratulations on a job well done, buying a coffee for a colleague, offering to help a stranger. And while being kind to others is important, please remember to be kind to yourself. Just remember to THINK before you speak: Is it True? Is it Helpful? Is it Inspiring? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind?
Let’s be kind to one another. You can start by wearing your pink shirt today.
Learn more about Health & Wellness at Revera.
1. Oxford English Dictionary, 2021
2. The Forum Poll, November 19, 2018: 1 in 2 Canadians have experienced bullying in the workplace
3. AARP Bulletin, March 2012: Older Adults Can Be Bullies, Too
4. European Heart Journal: Workplace bullying and workplace violence as risk factors for cardiovascular disease: a multi-cohort study