Presentation explores results of bullying
Bullying Ends Here was the message Tad Milmine, a constable with Calgary Police, brought Wednesday to students at Twin Lakes Secondary School and Patrick Fogarty Catholic Secondary School. MEHREEN SHAHID/THE PACKET & TIMES
Tears streamed down Laura Steiner's face as she could feel the pain Jamie Hubley felt being bullied before he ended his life at 15.
Hubley's story was part of an hour-long presentation at Twin Lakes Secondary School given by Tad Milmine, a Calgary Police constable, who launched Bullying Ends Here. The anti-bullying initiative, launched in 2015, openly shares stories of bullying from Milmine's and Hubley's lives.
"I have a lot of experience with what he (Milmine) was talking about," said Steiner, 14. "It's not nice hearing someone else talking about what they went through, but it's nice knowing I'm not the only one.
“And it’s hard knowing that Jamie ended it and he didn’t get the help that we’re getting now,” she added.
Being a teenager in high school, Steiner said, she's been picked on, called names and been bullied physically.
"I've talked about some of it, but I don't like talking because I feel it makes it worse for me," she said. "I'm very shy. I just feel like there's no way for it to get better and there's nothing to be done, so I might as well not burden people with it."
That is exactly what Milmine felt when, at five years old, his parents split up. His father's girlfriend became his caretaker, unleashing a world of abuse on him.
Milmine was locked up in the basement, served food like a prisoner, and was only let out to go to school. He wasn't safe, even there. Owing to his tendency to cry easily, Milmine was a convenient target for bullies. Believing there wasn't a solution to his problems, he kept his troubles bottled up.
"My dad would come down with his drink in-hand and say to me, 'Just ignore her, Tad,'" recalled Milmine. "She'll stop."
But she never did.
One day, when Milmine was 17, he came home to a tirade of name-calling and shouting. As he sat in the dark basement, hoping it would stop, his father gave him $10 to go out until the air cleared out.
That became his ticket to freedom.
"I just walked around the entire night," said Milmine. "In the middle of the night, the reality hit me: There's not a soul in the world that is going to save me unless I help myself. If I am not reaching out asking for the help, who will help me?"
That realization was the beginning of his journey to becoming a ward of the state, putting his life back together and achieving his dream of becoming a police officer.
Milmine started Bullying Ends Here after he read of Hubley's death and realized how similar their stories were: both had been bullied at school and both for being gay.
Now, during his off time, Milmine visits schools across the country using his own and Hubley's story to spread an anti-bullying message.
Earlier on Wednesday, Milmine had made a stop at Patrick Fogarty Catholic Secondary School before he talked to more than 200 students at Twin Lakes.
"It's too late for some," he said, "but it's not too late for you -- the people in this room."
Milmine said he not only encourages victims but also bystanders to reach out for help.
And to the bullies, he said, "If you choose to continue on a destructive path, when you get caught, you will be held accountable for your words."
After listening to Milmine's candid sharing of his experiences, Steiner said she believes talking can lead to getting proper help.
"It lets me know that I can talk and there's help out there," she said. "I'll definitely try because I know he was able to. It's still going to be really hard, but I could try."
Fellow student Kellie Nicholson said she doesn't get bullied and ignores it even if she does.
"Sometimes, I just run quickly through the halls because I want to get to class, so I don't really talk to people," said the 15-year-old.
As for helping those around her, Nicholson said confiding in a trusted adult is the way to go.
"You don't have to confront someone. You could go to someone you trust, a teacher or someone, and tell them what's going on," she said.
Milmine hoped the students would go home tonight and ask themselves, "Was I the very best I could have been today? That's when you challenge yourself that tomorrow I'm going to be better."
For more information, visit bullyingendshere.ca.