A TEENAGER who once considered taking her own life after falling victim to cyber-bullying is now helping other victims stand up to their online tormentors.

Easingwold School pupil Natalie Farzaneh, 15, of Sheriff Hutton, near York, has become a motivational speaker and is conducting house assemblies all this week to mark anti-bullying week.

She is also taking citizenship classes, sells wrist bands for an anti-bullying charity, and she mentors pupils suffering from such problems.

The half-Iranian schoolgirl told yesterday how she was already suffering from physical bullying at school, from pupils making fun of her weight and Middle Eastern looks, when the problems worsened online.

She said she had been insulted, spat at and at times attacked in the school corridor, but at least when she got home she had felt safe. However, after signing up first to Facebook and later linking her online profile to Formspring, another social networking site, she felt as if she had nowhere to hide.

“I got messages from people telling me to kill myself and saying that the world would be better off without me and that everybody hated me,” she said.

“Soon I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I lost all self esteem and became paranoid about people. At one stage I even began to feel suicidal and I started to self harm.”

She said that when teachers heard about the abuse at school, they intervened to protect her and disciplined the abusers.

She said she complained about the abuse on Formspring and her linked Facebook page through Facebook’s reporting mechanism, but received no response.

But then she began to get involved in youth work and signed up to the CyberMentoring programme run by the Beatbullying charity, and helping others to deal with online bullying helped her regain her own sense of self-esteem and confidence. “Other people could see what I was doing and they began to respect me as well and the bullying stopped.”

School assistant head, John Butcher, said he would not pretend bullying never happened at the school, as it happened at all schools. “But when we become aware of it, we act immediately and do our level best to deal with it.”

Panda Gledhill, a youth advocate at the school, said: “She is our anti-bullying ambassador. She never lets it go. She is amazing – she has turned her life around and she inspires me.”

Competition to mark anti-bullying week

YOUNG people in East Yorkshire are being urged to take part in a writing competition to mark the start of anti-bullying week.

The contest has been devised by Speak Solve Stop, an anti-bullying group supported by East Riding of Yorkshire Council youth support workers.

Youngsters are being asked to write a short story or poem based on the theme: Stop And Think, Words Can Hurt, with two age groups – 11-14 and 15-19, and entries being no more than 500 words.

Prizes will be awarded to the best stories or poems.

Entries, complete with name and address, can be sent to Short Story/Poetry Competition, Speak, Solve, Stop, Room AF28, Youth Support Service, County Hall, Beverley, East Riding of Yorkshire, HU17 9BA or entries can be emailed to abwcomp@eastriding.gov.uk or handed in to local libraries. The closing date for entries is December 9, 2011.

Facebook danger for youngsters

PRIMARY school children in York have reported being bullied on Facebook, according to a York St John University researcher.

Nathalie Noret said yesterday that Facebook was probably the Internet location where most bullying was reported, and a number of primary school pupils were affected as well as secondary, even though people were not meant to join Facebook until they were older.

She said online bullying nowadays included embarrassing photos being posted on Facebook almost immediately after they had been taken.

The Press revealed in 2006 how, according to her research, bullies had used text-messages and emails to target more than 1,600 York children in just four years, with nearly one in five pupils in the city suffering from “digital bullying.”

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Brave to speak out on bullying

TEENAGER Natalie Farzaneh has shown enormous courage in speaking out about bullying.

At one point the 15-year-old, from Sheriff Hutton, near York, considered taking her own life. She was insulted, spat at and attacked at school by pupils mocking her weight and looks.

Then, after she signed up to social networking sites Facebook and Formspring, the bullying followed her home, where she had previously felt safe. “I got messages telling me to kill myself and saying that the world would be better off without me,” she said.

The effect of such vicious abuse on a vulnerable teenager can only be imagined.

But to her huge credit, Natalie managed to rise above it – and now helps other victims of bullying stand up to their tormentors.

She has become a motivational speaker and mentor, conducts assemblies and citizenship classes, and has also signed up to the CyberMentoring programme run by charity Beatbullying. Helping others deal with online bullying helped her regain her own confidence, she says. “Other people could see what I was doing and they began to respect me.”

So they should. Bullies are cowards. Natalie has demonstrated that she is anything but. We hope those who used to torment this brave young woman feel suitably ashamed.

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