The nation marks anti-bullying week from November 17-21. Meet remarkable young Jodie Manley, who has brought the impact bullying can have into sharp focus.Like many young people, Jodie Manley has encountered prolonged periods of hurtful bullying and isolation as a result of her attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
In spite of the significant difficulties she has faced, the determined 21-year-old has channelled her experience in the most positive way she can, combining her admirable personal insight with her creative talent to produce an animated anti-bullying film.
Jodie decided to make the film last year when her local learning disability youth group, the Arbroath Noisecrackers, embarked upon an anti-bullying project.
“I was very excited to get involved in the project because I know what it feels like to be the victim of bullying. I wanted to do something that would have a strong impact so that people will realise how someone who is being bullied feels, but most importantly, I hoped that the video would help someone who is in that horrible situation to get through it.”
Jodie’s problems with bullying began when she was at primary school but quickly escalated and intensified throughout her five years at high school.
“It was the most awful time of my life. I still can’t believe how cruel some people can be. The bullying was mostly verbal with lots of name-calling using words like ‘retard’, ‘mongol’ and ‘freak’.
“But there was physical bullying too. Kids would throw things across the classroom at me or hit me with stones if they saw me in the park. One boy even stalked me to scare me. He followed me all the way home and I became so frightened that I was in tears.”
Jodie often found that the best way to deal with her bullying was to find a form of escapism. When her mum and brother introduced her to Microsoft Paint, she soon found solace within the ‘abyss of her imagination’, spending hours creating pieces of artwork as a distraction from worrying about bullies, but it was not until she had left school and moved on to college, that a discussion with her counsellor inspired her to use her creative skills to express her feelings.
“My Nana was ill with cancer. I was struggling to cope with that and had begun to take my anger out on other people. The college counsellor had been asking me to explain how I felt and I just couldn’t find the words. Then the idea came to me that I could make an animation strip using Microsoft Paint and that’s where it all started.
“When the Noisecrackers decided to do the campaign I told them that I could make a video for them. I built a story of my experience with bullying by drawing each part of it in Paint. Then, I put my words to it with Microsoft Powerpoint and finally, used Windows Movie Maker to match it all together. I chose the song ‘Simon’ by a band called Lifehouse to play through the film because it’s about a boy who has been bullied telling other sufferers that they are not alone.”
The Arbroath Noisecracker volunteers and Jodie’s friends within the group were ‘blown away’ by her six-minute film, something which pleased her greatly as she wanted them to know how they had helped her move on with her life.
“The end section of the film showed how the support and friendship I have gained from joining the club has helped me. I may not have been able to beat my bullies at the time, but because of the good people in the Noisecrackers, I have gone on to become a happier person. I want other people to get the message that this can happen for them too.”
Jodie’s passionate commitment to getting her message across is paying off. Since making her video, she has been asked to present it on several occasions, including during discussions on anti-bullying policy at the Scottish Parliament. The film has also been viewed by social workers, psychologists and head teachers, all of whom are keen to use the clip as an anti-bullying resource in therapy sessions and in schools – a prospect which fills Jodie with an immense sense of pride.
“I’m so happy to know that other people can learn something from the video. When I was at school there were times when I had friends who supported me, but only in private. Whenever the other bullies were there they got embarrassed and just pretended they didn’t really know me. It felt like everyone hated me and that was upsetting because I knew I had never done anything wrong to anyone. They just didn’t really get me or what I was going through.
“The school’s answer was often to take me out of my classes and away from the bullies, but then that meant that I missed out on what they were teaching in the subjects. My parents asked them to explain to the other pupils that I had ADHD but the teachers thought that it would make me more of a target. It felt like they just shut me away and swept it under the carpet. So my hope is that after seeing this video, everyone will understand things better.”
Jodie explains that making the video has also helped her to raise her self-esteem and she is delighted that what began as a hobby to help her escape from her own worries has developed into something which will help other people.
“So many good things have come out of making the video. I feel more confident because I have had so much praise for what I have done and I also feel that I have moved forward in my life because I’ve turned my bad experience into something really useful.
“I’m looking forward to the future and to building more friendships. Being a part of the Noisecrackers and having good friends around me now, makes it easier to forget that people were bad to me in the past.”