Hate crime and anti-bullying campaigner Adrian Derbyshire visited Myerscough College this week to share his amazing story to students.
In 2008, at the age of 34, Adrian suffered a serious brain haemorrhage due to a large, inoperable, tumour in the core of his brain. The haemorrhage also caused chemical meningitis which left him confined to a wheelchair. After originally only being given days to live he gradually rebuilt his life and went on to become a champion in wheelchair fencing, winning two gold and three silver medals, as well as being ranked number one in Great Britain and winning numerous other titles.
In 2012, Adrian was chosen to be an Olympic torch bearer and also took part in the Paralympic Lantern relay, making him the only person in the UK to be a part of both events. Injury meant he couldn’t compete at the 2012 games, while further misfortune struck when he suffered a burglary at his house in early 2013 in which most of his fencing equipment was stolen and his sports wheelchair was badly damaged. This lead to his retirement from competition
Adrian is now an ambassador and patron for a number of charities in the North West and dedicates his time talking to students in schools colleges and universities about his journey and championing his causes under the motivational slogan of ‘inspire, believe, succeed.’
During his visit to Myerscough, Adrian spoke to students at ength about the dangers and consequences that bullying can have on a person’s life, and revealed his own personal tragedy after his teenage daughter, Julia, took her own life after being the victim of such hate crime online.
Adrian said his own experiences of what can happen should act as a strong deterrent for anyone thinking about engaging in any form of bullying: ‘’ ‘’Julia had a secret life with hidden phones and a false identity as a member of website groups which promoted teenage self-harming and suicide.
'’If as a trained counsellor and ambassador for anti-stigma, bullying and hate crime I was unaware of what was going on, what chance have other parents got?
“Even though I tried to prohibit unsuitable use of the internet she was able to access these through other sources such as friends.
“She was able to talk with and ‘meet’ strangers online who encouraged her to self-harm without thinking of the consequences. I also discovered ‘Keyboard Warriors’ and ‘Trolls’ who criticised her online. She didn’t talk to anyone or utilise the services she had available to her so no one was able to help her.’’
“I can certainly tell any young person out there, there is nothing beautiful about self-harming and taking your own life.’’
“That’s why I keep Julia’s name alive by raising awareness about the problems of teen self-harming and suicides and provide support for families who have gone through something like this, as from my own experiences there is certainly a lack of a support network due to the pressures teens face online.’’
Speaking about his own journey since his illness in 2008, Adrian said: ‘’Every day I wake up is a blessing, but it took me a long time to regain my confidence after what happened. Part of this was down to bullying. They didn’t care about how I felt but the consequences can be long lasting, and were for me.
‘’A huge part of my campaign is to talk about stigma, bullying and hate crime as I’m an official ambassador, but it’s also about inspiring you to be the best that you can be.
‘’I’ve spoken to more than 150,000 schoolchildren and students and the biggest issue is bullying, especially online. It’s risen by 38% in a year. It’s easier to do it online. So many families have lost their kids to suicide because of this. A bit part of my campaign is to encourage people to think a little more about what they say and what they do.
‘’I guest lecture around the world and spoke to many heads about what they do to raise awareness. Many teens don’t realise that what you out on the internet stays there forever. This can have implications when you apply for university, college and jobs. They look through your online presence. Make sure they find the right things and don’t get knocked back because of something you’ve put online.
‘’Bullying can happen online anywhere in the world, 24 hours a day. It can be relentless. I campaign for accountability. Students should be careful. Don’t be the one responsible for tragedy. If you’re doing it or thinking about doing it, for whatever reason, consider the ramifications.’’
You can find out more about Adrian’s work at www.adrianderbyshire.co.uk
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by Dave Salmon