Would you believe that 1 in 5 kids is bullied at school because of their skin, atopic dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis or acne.
I was shocked that it was quite that high, but we all know that bullying is a problem at schools, regardless of the reason. Bullies pick on anything they can find that makes you different. Be that your skin, size, background, grades, looks… they’ll find that sensitive spot and attack it.
Earlier this year I met up in London with Magali Reading from Eczema Outreach in Scotland and Alex Holmes of Anti Bullying Pro to discuss this difficult subject. Megali offers support to families or allergic children in Scotland and Alex works with young children and adults in schools to help prevent bullying and challenge the behaviours before they get out of hand.
We spent the whole day recording different interviews with radio stations across the UK and you can listen to the audio below. I hope you find the interviews interesting:
Advice from Jono of Love my face
I listened to an Insta live with Jono Lancaster from Love my Face a few weeks ago and his words were so poignant and pertinent to this discussion.
Jono has Treacher Collin’s Sydrome and Love my face is a charity that helps raise awareness of the condition, which affects how the bones of the face develop and also affect hearing.
Here is a bit of what it said:
Sometimes I can read a comment on social media and it hurts. And more often than not it can be the silliest thing that in that moment just cut so deep. Maybe they catch me off guard, they really hurt. I’m very aware that different place can make it worse, so if I’m alone in my bedroom it hurts more than if I’m out and in the community. I try not to use social media in bed, it helps me rest and go to bed feeling a lot more positive.
Other times, 90% of the time I just feel sad for them, for a lot of reasons. Why do the feel the need to say that? Where does that come from? Why are they so angry? Why are they filled with so much hate. I feel very empathetic and often feel the need to reach out to the troll or bully and end up having a full blown conversation. You never know where the comments come from or why. It’s a reflection on them not me.
I tell myself that I once thought my face would prevent me finding love, work and happiness. but the truth is that the bullies won’t find true love, real happiness or fulfilling work. I have found all three.
I also get so many positive and amazing letters from schools so looking at these really help lift me up.
If people are threatening and mean – Role playing can help. Find someone you trust, or a family member, teacher, friend or colleague and role play situations. Practice come backs and what you would do. You could say, ‘That’s wrong, leave me alone’. Walk off. Smile. Give them a card. Ignore them. If you practise role playing with raised voices etc. when it does happen it isn’t as threatening. Find a safe place if you feel very scared.
Be a voice and intervene if you witness any unkind comments.
If people innocently comment, like kids. Saying they are scared. I smile and look back and say hello and ask where someone is going, what they’re doing. Often this leads to a lovely conversation.
Sometimes people just don’t have the right words or the right way to explain what they want to say.
I hope Jono doesn’t mind me sharing his words here but they were so helpful to me. Having had so many comments about the appearance of my face and hands over the last year or so during topical steroid withdrawal it’s been tough. I’ve found it hard to continue to respond posititely and often find myself close to tears.
On days when I don’t feel like discussing my appearance I have my stock answer, “I’d rather not discuss that thanks,”
But on other days I will continue to explain about topical steroid withdrawal in a positive way. I am healing, my skin improves slowly every day. One day I hope that will be healed. But if not, and this my new normal, with no eye brows and red flaking skin then I think I can come to terms with that.
I believe it is possible to live with eczema and atopic skin and not be reliant on any steroid cream or emollient and I will keep fighting, supporting my body to heal and educating others until things change.
We need to change the way the medical profession and population at large view skin difference. There isn’t a sticking plaster cure, all these treatments have side effects and long term problems.
There is always a better way.
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