CORNER BROOK A Corner Brook man is very familiar with the effects of bullying and suicide on those who are left behind.
Christian Corbet is organizing a candlelight vigil tonight to mark the Day of Purple, an event remembering those who committed suicide as a result of bullying.
When the Corner Brook artist was 32 years old his mother drove her car from Brampton to Orangeville, Ont. one February night, swallowing numerous pills, including antidepressants, along the way.
She stopped the car when she got to a park at the dead end of a road. She locked herself out of the car.
A couple of joggers found her dead the next day about 50 feet from the car wearing a light sweater and track pants.
She may not have been the subject of ridicule or violence right before she died, but Corbet believes being bullied set her on a course toward suicide.
That was not his family’s first brush with suicide.
When he was four, Corbet and his family went to his mother’s parents house on Christmas Day. When they arrived they were met by his grandfather who warned them not to go in the house.
The whole family went inside and when they got to the kitchen, they saw blood spattered on the walls and a crimson trail leading around the corner.
His grandmother had tried to commit suicide by slashing her wrists.
“That vision in my head, I’ve tried to shake it and I just can’t,” Corbet said.
“To this very day I just can’t.”
His grandfather had gone next door to deliver some Christmas gifts and in the time he was gone, she had tried to kill herself.
“She survived, but I heard stories from my mother that she was bullied for things like she was diabetic,” Corbet said.
He said his grandmother was constantly tormented by people in her community.
She was morbidly obese, had survived heart attacks, severe weight loss and severe weight gains. She’d been in comas a couple of times and survived that, too.
Corbet was the target of bullies himself as a child. He was overweight, his family had more money than the families of most other children he knew and he wasn’t clear on his sexuality at the time.
“I was picked on because everyone else knew I was gay, but I didn’t at the time,” he said.
“I don’t think anyone’s exempt from being bullied. I think everyone has been bullied.”
People need to learn to treat people better, he said and being beaten up on a daily basis is unacceptable.
One particularly hurtful incident was harder than having his head sat upon because it came as an attack on his independence.
He remembers locking up his bike outside school when he was around 13.
When he came out, he didn’t get very far before a pedal came off. He tried to fix it and couldn’t, but managed to start riding again. Then the seat gave way. As he worked at one problem another cropped up in a frustrating cascade.
“Granted, that could be seen as a Charlie Chaplin comedy skit, but when you’ve endured so many years of torment and bullying and this was such a silent way of doing it, that it was even more painful,” he said.
“They couldn’t even say to my face how they felt about me — the collapse of a bicycle.”
In the past Corbet said he hadn’t encountered significant problems with bullying in Corner Brook. For him that’s true, but harassment is still a big problem.
“Corner Brook’s been good,” he said. “This whole island has been good, but bullying is happening all the time. I think people don’t realize that it is bullying.”
The event goes ahead 10 p.m. tonight at the Capt. James Cook monument.