Promoting inclusion and mental well-being | Promouvoir l’inclusion et le mieux-être mental
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Combatting bullying one phone call at a time

 Photo courtesy of BullyingCanada
Rob Benn-Frenette, co-founder and executive director of BullyingCanada, an organization dedicated to justice and healing for youth who are bullied, stands in front of the old Fredericton courthouse. Photo courtesy of BullyingCanada
Montreal - Wednesday, September 6, 2023

As a teenage victim of bullying, Rob Benn-Frenette was in desperate search for a resource to help him through his struggles. Unable to find a suitable solution, he, along with Katie Thompson (Neu), co-founded in 2006.  

“We initially were looking to provide a resource for youth who could find a community,” said Benn-Frenette, now executive director of BullyingCanada, referring to their original website. “The initial website provided some information on bullying and community-based resources.” 

An expansion into a 24/7 support hotline occurred in 2011, just as BullyingCanada became a registered Canadian charity based out of Fredericton, New Brunswick. The free and bilingual nationwide support service coaches bullied kids up to the age of 18 on how to deal with bullies. It also acts as a resource for youth and their parents, where they can receive tips on bullying prevention as well as guidance on how to approach individual schools or school boards if the problem persists.  

The hotline is operated by between 70 to 100 rotating volunteers, who undergo a screening process and over 100 hours of what Benn-Frenette describes as “intense” training. This includes preparing support responders for various types of callers and situations, and offering different solutions that can be suggested to people calling the hotline.  

The support line also addresses a glaring problem that dates back to Benn-Frenette’s days as a bullied teen.  

“There were a couple charities that offered an information service where you could reach out and share your story, but anytime you contacted them, you had to share your story again and you were speaking with somebody new,” said Benn-Frenette. “To rehash your story more than once on any victim of bullying is quite difficult.” 

 As the “only wrap-around mental health service for bullied youth,” callers speak with the same volunteer continuously throughout their case, which may last anywhere from a couple days to many months.  

 Benn-Frenette said BullyingCanada’s services are needed now more than ever. In 2022, the charity received over 2.3 million phone calls and saw its website visited more than 282 million times, a sharp increase from pre-pandemic totals. He points to increased time online as one of the catalysts behind this trend. 

 “Nearly every student was studying online, creating this meeting environment where bullying could happen,” he said. “Technology is causing bullying to occur more outside school hours. The positive is that kids are reporting it more. It’s important that we continue the conversation about bullying within the classroom, which doesn’t happen nearly enough.” 

BullyingCanada is holding its first-ever Musicians Rock Against Bullying night on Thursday November 9 at 7 pm at Macallan’s Pub in Dorval. Five bands will each perform a personalized setlist of cover songs during the night. All revenue from ticket sales and sponsorships will go to BullyingCanada. A 50/50 draw and a silent auction will also be held at the event. Tickets are available for $50 at A tax receipt will be issued.