Introducing : Ditch the Label
After experiencing extreme bullying for a decade of his childhood, Liam Hackett identified a significant gap in the provision for a new, innovative organisation designed to eradicate the impact and prominence of bullying within the UK. Now, several years on and Liam is the CEO of the national anti-bullying charity, Ditch the Label. To date, the charity has helped thousands of young people and produced groundbreaking new interventions and insights that have gone on to make huge impacts to society, policy and public attitudes towards bullying. The charity is doing an incredible job.
Bullying in numbers :
Ditch The Label’s ‘Annual Bullying Survey’ has been produced in partnership with 37 schools and colleges from across the UK and has surveyed over 5,000 young people aged 13-22 as a means of measuring the current climate of bullying across.
- 45% of the young people surveyed have experienced bullying
- Of those who have experienced bullying, 61% have been physically attacked
- 29% have experienced extreme verbal bullying
- 55% have experienced cyberbullying
- 63% of those with a physical disability are bullied, and were more likely to experience extreme verbal bullying and to be extremely socially excluded
- 67% had self harmed and 40% had tried to take their own lives, both figures are significantly above average
For someone that doesn’t know too much about Ditch the Label, could you give us an introduction about who you are and what you do
We are a provider of innovative advice, support and intervention programs designed to benefit young people who are impacted by bullying within the UK as well as to their parents, guardians, teaching professionals, other charities and Governmental agencies.
Through our education interventions and research, we link the issue of bullying to wider societal issues surrounding equality and discrimination; encouraging young people to embrace and celebrate who they are, whilst becoming active global citizens.
Ditch the Label was established to cater to slightly older teens who perhaps feel alienated or embarrassed about accessing existing provisions. We believe that it is important to produce innovative interventions that are designed to give young people the tools that they need to overcome bullying and the harmful effects that it creates. We also work extensively across the country to teach young people one important thing: it’s okay to be different.
Where did the idea come from?
I had always been bullied throughout school, lasting for 10 years. Towards the end of high school, I was publicly outed as being gay, which was against my wishes. As a result, I was physically attacked and sent home from school. Soon after, I was ambushed by a gang of bullies outside of school and was admitted to hospital for stitches across my face for the injuries they caused as they bashed my head against a car.
Needless to say, I had very low self-esteem and self-worth at the age of 16 and turned to suicidal thoughts and self harm as a coping mechanism. Despite the adversity, I finished school with most of my grades being A*/A. I had never had many friends at school and was referred to as the “gay one”. There were extreme levels of homophobia and I grew up in total resentment of myself.
Through a combination of counselling and the peer support I received at college, I began to come to terms with myself and identified that bullying was an issue affecting many others.
“Needless to say, I had very low self-esteem and self-worth at the age of 16 and turned to suicidal thoughts and self harm as a coping mechanism.”
It’s clearly something you’re very passionate about. Did you have any support with turning your idea into a reality?
After graduating from University in 2012, I set up both Ditch the Label and my digital marketing agency, Hackett and Tiger. Having never run a business before, there was a lot that I quickly had to learn on the job and certainly the first 12 months were a real struggle. With Ditch the Label, we found that we were constantly knocking on closed doors and were really finding it difficult to get people to listen to us. It is only recently that people have become much more aware of Ditch the Label and the work that we do and as such the doors have started to open for us.
I have fantastic support from the talented Ditch the Label team, along with our board of trustees and advisors. Over time, I have built a great network of people who are as passionate about making real difference as we are and they have all become great sources of support.
From my experience, I believe that there is a huge need for greater support to people setting up charities and commercial organisations. It is a minefield out there and it can be a very scary process. We still have not received any formal funding and are funding all of our work ourselves, which in itself is difficult but we’re doing it and we continue to believe in the cause and message of Ditch the Label.
What advice would you give to someone who believes they have a great idea for a new business or social enterprise, but really doesn’t know where to go to move it forward?
I always say that running a business is like having a newborn child – it isn’t something that you can do for 40 hours a week; rather it’s a completely new way of life. Setting up your own business or charity is not something that should be taken lightly; think about exactly what you want to do and do your research. Have a look to see what’s already out there and find yourself a niche or a new way of doing it.
Running a business is an incredibly emotional journey; some days you’re about to conquer the world and other times you’re sat staring at balance sheets stressing about the bills and wondering what on Earth you’re doing. You quickly learn to ride the emotional roller-coaster and develop the appropriate coping mechanisms.
I have relied quite heavily on my friends and family for emotional support and have had expert input with regards to support for Ditch the Label and Hackett and Tiger. Mainly, I have just done my research and got on with it. You learn a lot on the job and there have been some really cringe worthy moments, but we’ve all been there!
Are there any networks, groups or online resources that you’ve found useful to learn new skills to develop yourself, your team and Ditch the Label?
I’d say the biggest network for us would be Twitter. We use it to connect with a lot of potential partners, celebrity ambassadors and supporters of the Ditch the Label charity. For the more complex stuff, we usually work with other organisations and experts offline, given the sensitivity of the work that we do.
“From my experience, I believe that there is a huge need for greater support to people setting up charities and commercial organisations. It is a minefield out there and it can be a very scary process.”
How do you think we can all support putting an end to bullying in schools?
As a former victim of bullying myself, I really do believe that bullying still isn’t taken as seriously as it should be. I have seen it literally ruin lives and shatter the self-esteem of people who have experienced it and certainly, as our research has found – these experiences are all too common.
At Ditch the Label, we believe that everybody in society has a role to play in helping reduce the effect and prominence of bullying. Schools, colleges and Government need to invest more in their anti-bullying interventions and need to work with fresh organisations, like ours, to deliver innovative and new ways of tackling the issues. Young people do not want regurgitated content. They do not want to be told to ignore it and they have very little faith in using teachers as reliable support networks which desperately needs to change.
As a society, we need to stop normalising bullying as “part of growing up” and need to stop downplaying the impacts. We all need to group together to teach our future generations that it is okay to be different.
Cyber bullying is on the increase too. This is something you’ve personally experienced. What more can be done to protect people from this bullying and how can people report it?
The whole issue of cyber bullying is something that we must all work together in order to prevent. It is not just the responsibility of social network outlets, but rather on society as a whole to completely denormalise the behaviour. All of the Ditch the Label interventions have a three tongued design which means that we work to engage not only with those who experience bullying, but also the perpetrators and bystanders too.
Social media outlets, do indeed need to invest more resources into the quality moderation of their networks; both reactively and proactively. Whilst we are seeing progressive improvements, they are often too little and too late.
Schools, colleges and other youth organisations need to ensure that their staff are fully trained and know all about the latest technologies and social media networks that young people are using. This also extends to practically any adult with duty of care to young people.
Whilst we have seen changes to legislation in recent years, it is often difficult to prosecute for more serious, chronic incidents of cyber bullying and online harassments. We need greater transparency of the law and stronger sanctions for repeat offenders. We are strong advocates of resolving issues in a holistic way, through the use of mediation and restorative justice and these methods should certainly be used in the first instance.
It is important for young people to feel like they can approach you with something that is troubling them and they will often look to an adult for help in resolving their problems, whether they are based online or offline.
If someone is currently being bullied or knows of someone who is, can you give any advice on who they should report it to?
When you’re being bullied, it is all too easy to internalise that hurt and pain and to keep it locked up inside. Not only can it be embarrassing and difficult to talk about, but as humans, we all occasionally make the error of trying to deal with tough things alone. The most important thing is to be open about your experiences and to tell people who you trust; it could be a family member, a friend, a teacher or a counsellor – whoever you feel comfortable talking to.
It is also important that you report the bullying to an authority – a teacher or manager for example. In serious cases, which involve assault, hate crime or prolonged bullying, it may be more relevant to report it to the Police.
Whilst it can be initially scary, we are huge ambassadors of mediation – which is when you talk to the person who is bullying you in a controlled environment and get an opportunity to tell them how it makes you feel. It can be an incredibly empathetic way of dealing with it as some people don’t respond well to punishment.
For more complex issues or if you feel like you’re not being taken seriously, I would advise that you should contact us at Ditch the Label for more suited advice. We can actually approach an organisation on your behalf, without naming you and can advise them on ways in which we could help.
‘It gets better’, right?
Largely speaking: yes it does get better. It got loads better for me, as I found that people became more accepting and less concerned about the small, insignificant details such as your sexuality or skin colour. I turned an incredibly negative experience into a positive and used it to help other people in a similar situation to what I once was.
Unfortunately, our research shows that for some people, bullying can have a long lasting impact upon their esteem, future career prospects and relationships. Sometimes, also, those that have experienced bullying can turn into bullies themselves and often without realising.
How can our readers and members support your fantastic work?
There’s loads you can do to help us continue to grow our interventions; whether it be through buying some of our merchandise, fundraising or donating some of your time and expertise to help us. Either contact us via our website or visit www.DitchtheLabel.org and click “Help Us” to see how you could help. As an independent charity, we are heavily reliant upon the generosity and support of individuals and businesses.
What’s next for Ditch the Label?
It’s an incredibly exciting time for all of us at Ditch the Label – we have grown very quickly over the past 12 months and are now working with more schools, colleges and other youth organisations than ever before. We produce some of the most comprehensive research in the world and continue to impact thousands of young people across the UK.
As one of the UK’s most pioneering charities, innovation is at the core of all that we do. We are heavily against the regurgitation of old “tried and tested” content; as young people tell us that they provide very little support. Young people also tell us that they often feel disempowered and are too scared to open up about bullying and the related issues and we want to change this.
We are working extensively behind the scenes on new interventions and ways of doing things that have never been done before. As part of our process, we are working with young people, other organisations and with experts from a variety of related fields.
“Unfortunately, our research shows that for some people, bullying can have a long lasting impact upon their esteem, future career prospects and relationships. Sometimes, also, those that have experienced bullying can turn into bullies themselves and often without realising.”
FOLLOW LIAM :
More about Liam
Role model growing up?
I never really had a particular role model, rather I just liked certain traits of people or was a fan of the work that they did.
Ideal night out?
An ideal night out would probably be dinner with friends, followed by cocktails and as much as it pains me to say it, probably roam home at around 3am after going clubbing.
Ideal night in?
Cuddled up on the sofa with a takeaway, a movie and copious amounts of carbohydrates.
Most cherished possession?
I come from quite a small family and as a result, we are all incredibly close. My mum is my best friend and I rarely go a day without speaking to her.