Amanda Todd would have turned 21-years-old on Nov. 27.
Instead her mother Carol Todd marked the milestone year remembering how Amanda wanted to go to Las Vegas to celebrate it.
Amanda committed suicide on Oct. 10, 2012, after years of cyber-bullying. Immediately after her death a video called My Story: Struggling, bullying, suicide and self-harm went viral around the world. The video showed Amanda using flash cards to tell her story silently to a camera. She explained that while using video chat to meet new people she would receive many compliments about her looks. When she was asked to bare her breasts to a stranger, a screen capture taken from the video of that moment started circulating on the internet and was used to blackmail her online.
Even after changing schools numerous times and moving out of the community, the stranger followed her online. He would befriend students, teachers and parents at her new schools through Facebook where he would send them the video.
Amanda began experiencing anxiety, depression and panic attacks. She survived a suicide attempt and began to self mutilate. However, the bullying continued at school leading up until her death when she was only 15-years-old.
“It was a hard one,” said Carol of the passing of Amanda’s birthday.
“Every year is hard. The bigger milestones are even harder. And when you see her friends out there moving forward with their lives and going to college, university, you know, getting boyfriends and settling down. It’s hard,” Amanda’s mother reflected.
Now when Carol drives past the wedding stores that line Columbia Street in New Westminster, instead of feeling excitement for her daughter’s future, the memories of Amanda’s death come flooding back.
But Carol has continued to remain strong over the years, drawing fortitude from the foundation created in her daughter’s name and speaking at engagements that take her all over the world.
“I just completed speaking at all the WE Days across Canada and that was, to me, really inspirational to be in a place where there are so many youth who are leaders that can go back to their schools and communities and do something positive,” said Carol, who has been to almost every WE Day since Amanda’s death.
This year, though, Carol noticed a shift where conversations surrounding mental health and the internet have become more open.
“That was really interesting and an eye opener for me,” said Carol noting that she has heard conversations on how to support others, what can happen on the internet and how there should be a focus on kindness and respecting others.
“I had quite a few conversations with the Kielburger’s about it,” Carol said.
Carol’s audience, though, is mostly professionals, not children or teenagers. Although, she hopes that they are listening. She finds hope in the certain percentage of children who grow up and mature and realize their mistakes.
“I’ve heard many stories where people have actually looked for those people they have victimized in their younger years and apologize. That’s a really good start and it brings tears to both sides of it,” Carol explained.
Amanda’s legacy through the foundation continues to thrive. Carol gets messages of support from all over the world. Recently she received a message from some young girls in Europe who were working on a class project on cyber-bullying and wanted to ask her some questions.
“As you see it’s not just a community problem, it’s a global problem,” she explained.
Carol continues to follow the extradition hearings currently underway in Amsterdam for Amanda’s alleged abuser who is a Dutch resident. He is appealing an extradition to Canada and is due back in court mid-January where Carol is expecting him to make a statement about his offences.
However, Carol doesn’t expect to hear anything that hasn’t been included in Coban’s 690-page book that he has written while waiting in prison.
“It’s in Dutch right now. I managed to get a copy and translate it into English, but it’s all about his injustices,” Carol laughed.
“How everyone has done him wrong including the justice system over there,” she said adding that there are four sections to the book with section three dedicated to Amanda’s story.
She has been unable to read that section, but plans to some day.
Carol continues to be amazed at how the Amanda Todd Legacy Foundation continues to thrive. She never expected Amanda’s story to continue to move people after five years.
“When I am speaking on that WE Day stage or any other platform and I hear silence and everyone listening, it just amazes me still,” said Carol who wants to keep the conversation open, not just about cyber-bullying but also about mental health.
She hopes that more parents will sit down with their children and put away the technology. Have a meal together, play a board game, and talk.
“It’s like just sitting your kids down and just having talk time and listening time. We get so busy in our everyday lives, we don’t make room for that,” she said adding that that’s one thing she would change, if she could, with Amanda, having more sit down times with deeper conversations.
Right now she is taking time to reflect on the past year. She took 28 trips in 2017 to talk about what happened to Amanda, a subject that will always be difficult to talk about. But, Carol says, there is a need to do it.
“Putting myself out there is part of my healing but it’s also necessary to have people listen to real stories,” said Carol.
“We know in Canada because of media publication bans we don’t really talk about death by suicide. If we don’t talk about that we don’t necessarily get the story about mental health, bullying,” she continued.
Carol remembers Amanda as a vivacious, energetic spunky child with lots of different ideas. But now she sees Amanda was also very vulnerable.
“I see her vulnerability more and more,” said Carol.
“Some of it came from the home situation too and I take full responsibility that I didn’t have a handle on how to raise kids,” she said.
“If I could take it all back I would. But what I can do is I can learn from them and share the story and hopefully others will learn from those things.”
“I would give it up all in a heartbeat to have my daughter back.”