In a new RTÉ show exposing the culture of childhood bullying, former Westlife star Mark Feehily has told how he was cruelly taunted over his weight as a schoolboy.
According to Lynne Kelleher
writing in The Irish Examiner,
the Sligo star, who has been vocal about his abuse during his school days, said he still gets flashbacks to the physical attacks he suffered at the hands of bullies.
The singer highlights his painful experiences in a new series, Bullyproof, fronted by the clinical psychologist David Coleman.
He said: "Some of the more intense moments of the bullying are still with me, very much, in terms of the physical attacks and stuff like that.
"There were times at school when I got attacked from behind or whatever and there’s times when I’d be walking on the street to this day and I’ll have flashbacks and have little moments of panic attacks."
Even though he became an international pop icon in his late teens, he said his self-esteem suffered because of the cruel taunts.
"My self-esteem wasn’t great in school, definitely not."
He said if loads of people pick out things about you, whether it’s being chubby or whatever, your own image of yourself becomes distorted. "It just kind of eats away at you."
In the new three-part series for RTÉ, David Coleman offers therapeutic support to a number of teens and pre-teens, and their families, who have been affected by bullying — either as a target or as a bully.
The TV psychologist, who has fronted a string of documentaries for RTÉ, gives those troubled by bullying practical tips to protect themselves in an attempt to gain perspective on their bullying experiences and show them ways to rebuild their self-esteem.
He said one of the aims of the series is to enable people understand that bullying does not have to be tolerated in silence.
"If you ignore bullying it doesn’t go away," he said.
He points out that bullying is not a form of "toughening up" that children need to pass through as some form of character development, but rather it is an indication that adults are not in charge and are not being responsible.
"We need to be proactive and determined that we want a society where people treat each other with respect," he said.
The Westlife star has been staying out of the limelight since the boyband split in the summer.
His bandmate Nicky Byrne has been busy fronting his new football series with RTÉ, Football’s Next Star, and testing out his ballroom skills on Strictly Come Dancing.
Kian Egan has been the most high profile member with his judging spot on the Irish Voice talent show, along with a presenting role on the new series of Surprise Surprise and a slot of ITV’s This Morning.
Meanwhile, Shane Filan is busy recording his first solo album with LoFeehily has also expressed an interest in pursuing his own music projects but he has yet to go public with his plans.
* Bullyproof will be shown on RTÉ One tonight at 10.15pm.