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WESTLIFE BULLY HELL; Bryan and Mark reveal years of torment during time at school.

Byline: JOHN DINGWALL EXCLUSIVE

WESTLIFE stars Bryan McFadden and Mark Feehily have told of the pain of being bullied as teenagers, in response to the Record's Save Our Kids campaign.

Yesterday, Bryan and Mark made an emotional appeal to Scots everywhere to recognise the pressures kids face at school.

The Irish superstars have been backed by band pals Kian Egan, Shane Lynch and Nicky Byrne in calling on Scots children to speak out about bullying and abuse.

Mark and Bryan say their own school years were made a living hell by bullies.

While Bryan eventually developed a sense of humour to deal with relentless taunts about his weight, Mark's bullying got so bad he was afraid to walk from class to class for fear of being beaten up. Overcome with emotion at the Record's Save Our Kids coverage, Bryan said: "I was bullied throughout my schooldays for being overweight, but in some ways it helped me.

"It hurt me a lot, especially as a youngster, but eventually I just got so used to being knocked.

"Because I got bullied so much, I actually worked on my confidence and somehow managed to build up my self-esteem.

"Rightly or wrongly, I learned to accept the bullying and it made me a better person in the long run.

"Even though it hurt, it was important for me to learn from it.

"I thought if I could try to get some control over the bullying, I could perhaps get through it.

"I don't know how I coped. I just think I got so used to being bullied that I let it go. It almost became a part of my life.

"When people called me fat it would just bounce off me.

"It made me witty because I got so used to firing quick, one-line answers back at people."

Mark added: "I was very quiet in school and that attracted the bullies.

"They tend to pick on people who are different in any way but it is much more interesting than being the same as anyone else.

"I used to feel too embarrassed to tell anyone about what was being done.

"I feel now that I shouldn't have been afraid to speak up because there is nothing to be embarrassed about if you are being bullied.

"I know a lot of kids look at teachers as if they are aliens but they will listen and understand. Often they can do something about it.

"Nine in 10 people at school are very nice and genuine. Just that one in 10 is a bad apple or a bully. Don't let them ruin your school years."

The band joined in to praise the Record's campaign.

Nicky said: "Anything which helps people talk about the problem is a good thing. People can find a release from their anger and hurt. It's also important for these bullies to be made to realise that it's not acceptable behaviour."

His voice breaking, Mark added: "People take drastic measures because they are too alone to deal with the pressure.

" I knew a friend who committed suicide because his sister's boyfriend killed himself. They were close and he couldn't deal with it.

"For me, it was bullying which proved hard to handle.

"It got to the point where I was afraid to go from class to class because there were people after me. It's not very nice to be a victim of that sort of thing.

"The minute I told my parents, all the emotion flowed out of me. I was crying but I didn't feel half as bad afterwards.

" It was such a great relief, in a way, I almost felt a bit daft.

"Talking about the problem seemed to take away the intensity of the pain. Unfortunately, people lose all their confidence and start believing what bullies say.

"It is really sad that a lot of people are hurt by bullies who think they are having a laugh.

"These people should be told to stop but they should also be given help, to make them realise it's no way to behave and get to the heart of their problems."

Nicky added: "I'm sure the people who bullied kids who have committed suicide will find their lives ruined as well.

"People need to be educated when they are young about the consequences of bullying."

Bryan continued: "I read these stories in the Record of young people who have taken their lives and it's heartbreaking.

"A little girl shouldn't even have the capacity to think of doing something like that. I'd like young people to realise there is always a better option.

"There's always someone you can talk to, or a number you can call to get advice or help or just for someone to listen."

Shane insists that children who are bullied should still be positive about the future. He said: "Bryan and Mark have been bullied and look at them now.

"Just because you are being bullied in your early years doesn't mean that it is going to be that way for the rest of your life.

"Be strong and tell somebody. If you can't talk to friends or a parent, call Samaritans or Childline."

Bryan added: "It's true. It may seem odd to say it but if I hadn't been bullied at school and hadn't been overweight, I probably wouldn't be here today."

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Write: Daily Record, One Central Quay, Glasgow, G3 8DA
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Sep 28, 2002
Words:939
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