Young Kaylee Caruso is brave and bold, yet understands she is far from perfect.
The Nuriootpa teen is also aware that by admitting to a life involving an illicit drug, dieting and suicidal thoughts, it may expose her to more ridicule – but her only concern is supporting other youths in the same situation.
Kaylee, like many young people, is a victim of bullying.
The 15-year-old’s first taste came in Year 5, but she said things escalated in Year 6 when she was targeted by both girls and boys.
The name calling, rumours and threats led Kaylee’s concerned mum Nicky to take these issues out of the school and seek professional support.
“I had just turned 12 and I was scared to go to school but I knew if I didn’t, things would get worse,” Kaylee said.
“I also had a lot of suicidal thoughts.”
“Because mum didn’t make it a school issue, it allowed other parents to be involved outside of school and I feel like this eased the situation a lot quicker,” Kaylee said.
However, the bullying and taunts returned when the now Year 9 student hit high school.
“For some reason I had a mad reputation and there were quite a lot of rumours going around about me.”
The rumours, which she explained off the record, were not true.
“When I went into high school I got exposed to marijuana,” she said.
“It wasn’t forced upon me, I thought this is how other people cope so maybe it will help for me.
“This year I became quite hard on that stuff especially when I split with my boyfriend.”
Feeling at her lowest, Kaylee ended up turning to her mum for support and returning to her psychologist.
While it was a hard decision, Kaylee said it was the right decision.
“I try to go to mum with everything now, I am lucky to have her,” she said.
Kaylee has realised having close-knit friends works for her, rather than a big group which she feels can bring about “drama”.
She also removes herself from social media for long periods of time to work through her issues.
Kaylee has found out the hard way that “no one is perfect and no life is perfect, and each person’s expectations in life differ”.
“I think bullying is a combination of things, like jealousy, but I think it’s important to be open with your friends.”
Since opening up about her life, Kaylee has also become a person to turn to for support with her peers.
“My psychologist provides me with ways to deal with issues and she knows I help my friends so provides me with ways to support them,” she said.
While the bullying continues, Kaylee’s biggest outlet is netball. Her focus and drive led her this year to play in a team above her age group.
“I do believe there is enough support in the community for young people with issues, but I also think people need to realise bullying is real and it needs to be dealt with,” she said.