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Home Canterbury News Article
A tormented Herne Bay teenager has told how Facebook bullies destroyed his life and drove him to a desperate suicide bid.
Daniel Dooner, 17, was harassed by online trolls for two years - causing him to spiral into depression and self-harm behind closed doors.
He was also targeted physically, suffering a fractured eye socket and broken nose as he was hospitalised three times following violent attacks.
Now looking to rebuild his life, he has spoken of his ordeal in the hope it encourages other victims to speak out about cyber bullying.
He said: "People need to know what effect it can have on you.
"I would look at my Facebook and there would be 20 or more notifications from people insulting me, calling me names and starting rumours about me.
"I couldn’t get away from it – not even in my own home."
"There would be days when I would go to school and not say a word to anyone all day. I felt like I wasn't normal..." - teenager Daniel Dooner
Daniel's torment began shortly after he transferred to the Community College Whitstable from St Anselm's Catholic School in Canterbury when he was just 12.
Name calling and childish insults soon turned into physical assaults as Daniel struggled to settle into his new surroundings.
He said: "It was definitely a case of picking on the new kid. At first they would just call me names and nick my stuff, but then they started beating me up.
"They would just punch me in the corridor for no reason or come up behind me and hit me in the head.
"There were different groups – the cool kids, the nerds, the unpopular kids – but I didn't really fit in anywhere. I was on my own.
"I was a complete bookworm, but no one else seemed to care about their education. I would just try and do my own thing.
"There would be days when I would go to school and not say a word to anyone all day. I felt like I wasn't normal."
When Daniel returned home to Vauxhall Avenue, Studd Hill, he would hide his torment and put on a brave face for mother Diana.
But she soon learned of his tragic secret when she was called to the school after he was knocked unconscious in a violent attack.
He said: "One of the boys pinned me up against an elevator door and headbutted me. I was knocked out and broke my nose.
"My mum had to pick me up and she just burst into tears. She'd never seen me like that.
She thought I was getting on all right at school.
"I'd tried to be strong and put on a brave face for her before, but after that she knew."
The police were called and cautioned Daniel's attacker, but their involvement only made things worse for him – culminating in the worst of the assaults on December 17, 2010.
He said: "There were about 13 boys who jumped me in an alley near the school. The only two friends I thought I had ran off and left me.
"I had my head smashed against a garage and was knocked out again. When I came round I was being kicked in the head and ribs.
"It was only when some people passing by shouted at them that they ran off."
Daniel was taken to hospital with a fractured eye socket, concussion and bruised ribs.
He had six weeks off school, but even in his own home could not escape the bullying.
He said: "I would go on Facebook and people would be calling me names, saying they were going to do this and that to me.
"My wall was always full of insults and lies about me and my family. They would start rumours about me and stir things up, which just made things worse.
"Self-harming was a release for me and the only way I could stop thinking about the bullying. It was the only way I could deal with it..." - Daniel Dooner
"One of them even said he would come round my house and burn it down. It was horrible.
"I deleted my Facebook, but only for about six minutes. I couldn't handle not knowing what lies people were saying about me."
Depressed and desperate to escape his "living hell", Daniel started self-harming when he was 13.
He said: "I can remember the first time. I used a stanley knife and cut myself on my chest.
"Imagine shaking a bottle of coke. All the fizz builds up and eventually it pops. It was just like that with me.
"I'd bottled everything up. Self-harming was a release for me and the only way I could stop thinking about the bullying. It was the only way I could deal with it.
"I'd always try and cut myself where nobody could see it. My mum didn't know.
"It seemed like a good idea at the time, but the release only lasted for an hour."
Daniel continued to self-harm, using whatever he could find to slash his body and arms, which still bear the scars that remind him of those troubled days.
But the mental torture of the online bullying was far worse, sparking a decision Daniel still regrets to this day.
He said: "I didn't want to be here anymore. I didn't know what to do and had had enough of it all.
"I took a load of painkillers and sleeping tablets in my bedroom and lay on my bed. I wanted to end it all. It seemed the only way out."
Luckily for Daniel, he woke up being sick and called a friend - who would turn out to be the girl who turned his life around.
He said: "She was someone who I could relate to. She'd been through a similar experience and made me realise there were other ways I could deal with the situation.
"She got me through it. She’ll never know how much of an impact her words had. I've still got texts from her on my phone now."
Finally opening up and switching schools to Herne Bay High proved the catalyst for Daniel getting his life back on track.
He scraped enough GCSEs to win a place at Canterbury College, where he is a straight-A student studying public services and chasing dreams of joining the police force.
He said: "Just talking to someone made such a difference. People being bullied need to know that there are people out there you can talk to. Whether it be your mum, a friend, a teacher or a counsellor.
"You soon realise that so many people have experienced what you have been through.
"I'm enjoying my life again and I hope by highlighting what I've been through it encourages others to open up and do the same. You don't have to suffer in silence."
If you are experiencing cyber bullying, ring the National Bullying Helpline on 0845 2255787.
For confidential support, ring the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90, visit a Samaritans branch or visit www.samaritans.org.
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