One phrase might save someone’s life. “911 what’s your emergency?” And all you have to do is pick up your phone and call.

It’s sad to say, but most people won’t; they will simply watch or walk away. This has happened to multiple individuals, such as Kitty Genovese, Reena Virk, and Carson Crimini; they all died because individuals didn’t call or get help.

In-action, while an individual is in distress, is called the bystander effect. It is when the presence of others has an impact on one’s decision to help someone in need; it has been shown that when in a group setting, individuals are less likely to help as opposed to when they were alone. One possible reason is that, in a group, people assume someone else will help.

There are other reasons why someone might not help: peer pressure, apathy and indifference or just plain cruelty. Many stood around laughing, playing music, and taking Snap Chat videos but not one called for help when 14-year-old boy Carson Crimini died of an overdose on August 7, 2019, at Walnut Grove Skate Park in Langley.  “The 14-year-old boy twitches bugs out his eyes and slurs his speech, as a group of teens surrounding him is heard in the video laughing and playing music in the background, as the video continues his condition gets worse.” His father Aron Crimini was heartbroken. “They knew he was dying. He was dying in front of their eyes, and they filmed it”, according to a report from Global News.

It is heartbreaking to read that one phone call could’ve saved Carson’s life and the thought of that brings up numerous questions regarding the bystander effect. Science 9 and Psychology 12 teacher, Ms. Brenda Yorke, reflected on the situation: “I wonder why it was more important to film and share Carson’s decline than it was to intervene and help him? Did it feel more important to foster connections in social media than it did to help a struggling person right in front of you?”

Yorke feels it is a positive step to overcoming the bystander effect if one is aware of it. “I think that if people know what the bystander effect is, that knowledge can inform how they act in situations. If you are aware of the bystander effect and you are watching a student being bullied, you can take action and help the victim. You may be the only bystander who understands that if everyone assumes someone else is going to help then nobody will,” said Yorke. Often if one person is brave enough to take action, others will follow and help as well.

To help people become more aware of the bystander effect is the BC Lions football team and their ground-breaking program called “Be More Than A Bystander.” The program’s main focus is to increase the knowledge of the impact of men’s violence against women. The program offers tools, language, and practical ideas towards how to be more than a bystander; how to step up and speak out that violence and abuse are not acceptable.

In 2018, Riverside had the privilege of listening to a presentation by the BC Lions,  which helped Riverside students understand the impact of violence and how to be more than a bystander. It is not easy to break away from peer pressure and speak up for others, but your words mean more than you think; it can have a great impact on someone’s life if you do.