23/10/2015 4:59 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:50 PM AEST

Supré Makes A $300,000 Commitment To Stamp Out Bullying

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Australian teen fashion house Supré has made a $300,000 commitment to national youth mental health organisation, headspace, in a bid to stop bullying.

The organisation -- which has an average customer age of 17 -- decided to make a public stance against bullying after receiving feedback from its staff members.

"Being part of the Cotton On group -- which certainly has a large philanthropic spirit -- we knew as a brand today it’s really important to help others," Supré General Manager, Elle Roseby, told The Huffington Post Australia. "So we decided to ask our team members what they thought was important, and in what space Supré should participate.

"The feedback we received was overwhelmingly around mental illness and especially around bullying. As a team we want to make sure we have philanthropic heart, and as a young brand it make total sense to look at this bullying space and what we could do to help.

"Our aim is to become a leader in that space, and, across our 106 stores, work together to raise awareness and support."

"For us, it's a marriage made in heaven," said headspace CEO Chris Tanti. "Supré has a young workforce and appeals to young consumers -- plus, they are passionate about mental health and about a whole lot of things we are doing.

"We know people who come to our centres buy their products."

To get some more information on how big the issue of bullying is for Supré customers, the fashion retailer commissioned a survey (completed by over 2000 shoppers) which revealed almost two-thirds of teenage girls have been a victim of bullying, while a staggering 80 percent knew someone who had.

"We have girls as young as nine and 10 coming into our business, and we employ something like 1,000 staff," Roseby said. "They range, of course, across all different ages, but many of them are young girls and this is their first job.

"What the survey told us was two-thirds of our customers admit to being victims of bullying or may have been the bully themselves.

"I think at some point in time, it's an issue that has touched everybody, whether they have been a part of it or witnessed it or known someone who it has affected. It's a massive issue."

Tanti agreed, pointing out that bullying is often thought of as a "normal" occurrence, when it absolutely shouldn't be.

"It's one of those things that has been accepted over the years -- that kids are going to be bullied in one way, shape or form," Tanti said. "But people don’t really think too much about the consequences of bullying.

"It's a continuum, and at the extreme end you have suicide, which is incredibly painful for the family and friends that are left behind.

"At the other end of the continuum, people just feel lousy about themselves. It affects their self esteem, it affects their capacity to go to work or go to school. As an issue, bullying is a far reaching and pretty ugly phenomena, and I don’t think we should tolerate it."

The first program to be rolled out as a result of this initiative is The Supré Foundation Bullying Education and Prevention Resource Kit, which will be piloted in five schools and four headspace centres in Western Australia, with the aim to roll it out nationally later this year.

In developing the kit, both Supré and headspace also sought out the assistance of Australia’s leading expert on bullying prevention, Professor Donna Cross.

"First of all what we did was work with headspace, who tendered it out to their centres asking what concerns they had and for suggestions in the ways we could help," Roseby said.

"A lot of great submissions came from different centres, but something that really stood out was the fact there wasn't a resource kit for bullying. That was ascertained by the Western Australia headspace, and they actually came up with the plan and said 'what we really want to do is develop a resource kit -- an awareness and prevention kit -- and actually get it out in schools.'

"We loved that idea, so that's what we are starting to do. We are working together with Cross and writing this kit, with plans to trial it and then get it out to schools."

Cross's expertise and input has been critical to the kit's formulation, with Roseby noting "her knowledge is so expansive and the range of evidence-based materials being produced by her team has just been so, so important".

"I think the great thing about the resource kit is it sparks a conversation to really drill down into the issues and impacts of bullying," Tanti added. "It makes you think twice about it.

"Schools are doing quite a lot in terms of educating students about bullying but it does seem to be ignored in the schoolyard. People don't want to intervene.

"I know when I talk to my children, if I ever ask 'do you want me to say something?' More often than not, the response is 'Don’t. It will make it worse.'

"There is no option but to put up with it and wait for it to blow over, and I don't think that's good enough. At minimum, the resource kit will help us put it on the agenda."

Want to get involved? From 22 September, Supré customers can purchase a number of Foundation products in-store, including the limited edition Always By Your Side friendship bracelet, water bottles, nail files and candy pink mints.

All proceeds raised through the sale of the charity products go directly to the Supré Foundation.