Overcoming the “Bystander Effect”

Would you stop to help a teenager who is injured and bleeding due to a skateboarding accident? Of course you would! Or would you? Well, one Oakville mom took to an online discussion group to express disappointment with her community when no one stopped to help her injured 15 year old son.

Known as the “bystander effect”, this unwillingness to help a fellow human being, even teens, in distress is common place. The good news is that by bringing attention to the issue, others will be more likely to overcome the bystander effect and provide care to an injured person.

The Oakville teen had sustained obvious injuries after falling off his skateboard. His chin was bleeding heavily, he had broken his elbow and he was trying to wave down cars on a busy street, but no one stopped to help. The boy was eventually able to get the attention of a couple of pedestrians and used their phone call his mom who took him to Emergency.

The mom’s post elicited an overwhelming number of responses.  Most people expressed sadness for the mom and her son, and many stated that they would have stopped if they had been there.  Some shared their own first aid stories where other bystanders had helped their loved ones or where they had stopped to help others.

The good news is that this mom’s post brings attention to the bystander effect and awareness will increase the likelihood that people will take action the next time they are in a situation like this.

The Canadian Red Cross includes the bystander effect in its first aid curriculum. The expectation is that by discussing this topic, first aid students will be able to overcome this reluctance to help when faced with a real life first aid situation. According to the Red Cross, the bystander effect usually occurs when there are a lot of people around because people tend to think that someone else will help instead.

It is clear from the stories posted by other moms in this post that there are many compassionate and caring individuals and that humanity is strong in Oakville. Here are some of the many first aid stories written by the moms.

Jennifer wrote: Last week my husband stopped at Dorval and North Service Rd because a 13 year old girl was crying. He asked her if he could help and she said a car nearly hit her and she was scared. My husband flagged down a car with a woman driving to ask for her help and the three of them took care of the situation. I am thankful that the woman stopped and helped them. There are truly good people out there.

Amanda wrote: I have stopped for this kind of situation before. The kids were younger and I think it scared them to have a stranger approach them. It doesn’t matter, we should help out anyway. I was grateful for the stranger who bandaged my daughter up when she tumbled off her scooter a few years back. There are goods ones out there.

Natasha wrote:  A teenager was on a bike and fell in Heritage last summer. Same thing, was all scraped up on his face and knee. I saw it happen from 5 houses down. I walked down the street to see if he was ok. I think he was more in shock than anything. I asked if he wanted me to call his parents he said no. And got back on his bile and rode off with his friends. And 2 days ago a man maybe in his 50s was going south on a bike on Dorval hit a newly paved sidewalk where the grass was dug out and went flying. I again walked down to see if he was ok. Nothing broken, shoulder hurt but got back on and started walking.

Helen wrote:  My kids have crashed a couple of times and someone has always stopped, checked them and then called me to get them. Bloody or not. Don’t lose faith. There are compassionate and caring people in Oakville.

Shannon wrote: Years ago I was attacked by a homeless person. And yet, even with that happening to me, I always stop. Earlier this year I saw a teenage boy sitting on the sidewalk crying. I turned the van around and went to talk to him – it turns out he was older than he looked (18) had broken up with his girlfriend and had no place to live. He was also in the midst of transitioning and his family wanted nothing to do with him – so I stayed until the police could come (he was having suicidal thoughts) and stayed in contact with him for a few weeks until he stopped responding.

If you read and share this blog, you’re already more likely to help and encourage others too.