Serena Mitchell Burns - Raises Funds for the Anti-Bullying Programme

Serena is the founder of "Breakout Events". These events have been designed to fundraise for the Anti-Bullying Programme! Read Serena's inspirational story...



Breakout Anti-Bullying Events exists because of my personal experiences as a victim of bullying, and the desire to raise awareness of the continuing problems people face through bullying as well as to raise money which is currently donated to the Anti-Bullying Ambassadors, to aid in continuing the important work they do.

This is my story of why and how BreakOut exists and continues to flourish…

As a teenager I accepted being bullied as part of my everyday life.  I had no choice, no matter how invisible I tried to make myself I was still a target to the bullies, as if they were heat seeking missiles programmed to hone straight in on me.

I was always a ‘shy child’ out in public, in later life this was actually revealed to be due to agoraphobia.

For me, going to secondary school was very difficult, immensely scary, and panic inducing.  Finding my way around a much larger school, all the different departments, following a timetable from class to class, the huge dining room, so many more pupils with all the noise and bustle that goes with them, was absolutely overwhelming.

I never expected though when heading in on my first day of term that hatred, violence, self-loathing, depression, fear and panic attacks would become part of my daily life for the next four years.

As a 12 year old, I started to gain weight through what in my 30s was discovered to be a hereditary medical condition that went undiagnosed for a large part of my life.  Children brought up in a world where appearance, body shape, fitting in with the latest trends, and airbrushed TV & magazine images are what they are told to aspire to will inevitably have a negative attitude towards those amongst us who don’t fit in to the accepted mould.  So for me, the verbal, emotional, excluding and taunting bullying was very much based around my appearance, my weight gain… the scars of which have in the long term run far deeper and caused more problems with low self-esteem, self-loathing,  depression, my agoraphobia and panic attacks, than all of the physical attacks left me with.

The endured physical attacks… pushing, punching, kicking, were generally given by the older boys at school rather than the girls who preferred the mental torture of their bullying techniques.  These physical attacks were based on anti-English feelings and beliefs, as though I am Scottish by parentage and by birth, circumstances mean I have an English accent.

 I spent each day of my school life being repeatedly told that I was ugly, worthless, stupid, not wanted by the people around me, and that everyone despised and hated having to see and hear me near them.  I would then go home from school to encounter a father whose mission in life was apparently to belittle me continuously, reminding me in so many ways how much less I was worth than my adored older brothers.  Sometimes, for some people, the bullying isn’t even the worst part of their day!!

At the age of 15 years old I tried to end my life.  I didn’t want to die, not at all.

I simply didn’t know how to take another day, and then the day after that of the endless mental, emotional and physical pain that life was throwing at me.

I am still here today to tell this story only because my body violently objected to the large amount of various pills being shoved in to it, and reacted by forcing me to spend what seemed like an eternity of a night with my head ensconced over the toilet in a vomiting marathon.

The emotional and mental effects of being a victim of bullying stay with you throughout life.  Even at times when you feel you have managed to push it to the back of your mind, and are getting on with life, coping, becoming stronger, at a moment’s notice those memories and effects can creep up on you and drag you backwards taking you to that dark, desperate lonely place where the bullies have you cowering inside your own mind and your personality shrinking away from the outside world.

As an adult in my late 30s, I was working for a high street bank and once more in my life found myself the victim of bullying.  Corporate and workplace bullying is far more widespread than most people realise or would even believe possible in our modern day 21st century world.

Believe it though!!  When you are a very small cog in a massive corporate machine you realise how readily and how easily they can and will crush you under the weight of their greed for money and power.

Added to this I had a branch manager who seemed determined in her belief that constant pressure, negative criticism, and finding a person’s weak spots (OCD in my case) and pressing hard on them, would somehow motivate her staff to hitting branch targets.

During this period of my life, I was sitting having a conversation with a friend, Pat Muldowney, who is also the owner of the live music venue the Joiners, in Southampton.  On expressing the thought of wishing to do something now in regard to anti-bullying help, Pat simply said to me, “well, here’s a venue put on a fundraiser”….. and Breakout Anti-Bullying Events was at that moment born!!

I am and always will be immensely grateful to Pat, as without his belief in my abilities and his support for the anti-bullying cause, BreakOut would simply never have happened.

Up until that day I had never even organised a surprise party never mind a full on fundraising event.  About 60% at least of me wanted to immediately put my hands up and say nope, haven’t got a clue how to do this so not happening.  The strong desire to make a difference, however small, to those going through the hell that I went through from bullying did override the initial misgivings in my own abilities, and pushed me forwards.

So I got my writing pad and pen out, and commenced with some serious list making.

A decision on which bands/ artists to approach was foremost on the list, to find out whether the idea of this event was even viable.  I was utterly taken aback by the response I had from everyone, musicians who jumped at the chance to be a part of this event, at how keen they were to help, and at how many of them opened up about the bullying they themselves had suffered.

Companies and individuals were contacted requesting donations for the fundraising raffle which was held on the night to run alongside the live music.

Social media sites were created, posters designed, running order set, promotion put in place including a  local radio interview, constant communications with musicians, venue, volunteers for the night throughout the run-up time, and attention to all the fine details all the way along.

One band dropped out due to unforeseen circumstances and had to be replaced last minute, the MC for the night couldn’t make it due to illness and I had to tread the boards and get up on stage unexpectedly instead….  this though, as I have since discovered is quite usual when organising gigs and live events, the ability to think on your feel and continually reschedule plans is an important skill to have.

The night was however fantastic, with so much positive feedback on the music, the vibe of the night, and mostly the importance of the anti-bullying work the event was raising money and awareness for.

This was only ever intended to be a one-off fundraising event, but due to the instant demand from people for me to put on another event due to the success of the first Breakout….. it has now grown a life all of its own.

Serena Mitchell-Burns, Sharon Lockyer, Sian Dickman along with Mark Morriss who headlined the 2014 BreakOut even

Serena Mitchell-Burns, Sharon Lockyer, Sian Dickman along with Mark Morriss who headlined the 2014 BreakOut even

For me, one of the greatest things about doing anything related to ‘BreakOut Anti-Bullying’ is how many people I hear now openly talking about bullying, their experiences, and how they were affected.

One of the biggest problems facing anti-bullying help is the stigma attached to being a victim of bullying, as well as being a perpetrator.

Victims, for many psychological reasons feel they deserve the treatment they get, they feel isolated and ashamed, and so many rarely tell anyone of the trauma they are suffering.

Perpetrators of bullying often don’t actually realise they are bullies, perhaps because they may be raised in an environment where these behavioural patterns surround them.   Often bullies are themselves also victims of bullying or abuse at home, or from a source close to their home life.  Deep rooted psychology and social pressures push some victims towards the need to regain power in their lives by becoming a perpetrator of bullying over others – ‘The slave begins by demanding justice and ends by wanting to wear a crown’ – Albert Camus

To fully face, and heal the problems of bullying both victims and perpetrators need to be seen and given the help needed.

My Personal belief is that there is a deep need to educate younger, even pre-school children to help them to understand that accepting and embracing differences in others is the best way to live life.  Not to ridicule, alienate and destroy anyone who doesn't fit in to the mould of what is perceived as ‘the way to be’.  Individuality, personal expression, uniqueness is and always should be something to be celebrated in the people around you.

Thank you Serena for all your hard work!

Checkout Serena's pages...  

Breakout Facebook -

Breakout Twitter -

Breakout Youtube -

Breakout Soundcloud (including radio interviews) -