Every day a group of boys would unmercifully pick on a peer from another country, trying to make his way through school, the best and only way he knew how. They would shove him in the hall, shouting, ‘Stupid (derogatory name)!’ steal his lunch, and knock things off his desk. Finally, in tears, at wits end, he confided to an older sibling how they had threatened to beat him up on the way home from school the next day. Overhearing him tell his sibling, the parents investigated and decided to take it up with the teacher. A wise old veteran, with a paternal demeanor, he intervened. The behavior stopped. Discussion and intervention is the best strategy, one the experts recommend. This is National Bullying Prevention Month.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that ‘Bullying can interfere with the important interpersonal relationships that support an adolescent’s mental health and well-being. Bullying is defined as repeated interpersonal behavior that is intended to do physical or psychological harm. Increasingly, schools, communities, parents and adolescents are acknowledging that bullying is not a rite of passage, but rather a practice that can be extremely damaging to children and teens.” The ‘Overview on Cyberbullying’ by Hinduja and Patchin from the White House Conference on Bullying reports that‘one in five high school students reported that they were bullied on school property in the past year’.
Locally, some school districts have initiatives against social aggression, others have the bullying piece in place and many address the issue topically as it arises. Each school and each district . . . each county, and each region has a different approach. There is an initiative between Ohio Safe-Schools Project, Equality Ohio and Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation to strengthen Ohio’s Anti-Bullying Law which calls upon school districts to enumerate anti-bullying policies, to cover cyberbullying and train educators. Sometimes bullying can be a clue to an underlying conduct or behavioral health disorder, or contribute in cases of clinical depression, for which mental health screening is helpful- see posts on depression.
There are several forms of extreme bullying which can contribute to and intermingle with serious mental health issues, as we’ve seen in media reports on nightly news. The stopbullying.gov/ website lists: “verbal bullying which includes name-calling and teasing; social bullying which includes spreading rumors, (social isolation)-leaving people ‘out’ on purpose, and breaking up friendships. There is physical bullying including hitting, punching and shoving. Cyber-bullying includes using the internet, mobile phones or other digital technologies to harm others.” A visitor to Pomegranate’s display table at the MHA conference suggested adult bullying of teens should be added to any list. Recall any sporting tournaments- boy’s basketball or even girls’ softball, where parents and adults can act inappropriately vicious.
Cyber-bullying is a very serious issue with the rise of social media. Vicious text messages, Facebook posts, sexting that goes viral after a bad break-up are all examples of this. Kid’s movie and TV programming deals with topics like ‘the unpopular kid’, ‘mean girls’, ‘the new kid’, ‘boy-friend-girl-friend’ issues and much more. Add to this mix LGBT issues, or gang bullying and you’ve launched some very significant fodder which can lead to suicidal ideation as the only way to escape, or homicidal ideation as a way to extract revenge. Pomegranate’s Acute hospital treats suicidal and homicidal ideation and psychosis for teens in crisis.
Pomegranate CPST (Community Psychiatric Supportive Treatment) specialist, Robert P. has worked with adolescents for over a year. Robert says, ‘Addressing any potential bullying is a very difficult subject, as those who are bullied often do not speak out about their situations. Often times, this may be due to those who experience bullying being afraid due to threats by the bullies. Other times, it may be due to feeling hopeless about the situation and powerless to change it. No matter what the situation, bullying has a significant effect on teens and their self-esteem.”
The Dublin Ohio Division of Police has a Community Education Unit which presented “Keeping Kids Safer Online” with a NetSmartz Workshop. The Netsmartz.org site is an educational site through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and has content for parents/guardians, educators, law enforcement, teens, tweens, and kids- specifically on cyber-bullying and online safety. There is programming for teens at NetSmartz.org/teens, NetSmartz.org/real life stories, NetSmartz.org/educators, NetSmartzkids.org/videos, and for teaching materials, NetSmartz.org/resources. Pomegranate CPST Robert adds, ‘You can’t be careful enough with social media as you never know who is viewing what is posted or how it can be used against you.’
One site with programs on bullying is: www.stopbullying.gov. There is content for kids, teens, young adults, parents, educators and special information on cyber bullying, ‘webisodes’ for younger kids and LGBT bullying info. The government site says bullying may be a Civil Rights violation (rather than a stage of passage-as folks might have thought in the old days). The site urges the victim: ‘not to blame themselves, be proud of who they are, and do not be afraid to get help’. Some anti-bullying advice for teens is: ‘to tell the perpetrators to stop; walk away; protect ones-self; tell an adult; find a safe place; stick together; and make new friends’. Ask for help. Pomegranate CPST Robert says, ‘This is all sound advice, for any teens, whether they are diagnosed with mental and behavioral health disorders or not.”
The Office of Adolescent Health has a newly designed website with resources and initiatives on adolescent mental health (www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/). The site notes that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and ‘adolescents who bully others are more likely to have been physically hurt by a family member and/or to have witnessed violence in their homes.’ There is a National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE one can call for help. The STRYVE initiative by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was introduced to reduce youth violence, and the site ‘GirlsHealth.gov’ from the Office on Women’s Health has resources for adolescent girls. The U.S. Department of Education also offers law and policy as well as student victimization data.
Some other links to programming on bullying include:
Anti-Bullying on YouTube:
Actionwork (has 18 videos) ‘Celebrities Speak Out against Bullying’
Itgetsbetter project (has 7 videos) by Stephen Colbert
Dr. Phil Uncensored, ‘Bullying: The Power to Protect Your Child’
President Obama & The First Lady: ‘Conference on Bullying Prevention’
SuchisLife videos ‘It Stops Here’ (4 parts) Anderson Cooper on Bullying
Anti-Bullying flash mob, January 2011 (effort of 2 schools) in honor of International Anti-Bullying Day
[Photo credit:Bigstock Happy Smiling Group Of Teens 3422189]