Talk to kids about bullying
To the editor:
I would like to remind everyone that October is Bully Prevention Awareness Month.
Bullying is a serious problem nationwide. According to StopBullying.gov, 28 percent of children between the ages of 12 and 18 reported being bullied at school. The United States Department of Education reported that middle school students are more likely to report being made fun of, pushed, tripped, spit on, threatened with harm, excluded, have property damaged or forced to do things they don’t want to do.
High school students may experience the same things, but are more likely to report cyber bullying.
It is unknown why kids bully because it is such a complex issue. Kids who are being bullied are more likely to have depressive symptoms, self-harm, and have suicidal thoughts. Kids may experience frequent headaches, backaches, stomach pain, sleep problems, poor appetite and bed-wetting.
Some of these symptoms may seem to increase at the end of the weekend or school break. Kids may want to avoid school, the school bus, or will underperform at school. Kids who bully others may experience increased delinquent behaviors, dislike school, drink alcohol, smoke, and hold beliefs supportive of violence.
Many children do not report bullying to adults, especially high school students. Kids stay silent for various reasons which may include negative messages about tattling or snitching, gender stereotypes, concerns about retaliation, or lack of confidence in the adult actions.
Dr. Victor Schwartz, who is the medical director for The Jed Foundation, states, “When it comes to bullying, there is power in numbers. The bully is often harassing the victim to demonstrate power and entertain the bystanders. If those bystanders laugh or encourage the bully, the situation is likely to continue.
However, if the bystanders are sympathetic to the victim, then the bully loses influence and his or her reason for bullying. Therefore, it’s important for bystanders to recognize the power they have to stop the bullying situation and make it known that this type of behavior is not acceptable.
According to Magellan Health Services, a study was completed in the United Kingdom surveying nearly 2,000 students. Nearly two-thirds of the students witnessed bullying, 20 percent reported being a bully at one point and 34 percent reported being the victim of bullying. People who witnessed bullying were more likely to exhibit the same mental health issues as the bullies and victims.
If students or adults witness bullying they should:
• Make sure there are no weapons involved or other threats of physical harm.
• Notify a professional to intervene.
• Tell the bully that what he or she is doing is wrong.
• Invite the victim to leave the situation with them.
• Don’t laugh or otherwise encourage the bully.
• Talk to the victim in private and share their support.
• Speak to the bully about why their behavior isn’t appropriate.
• Include the victim in activities and/or help the victim avoid other potential bullying situations.
• Avoid spreading rumors about what happened.
If you or someone you know is suicidal or in severe emotional distress due to bullying or other life issues, you should seek help from a trusted adult, school administrator, or seek professional counseling. You can also seek help by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
– Richard Stapleton, Fairfield