25 Oct Are you a Bully?
Are you aware that bullying exists among children and adults? According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), bullying is a form of violence that includes any unwanted aggressive behavior that involves a perceived power of imbalance, that inflicts harm repeatedly with a physical, verbal, emotional, psychological, social, sexual threats or damage to a victims personal property.
Bullying happens at school, on the playground, on the bus, online and even in the workplace. Schools now promote zero bullying tolerance with policies in place on how to report bullying. DeKalb County Schools have created a bullying report workflow to show the steps to take when bullied. Most places of business have developed a bullying and harassment procedure which requires the immediate supervisor or Human Resources to intervene or be a resource.
Statistics from DoSomething.org, a nonprofit that exclusively focuses on young people and social change, offers 11 Facts About Bullying:
• In the U.S., 1 in 5 students ages 12-18 have been experienced bullying during the school year.
• Approximately 160,000 teens have skipped school because of bullying.
• Labeling an incident as bullying can influence a student to tell an adult.
• Fifty-seven percent of bullying situations stop when a peer intervenes.
• Thirty-one percent of 6th graders experience the most bullying.
• Seventy percent of school staff have seen bullying.
• The older students get, the less likely they are to report bullying incidents.
• More than 50% of students aged 12-18, who reported being bullied, believed their bullies could influence what others thought about them.
• The most commonly reported type of bullying is verbal harassment (79%), followed by social harassment (50%), physical bullying (29%), and cyberbullying (25%).
• Forty-two percent of students reported bullying was based on physical appearance (30%), race (10%), gender (8%), disability (7%), ethnicity (7%), religion (5%), and sexual orientation (4%).
Bullying and Mental Health
Being harassed and picked on every day can take a toll on someone’s mental health and overall well-being. Students can lose their self-worth, they may be unable to focus, and may not want to go to school. Most students do not want to be a snitch for fear of retaliation. While others try to have tough skin and ignore or even try to fight back. Others hear the rude comments, indirectly. They know they are the target, and it stays with them. Therapists can help clients work through the after affects and help them strengthen their sense of self.
Some of my clients are still learning to grow from bullying that happened years ago. Many adults are still healing from the negative impact of their childhood bullies. Research indicates that persistent bullying can lead to or worsen feelings of isolation, rejection, exclusion, and despair, as well as depression and anxiety, which can contribute to suicidal behavior. Bullying can result in not just physical injury, but social and emotional distress, self-harm, and even death. It also increases the risk of sleep difficulties, lower academic achievement, and school drop-out rates.
While there are strategies to help when someone is being bullied, there are signs to look for to prevent or change the behavior of a bully. Take notice if your child justifies their own unruly behavior; like shifting blame. Watch out for aggressive friends, difficulty sleeping, getting in trouble at school, displaying other behavioral problems, if they have experienced bullying, or if they are acting aggressively toward siblings and others, intolerant of others or spending most of their time online. Take inventory of your home, is it a violent household? Your children will mirror what is going on at home. It is important not to shame the child but to have healthy conversations about this behavior.
Are you the Bully?
Research shows that youth who bully others are at increased risk for substance misuse, academic problems and experiencing violence later in adolescence and adulthood. Youth who bully others and are bullied themselves suffer the most profound consequences and are at greater risk for mental health and behavioral problems.
Bullying is like a game of winning or losing. The more you react, the bully wins. When you are resilient and use words like ‘ok,’ ‘great!’ and ‘Thanks,” in response, and don’t let it bother you, the bully loses.
Bullies Can Change
Verywell Family, a resource for reliable, up-to-date information about the family suggests a few simple strategies to make changes and bring awareness. Take responsibility, increase empathy and social learning. Anger management might be necessary to help recognize triggers and develop healthy solutions while focusing on impulse control and finding ways to increase self -esteem. It is also important to learn how to be inclusive and respectful of all individuals.
If you are a victim or are a bully, connect with a mental health therapist who can help you heal and strengthen the necessary skills needed to change behavior. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers the Stop Bullying Now Hotline (800) 273.8255 available 24/7.
October is National Bully Prevention month. Learn how to stand up to a bully in Brooks Gibbs video “How to Stop a Bully.”
If you or someone you know is being bullied or if you know a bully, reach out to CHRIS 180 Counseling Centers for support.
Ann Marie Lehrer, LPC, NCC, MS is a therapist at CHRIS Counseling Center – DeKalb.