Enough Is Enough!!!

The Effects Of Bulling

By Mary B. Hammock, MSN, CPNP

Effects of bullying

A 14-year-old hangs herself. A 19-year-old jumps off a bridge. A 13-year-old shoots himself. Another loads his backpack with stones and leaps into a river. Still another swallows her father’s prescription meds to get rid of the pain and humiliation. These are a few recent sickening headlines as a result of bullying. There are three components to bullying – the bully, the bullied and the bystander.

What Is Bullying?

Bullying is a form of aggressive behavior manifested by the use of force or coercion to affect others, particularly when it involves an imbalance of power. It can include verbal harassment, physical assault, coercion or intimidation. No one is safe from bullying and it may be directed towards particular victims based on race, religion, gender, sexuality, social class, one’s looks or abilities. Often those targeted are seen as passive, easily intimidated, smaller or younger, and have a harder time defending themselves.

What Makes Bullies Tick?

Bullies thrive on controlling or dominating others and have often been victims of bullying or abuse themselves. Some argue that a bully reflects a learned behavior from his close caregivers. Further studies have shown that envy and resentment may be motives for bullying – using bullying to conceal anxiety or shame. Bullying behavior often has its origin in childhood. As the bully ages, his or her behavior patterns become more sophisticated, engaging in less obvious, yet equally intimidating behaviors such as character assassination, sabotage, or humiliation. Male bullies are more likely to be physically aggressive – shoving, poking, slapping, choking, punching, kicking, beating, stabbing, pulling hair, scratching, biting, and pinching. Female bullies tend to favor exclusion and mockery – name calling, manipulation, gossip, lies, rumors, staring, giggling, laughing and saying trigger words to bring on recall of past events.

Understanding and What To Do

Being bullied is a common experience for many children and adolescents. Some surveys indicate as many as half of all children are bullied at some point during their school years. Individuals who are bullied experience true suffering that can interfere with sleep, appetite, school performance, social development including confidence, and emotional development. Researchers have proven many times that being bullied and/or excluded by peers is a strong predictor of depression and anxiety. In the long-term, bullying can lead to Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and an inability to form relationships. Bullying also increases the risk of suicide. For some, the thought of suicide is easier to contemplate than to endure such harassment and punishment.

Another concern is the typical bystander. Often bullying takes place in the presence of a large group of relatively uninvolved bystanders. Bystanders often do not recognize the true cost of silence. Bullies like an audience and the lack of intervention by bystanders will not deter the “bully mentality.” Some bystanders will even tease the victim or encourage the bully. Many are faced with overwhelming fear that if they intervene, they will become the victim. However, research has shown that any form of intervention diminishes the chances of another event by 50%.
Enough is enough. It is time to get involved. Research has shown school administrators, church youth leaders and community leaders play a powerful role in bullying prevention. Leaders can inspire others and maintain a climate of respect and inclusion making students feel safer, parents worry less, and teachers focus on teaching. Students can take leadership roles, communicating with peers and helping to develop policies. Parents can volunteer and participate in the PTSA. Parents should also communicate with their children by asking questions about their day and listening to the answers. School staff can keep parents informed and treat them as partners in their child’s education and safety.

Getting Help

If you suspect your child is the bully, seek the help of your pediatric care provider and a child psychiatrist as soon as possible. Without intervention, bullying can lead to serious academic, social, emotional and legal difficulties. If you suspect your child is the bullied, provide a lot of opportunities for open dialogue between the two of you. Don’t encourage your child to fight back. Instead, help your child practice what he or she will say to the bully and help your child practice being assertive. When possible, have your child avoid unsupervised situations, like hallways and bathrooms, and encourage your child to be with friends and travel in groups, as bullies are less likely to pick on someone in a group. Seek assistance from your child’s adult supervisors, teachers, guidance counselors and principals.
Summer is coming to an end and another school year is getting ready to zoom by. We wish you a productive and healthy 2012-2013 school year. Healthy Steps Pediatrics is helping to raise healthy children one step at a time. Please call 678-384-3480 if you have questions or concerns.