Mental Health & Bullying

Bullying is repeated aggression (physical or psychological) that can be viewed as “youth violence” as it can include verbal taunts, physical attacks or social exclusion. It is a problem that can derail a young person’s schooling, social life and wellbeing. 

Bullying is so prevalent in today’s day and age, that its seriousness and impact is often ignored by adults, who deem it to be “a part of life that all kids go through”. It has been proven that bullying can have a strong impact on both the victim and perpetrator’s wellbeing. 

The Effects Of Bullying On Youth

Studies have shown that individuals who are bullied by peers are at an increased risk for the development of mental health disorders and challenges later in life.

In the short term, it can lead to your child being scared to be in social settings where they are being bullied, believing that their friendships are unsafe and a general distrust in their relationships with adults, as they can feel like the adults in their lives are not protecting them. 

If the bullying remains unaddressed, it can lead to the development of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation and self-harming tendencies, among others A study that was published in the Lancet Psychiatry, has proven that young people who were bullied by peers during their youth were at a greater risk than those who experienced maltreatment from their parents. 

How You Can Help As A Guardian

If you find yourself reading this article, you probably have a young person in your life whose wellbeing is a concern to you. They may not always directly tell you if and when they are experiencing bullying, so here are some indicators that your teen/ young adult might be bullied:

  • Missing or broken personal items 
  • A significant loss or increase in appetite.  
  • Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
  • A sudden loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed. 
  • A sudden poor performance in school.  
  • No longer wanting to engage with friends.
  • Frequently asking to stay home. 
  • Self-harming behaviours, such as cutting, unexplained bruising. 
  • Any unexplained change in behaviour and emotions

Disclaimer

Please note that some of these behavioural/ psychological changes can be a result of the changing hormones as their body transitions from childhood, to adolescence and later, young adulthood. The changes become problematic when it starts to affect their ability to function with everyday tasks, in the aforementioned ways. 

Ways To Intervene 

If you suspect that your child is being bullied, or at risk of being bullied by their peers, here are some suggestions and ways you can intervene:

Talk to your child

Many teenagers are reluctant to report instances of bullying out of shame or fear that they may not be taken seriously. The best thing you can do is to pay attention to your child’s feelings and let them know that you care and you are there to support them.  

Build a community of support

If your child, or a child that you know of is being bullied, it often requires a community-based solution. Address the issue of the bullying with all relevant adults within your child’s community of support, such as their teacher, counsellor, school principal, etc. Together, you can work out a strategy to address the bullying behaviour and support your child best. 

Get professional help

If the effects of bullying are taking a toll on your child’s mental health, explore the option of taking them to seek therapy, where they can be equipped with the necessary tools to alleviate the impact on their health and wellbeing. 

Be a great role model

Bullying behaviour is often learned behaviour. By being a positive role model to your child and teaching them healthy social skills from an early point in their life, they are less likely to engage in damaging behaviour with their peers. 

In Conclusion 

As a source of support in your child’s life, I want to encourage you to support their social development and build a safe, supportive space for your child by reassuring them that you are there to support them through the difficulties that they may experience. 

Open dialogue in your home and community spaces about what is healthy and acceptable social behaviour, and what is not; model that behaviour in your relationship with your child too. They’re learning more from what you do, rather than what you say you’ll do. 

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