By Colleen Burns
National No-Name Calling Week is this week, and I want to use it as a time to help educate the greater community on the detrimental effects bullying can have on an individual’s mental health. These effects are often symbolized with the following parable:
“A teacher was teaching her class about bullying, and gave them the following exercise to perform. She had the children take a piece of paper and crumple it up, stomp on it, and really mess it up…Then, she had them unfold the paper, smooth it out, and look at how scarred and dirty it was. She then told them to tell it they were sorry. Even though they said they were sorry and tried to fix the paper, she pointed out all the scars they left behind…”
In Connecticut, nineteen percent of high school students were bullied on school property in 2017, and 16 percent were electronically bullied during the same time period. Females reported higher rates of bullying on school property as well as electronic bullying than males (21 percent versus 17 percent and 11 percent, respectively), which coincides with a trend reported in a study from Rutgers University.
Children who experience bullying are affected both physically and mentally. According to the National Institute of Child Health and Development, anyone involved with bullying is at an increased risk for depression. In addition:
- Children who are bullied are more likely to experience changes in sleeping and eating patterns, which can persist into adulthood.
- Children who bully are more likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs from adolescence into adulthood.
- Children who witness bullying can experience similar effects to those who are bullied or who bully; including increased use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, and depression and anxiety. (gov)
Fortunately, there are actions you can take to help those who are affected by bullying. Some suggestions include:
- Parents can help build resiliency in their child by spending time with them, helping them build positive relationships with peers outside of school through activities and groups, and encouraging participation in community service. (Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center)
- Teachers can advocate for students who are bullied by connecting them to appropriate resources. (National Education Association)
- Peers can provide support by ensuring the individual who is bullied knows they care about them, and don’t agree with the way they were treated. (StopBullying.gov)
Your words and actions matter to youth experiencing mental health challenges due to bullying. Showing your support and working to prevent bullying behavior can make a difference.
Colleen Burns is a marketing communications professional who has worked with organizations in the behavioral health field. She volunteers at the Jordan Porco Foundation. Her lived experiences inspire her to advocate for mental health awareness and suicide prevention. She lives in the Farmington Valley with her family and enjoys music, traveling, and being creative.
If you need support now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or, text “HOME” to 741-741 to get help 24/7 from the Crisis Text Line.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit the Jordan Porco Foundation’s resources page.
The opinions expressed in this blog are personal, and not those of the Jordan Porco Foundation. The information in this blog post is provided for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as mental health advice from the individual author or the Jordan Porco Foundation. You should consult a mental health professional for advice regarding your individual situation.