“Bullying is not a harmless rite of passage, it is a public health issue which has far-reaching effects on adult health, wealth, criminality, and social relationships,” says Professor Dieter Wolke, of the University of Warwick.
The first lady, Melania Trump brought the issue to national headlines this August when she attended a national summit on cyberbullying outside the nation’s capital. She launched the “Be Best” initiative with the mission of focusing on some of the major issues facing children today. The goal of the initiative is to encourage children to BE BEST in their individual paths, while also teaching them the importance of social, emotional, and physical health.
BE BEST champions the many successful well-being programs that provide children with the tools and skills required for emotional, social, and physical health. The campaign also promotes established organizations, programs, and people who are helping children overcome some of the issues they face growing up in the modern world.
The Three Categories of Bullying
More than one out of every five students (20.8%) report being bullied, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics in 2016, but it’s believed that one-third or more of those bullied never tell any adults about their victimization or only discuss it years after it’s ended.
Bullies and victims are separated into three categories: Those who are pure bullies, pure victims, and bullying victims. Two-thirds of students who are bullied go on to bully other students. These students who are both targets of bullying and engage in bullying behavior are at greater risk for both mental health and behavioral problems than students who only bully or are only bullied, according to the Center for Disease Control, 2017
Both bullying and being bullied have long-lasting effects on both victims and perpetrators, and a number of recent studies show that there are also lasting effects for those who merely witness bullying. Being bullied or witnessing bullying can cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. People often carry the negative effects of bullying with them through to adulthood.
Witnessing bullying without acting, the bystander effect is disempowering and can lead to feelings of fear, guilt for not acting, powerlessness, helplessness, shame, anxiety, trust issues, and sometimes bystanders even wind up joining in the act of bullying.
The Effects of Bullying
It’s been found 57% of bullying situations stop when a peer intervenes on behalf of the student being bullied, according to a study by Hawkins, Pepler, & Craig, 2001.
“Being the repetitive target of bullying damages your ability to view yourself as a desirable, capable and effective individual,” explained Mark Dumbeck, PhD.
Those who are “pure victims” are 4.3 percent more likely than those not involved in bullying to suffer from anxiety. Those who are victims and also sometimes bully others in childhood are 4.8 percent more likely than those not involved in bullying to suffer from depression, with male “bully victims” 18.5 times more likely than those not involved in bullying to commit suicide.
Harmful Outcomes of Bullying:
Mental Health effects include: feeling left out, anxious, afraid, insecure, low self-esteem, depressed, withdrawn, isolated, aggressive, angry, vengeful, despairing and rejected.
Physical effects include: health complaints including stomach aches, changes in appetite, weight loss or gain, changes in sleep patterns, headaches, grades drop, drug or alcohol use, sexual activity, cutting, dropping out of school or decreased academic achievement and school participation, social issues, avoiding friends and activities, difficulty making friends, quietness, post-traumatic stress, anti-social behaviors, assaultive, suicidal thoughts or actions, homicidal.
School-based bullying prevention programs decrease bullying by up to 25 percent, according to a study by McCallion & Feder, 2013.
Funding to Reduce Bullying
There are grants available that address issues related to bullying in the US, Canada, and internationally. Here are two.
Grants to California K-12 school districts, charter schools, and county offices of education for programs to reduce school absenteeism and dropout rates. An Intent to Submit must be submitted prior to the full proposal. Funding is intended to support initiatives that keep at-risk students in schools such as social-emotional teaching strategies, culturally responsive approaches, extracurricular activities, bullying prevention education, and community-based family, health, and developmental services rendered on school premises.
Grants to USA, Canada, and International nonprofit organizations and educational institutions for charitable programs and projects that focus on the areas of education, social services, community and economic development, and the environment. The funding source considers requests for operating, program, capital, or endowment support.
When bystanders defend victims of bullying, they feel empowered and better about themselves, and their beliefs in their “social self-efficacy” were negatively associated with passive behavior from bystanders – i.e. if students believe they can make a difference, they’re more likely to act, according to an NIH study by Thornberg et al, 2012.
Students who experience bullying report that allying and supportive actions from their peers (such as spending time with the student, talking to him/her, helping him/her get away, or giving advice) were the most helpful actions from bystanders, researchers Davis & Nixon found in 2010.
They also found that students who experience bullying are more likely to find peer actions helpful than actions by educators or their own.
What can you do about bullying?
- Make it clear to children and teens that they are allowed to intervene. This can be speaking to the bully directly or telling someone in a position of authority. They should make sure they are safe but do what they can to help someone in need.
- Children, teens, and even adults need to know that telling someone is not tattling. It’s important to tell someone: If you are bullied or see someone being bullied, ask a teacher, parent, principal, or even a friend for help in stopping the bully.
- Don’t ignore it: It’s been found that the worst thing to do when faced with a bully is to ignore the problem.
- Don’t shame or blame the victim, minimize the bullying behavior, or tell the victim to just ignore the bullying.
- Spend time with them.
- Talk to them.
- Help them get away.
- Call them.
- Offer them advice.
- Help them tell someone about the bullying.
- Distract them to get their mind off it.
- Let them talk about it.
- Tell an adult
- Confront the bully
- Ask the bully to stop.