I thought of beginning this blog with a story of a child or teen who had been bullied. As I researched online, I was overwhelmed by the faces of these beautiful children and teens, many of whom commited suicide. I realized I could have named this blog “cyberbullying” as much of bullying involves social media. As physicians, we are indirectly witnesses to bullying often. We are aware that much of the bullying is kept secret as it creates embarassment for those being bullied and those who bully. We see how traumatic it can be for these children and their families. We long to help these kids and yet we feel helpless at times. So we educate. We communicate that it is OK to talk about bullying. We remain sensitive to it and the pain it causes.
Approximately, 20 % of children are bullied. This does not include those who do not admit to being bullied. Bullying can be physical, verbal, or social. Cyberbullying invloves chat rooms, email, social media sites and texts. Regardless of the type, it can be just as damaging to a child’s self-esteem. It can be the source of depression which in turn can lead to suicidal thoughts/ behaviors and unfortunately death by suicide.
Kids and teens who are depressed may seem sad or have sleeping or eating issues. They can seem angry. Bullied kids can exhibit risky behaviors, start using drugs/ alcohol or start cutting. They can be withdrawn and lose interest in things that would normally find them joy. If they are suicidal, you may see an abnormal interest in death They may start giving possessions away. They may seem overwhelmed, commenting that things would be better without them. Anxiety can surface. School avoidance is common as well.
Who is at risk for being a bully?
-those who experience a tumultous home environment
-violence in the home
-kids with low self-esteem
Who is at risk for being bullied?
-those who have conflicts with peers
-those with low self-esteem
-those who are perceived as “different”
What can we do?
-First, recognize any changes in your children/teens and take them seriously. Talk to your school counselor, principal or pediatrician immediately.
-Next, make sure all weapons and medications are unavailable.
-Keep the lines of communication open with your children and get them into psychotherapy if needed.
-Raise your children to be kind and thoughtful. Teach them to intervene if they see someone being treated unfairly. This is one of the proven interventions which can decrease bullying.
-In extreme situations, law enforcement may be needed
Call us if you need guidance.