Bullying It’s Time for A Change:
Stand Up, Speak Up, and Create AwarenessGiselle Segarra
Queensborough Community College
Bullying continues to be a problem throughout the United States and the world. Anyone can be a victim of bullying as it manifests itself across schools, the internet, playground, and workplace. People who are victims of bullying, witness it, or perform it, can all be severely impacted. Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are common amongst victims of bullying placing them at an increased risk for suicide. Warning signs need to be recognized early so that appropriate interventions can be implemented. There has been a lot of research done on bullying and on this research paper its warning signs, its impact on health, and the ways it can be prevented will be discussed.
Key words: Bullying, Children, Mental health, School, Prevention, Teachers, Parents, Suicide,
Bullying It’s Time for A Change: Stand Up, Speak Up, and Create Awareness
Throughout the United States and the world bullying has turned into a continuous and prevalent problem for people of all ages, gender, color, races and ethnicities. Anyone can be a victim of bullying which is an aggressive and repetitive behavior that is intentionally used by a person or group of people to scare and hurt their victims (Stop Bullying, 2018). Bullying is often the result of an imbalance of social and physical powers that are real or are perceived as “real” by the bully. In the act of bullying, the victim is physically and verbally abused which can cause significant impact on the individuals mental health. Unfortunately, bullying is an act that can manifest itself anywhere, but it is most often seen at schools, and over digital devices. According to ABC News, “Nearly 30 percent of students are bullies or victims of bullying, with 160,000 kids staying home from school every day because of fear of bullying” (Bullying and Suicide, 2018). Victims of bullying are at an increased risk for suicide related behaviors, being 2 – 9 times more likely to commit suicide (Bullying and Suicide, 2018). Bullying must be stopped because no child should have to attempt against his or her own life because of fear and feelings of worthlessness. The trauma children experience, and the number of deaths associated with bullying, can be stopped by creating awareness and having knowledge about the warning signs, its impact on mental health, and preventative actions that can be taken. It is time for this ongoing issue that impacts millions of children in the U.S. to be addressed by being a voice and taking a stand against bullying.
There are several warning signs that may indicate an individual is being affected by bullying. The early recognition of these warning signs by parents, school teachers, and health care providers is an essential part of taking action against bullying. Children who are victims of bullying often have difficulty sleeping, frequent nightmares, poor academic performance, change of appetite, self-destructive behaviors, and a low self-esteem (Bullying Prevention Children Ages 3 to 19 Years, 2018). It often occurs that children will not seek help from adults because of fear and feelings of helplessness. Children may fear parental judgement and punishment, peer rejection, a counterattack from the bully or they may believe that by telling someone it will portray them as weak. Bullying can also cause the child to feel helpless. The child may want to handle the situation on their own because this can give them a sense of control when they are centered on the idea that no one understands or cares about them. In 2012, The Indicators of School Crime and Safety statistics showed that from all the bullying incidents that occurred in that year only 40% of adults were notified (Stop Bullying, 2018). Even when children notify adults Kevorkian et al., 2016 research article found that many of the reported cases of bullying were not getting the necessary adult interventions. In Kevorkian et al., (2016) study the critical characteristics of young childhood bullying were explored, and the results indicated that most of the bullying occurred while students were in the presence of adult supervision. The adult must be able to recognize the warning signs promptly so that appropriate actions can be taken.
Children who are bullied need additional support and interventions from adults (Kevorkian et al., 2016; p.269). Parental involvement is vital for a child’s wellbeing as it prevents and avoids bullying victims from continuing to be victimize (Kevorkian et al., 2016). No one knows a child more than the parent and although work schedules amongst other adversities can interfere with the parent-child relationship it is essential to leave time in the day to interact with the child. A parent who asks questions and listens can make a difference as it gives the parent an opportunity to enhance the relationship with the child. Feelings are expressed, and trust is instilled in the child. The school teachers who spend most of their time with children must also act and not view teasing, name calling or pushing as “child games”. Schools should address the issues and not ignore the silent pleas for help. Health care professionals such as school nurses can also identify signs of bullying by physically and psychosocially assessing children who exhibit the indicative warning signs of bullying. The problems children experience should not be belittled or ignored. The child must be heard as early interventions against these warning signs can help reduce the impact bullying has on mental health.
Bullying can have severe and long-term consequences on a child’s mental health. Children who are bullied can suffer anxiety and depression which places them at an increased risk for suicide. On August 23rd, 2018 James Myles a 9-year-old boy hung himself after being bullied for over a year at Joe Shoemaker Elementary School. It was his fourth day of fourth grade and over that summer he had told his mother that he was gay. Ms. Leia Pierce (the mother) had frequently contacted school administrators about the bullying issues, however they went unresolved. Ms. Pierce blamed the school for her son’s death because she felt they could have done more to stop the taunts and insults he was going through (Turkewitz, 2018). Jamel’s death is just one of the many deaths that result from bullying. Mallory Grossman a 12-year-old girl from New Jersey also committed suicide on June 2017. It was during Mallory’s first year at Copeland Middle School where she got bullied through texts and snapchat messages. She was called “fat” and made fun of because of her “frizzy” hair. In this case the mother Ms. Grossman also contacted school administrators about the bullying, but once again the school did not do enough. The school attempted to resolve the problem by asking Mallory and the bullies to “hug each other” (Zaveri, 2018). Despite of the many suicides related to bullying not all children who get bullied will commit suicide. A child’s suicide can be prevented with proper interventions. The schools cannot be solemnly blamed because there are other risk factors such as trauma history or problems at home that may also elicit the child to engage in a suicide related behavior. Child suicide rates have been on the rise creating a public health problem that must be prevented and solved.
Bullying can be prevented by getting parents, school staff and other caring adults such as nurses involved. Children must be educated on what bullying is, why it’s unacceptable, what can be done about it, and how to get help (Levin ; Tamburrino, 2013). Parents should effectively communicate with their children by listening and checking up on them. Parents can ask questions such as: How was school? Did anything bad happen to you today? Are you afraid to go to school? According to the website stopbullying.gov, “Spending 15 minutes a day talking can reassure kids that they can talk to their parents if they have a problem”. The parents should be encouraged to contact the school whenever a bullying problem is suspected. The plan on how the situation will be handled and how the school will monitor what is going on should be written out once addressed (Klass, 2017). School’s should use whole approaches that include the parents, students, and teachers as this can help the student develop problem solving skills. School teachers can use books during discussions to relate stories to real life experiences. Children need to be taught to accept other by exposing them to different backgrounds as this will teach them that everyone is unique. Conflict resolution circles or daily check ins can also be used to get the child to discuss their problems and emotions. Journals can also be used to get children to write or draw out their feelings. They also serve as a good communication tool between the teacher and student. Nurses can also get involved in the prevention of bullying by physically and psychosocially assessing children who are victims of bullying. Nurses hold neutral positions in situations where they must critically think and immediately intervene. Children are most likely to trust nurses because of the neutral position they hold. Frequent visits to the nurse’s office and school absences can be ways the child tries to avoid bullying. The nurse must be very attentive to these actions and to the physical and emotional complaints during the assessment. Nurses are leaders and they can make a difference by educating school staff, parents, and other caring adults about the characteristics of bullying and the victims. They can also teach about the long-term effects on mental health while providing support and guidance. Solutions can be found when everyone is aware and works together. There are several antibullying online resources and associations the nurse can recommend adults to use. The nurse should also teach and remind the children that adults can help, and that they shouldn’t feel afraid to approach them. Once an adult is aware of the situation appropriate actions can be taken.
Bullying must be prevented and put to an end. A change must be made by speaking up and taking action. No more children should have to commit suicide because of bullying. Warning signs must be recognized early to decrease the impact bullying has on mental health. It is essential to create awareness because it can really make a difference. It can be concluded that adults play a significant role in bullying prevention but more has to be done. Everyone has to get involved by getting educated about this issue. One of my recommendation to policy makers would be to require all school staff to receive special training in bullying prevention classes and for formal bullying prevention policies to be established. Funds should be given to all schools to provide education workshops on anti-bullying. Unfortunately, this is an ongoing problem that is far from ending, but we can gradually make a difference for all victims of bullying by speaking up and taking a stand against it.
Bullying and Suicide. (2015, July 07). Retrieved November 16, 2018, from
http://www.bullyingstatistics.org/content/bullying-and-suicide.htmlDepartment of Health. (n.d.). Retrieved November 12, 2018, from https://www.health.ny.gov/prevention/injury_prevention/children/fact_sheets/3-19_years/bullying_prevention_3-19_years.htm
Kevorkian, M. M., Rodriguez, A., Earnhardt, M. P., Kennedy, T. D., D’Antona, R., Russom, A. G., ; Borror, J. (2016). Bullying in Elementary Schools. Journal of Child ; Adolescent Trauma, 9(4), 267-276. doi:10.1007/s40653-016-0085-0
Klass, P. (2017, August 28). In the Fight Against Bullying, a Gimmer of Hope. The New York Times. Retrieved November 12, 2018, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/28/well/family/in-the-fight-against-bullying-a-glimmer-of-hope.html
Levine, E., ; Tamburrino, M. (2013). Bullying Among Young Children: Strategies for Prevention. Early Childhood Education Journal, 42(4), 271-278. Doi: 10.1007/s10643-013-0600-y
Preventing Bullying (n.d.). Retrieved November 12, 2018, from http://preventingbullying.promoteprevent.org/what-bullying
Stop Bullying. (n.d.). Retrieved November 12, 2018, from
The Relationship between Bullying and Suicide: What we know and what it means for schools. (2014, April). Retrieved November 14, 2018, from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/bullying-suicide-translation-final-a.pdfTurkewitz, J. (2018, August 28). 9-Year-Old Boy Hangs Himself and Mother Blames School.
9-Year-Old Boy Killed Himself After Being Bullied, His Mom Says. Retrieved November 12, 2018, from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/28/us/jamel-myles-suicide-denver.html
Zaveri, M. (2018, June 21). Sixth Grader’s Parents Say School Didn’t Do Enough to Stop HerSuicide. The New York Times. Retrieved November 12, 2018, from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/21/nyregion/student-suicide-new-jersey.html