“One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.”
-Michael J. Fox
National Bullying Prevention Month is a nationwide campaign founded in 2006 by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center. The campaign is held during the month of October and unites communities around the world to educate and raise awareness of bullying prevention. According to statistics one in five children admit to being bullied and bullying is not only isolated as a childhood problem but also affects adolescents and adults as well. In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include:
- An Imbalance of Power: Individuals who bully use their power, such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity, to intentionally control or harm others.
- Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.
Common Myths About Bullying Debunked
Bullying is more than name-calling on the playground; it is a form of verbal, physical and emotional abuse that can lead to the development of mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety as well as behavioral disorders. Although cyberbullying is an increasingly popular form of bullying, more traditional forms of bullying are still more common than one may imagine. Whether battling rumors about their sexual orientation, enduring criticism of their clothes or getting pushed around at recess, kids and adults are bullied offline all the time. While it’s hard to stereotype bullying behavior in every school in every town in America, experts agree that at least 25 percent of students across the nation are bullied in traditional ways: hit, shoved, kicked, gossiped about, intimidated or excluded from social groups. There are many misconceptions about bullying that need to be debunked in order for individuals to understand the seriousness of this dangerous behavior.
Myth: All bullies are loners and have no friends
Fact: Many bullies are trying to climb the social ladder to gain popularity.
Most bullies have low-self esteem or have been bullied themselves and are using this tactic as a way to control and manipulate other individuals. Bullies want to be liked, they want to be popular and they usually use bullying tactics as a way not only to make themselves feel better but as a way to gain supporters.
Myth: Individuals who are bullied are bullied because they have a victim mentality.
Fact: Individuals with all personalities are bullied.
Not all individuals who are bullied are shy and withdrawn; many have outgoing personalities and have a high level of confidence however they are bullied simply because the bully chose to pick on them. The blame and responsibility for the bullying fall on the bully, not the target. Additionally, labeling individuals by saying they have a victim personality lets the bully off the hook and implies that if there were something different about the victim, the bullying would have never happened.
Myth: Bullying is easy to spot
Fact: Most forms of bullying are done in conspicuous places, behind closed doors or on social media behind fake accounts.
Bullying is not just hitting on punching on the playground. Many kids will bully their victims in private or when nobody is watching. Many individuals will verbally assault others when the scene is mostly obsolete or will hide behind fake social media accounts online. Bullies do not want to get caught and therefore they will try to do damage when nobody else is watching. This is why it is so important for the victim to tell an authority figure about what is occurring. Even if parents and teachers are watching for signs of bullying, it may go unidentified if nobody speaks up.
Myth: Bullying only takes place among kids
Facts: Adults can be the biggest bullies.
Although bullying does occur among children, adults can be vicious towards each other. Adults can exclude other adults at social gatherings, start rumors, slander other on social media and replicate the same nerve-racking hierarchies they are so quick to condemn on the playground.
Myth: There are no laws against bullying.
Fact: Certain acts of bullying can be criminalized by law by the Equalities Act 2010.
Other types of bullying may be covered by the Harassment Act of 1997. Upsetting messages which are sent online or via the post may be covered by the Malicious Communications Act 1998 or by the Communications Act 2003.
Mental health and bullying
Bullying can negatively impact individuals and lead to the development of low-self esteem and mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. Studies have shown that children who were bullied suffered worse outcomes than children who were not bullied but maltreated by adults.
“Researchers presenting at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in San Diego examined data from more than 4,000 participants in the UK ALSPAC study (Avon Longtitudinal Study of Parents and Children) and 1,273 participants from the U.S. Great Smoky Mountain Study. The studies collectively provide data on both bullying by peers and maltreatment by adults at intervals occurring early in life (between 8 weeks and 16 years) and mental health outcomes between the ages of 18 and 25”.
Some studies show that although bully can result in mental health consequences, these effects can dampen over time. Many children can recover from their negative interactions however this recovery process varies upon each individual.
Seeking help for bullying
Many individuals who are bullied are often scared to stand up to their perpetrator and may also be scared to admit to others what they are going through. As a result, they may hide from their reality and be in denial of their feelings, which can lead to unhealthy consequences both emotionally and physically. If you or someone you know is being bullied, it is important to tell someone you trust, whether it is a parent, a school counselor, a teacher or a close friend. If you feel that you are engaging in poor behaviors such as disordered eating, suicidal thoughts, or depression then it may be important to seek professional therapy as bullying can have lifelong scars and can potentially affect your future relationships.
Taking a stance against bullying begins with role models standing up against bullying and reporting any type of harassment to authorities. Teachers, parents, mental health workers and any individual in a position of power should support children, speak up against bullying and be aware of the mental health effects that are directly linked to bullying. Adults who remain silent when bullying occurs are encouraging it and making it worse