Did you know that 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year?
Did you know that 1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year?
The statistics are frightening. This week is Mental Health Awareness Week which means this is the perfect time to advocate and spread awareness about mental health.
As a passionate mental health advocate, I will be posting mental health related content every Thursday to help educate and spread awareness around topics related to mental illness.
Today I’m going to be talking about a topic that is very highly integrated with mental health. The topic is bullying.
Bullying – the Harmful Impacts & How to Prevent it
I recently shared in my personal story, Out of the Darkness – my Battle with Anxiety, that I was bullied as a pre-teen and how it affected my mental health and self-esteem.
Unfortunately, bullying is common.
According to statistics posted by stopbullying.gov, in 2019, about 20% of students ages 12-18 experienced bullying nationwide.
Also, Cyberbullying is becoming increasingly common with similar troubling statistics. An estimated 14.9% of high school students were electronically bullied in the 12 months prior to the survey.
There is increasing evidence that bullying may seriously affect the mental health and well being of children.
According to research by stopbullying.gov, children and youth who are bullied are more likely than children who are not bullied to experience depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
Also, children and youth who bully others over time are at a higher risk of experiencing problems at school, substance use, and aggressive behaviors.
Bullying is not a normal part of childhood.
Being bullied is not a right of passage and it is not a normal part of childhood. To reduce the longterm mental health affects of all parties involved, bullying can and should be prevented.
Bullying is a very complex issue and therefore, doesn’t have a simple solution. There are some important things that you can do, as parents, to protect your children from bullying.
Studies also have shown that adults can help prevent bullying by talking to children about bullying, encouraging them to do what they love, modeling kindness and respect, and seeking help.
You can empower your child to stand up to bullies and feel that they can let an adult know if they are being bullied and help them understand what constitutes bullying behavior.
Educate Your Kids about Bullying
Educating children about bullying early helps them be able to identify it when it happens. Talk with your child early about what bullying is, what it feels like, and looks like. Explain to them that this behavior is not right and that if they experience or witness this type of behavior, they should speak up and tell an adult.
Keep an Open Dialogue
It is common that parents are the last to know when bullying happens, but you can break that trend by talking to your child everyday about their social lives and establishing an open dialogue. Ask them open ended questions about their day and let them know that they can come to you to discuss difficult things that happened too.
Lead by Example
An important role of a parent is to model healthy behavior at home. Lead by example and show your child how to treat others with kindness and respect. If a child is witness to toxic behavior such as criticism, harmful jokes, and aggressiveness at home, they are much more likely to believe this is acceptable behavior and treat others this way too.
Watch out for Warning Signs
Due to the shame associate with being bullied, kids that are being bullied won’t always be forthright about it with parents. That’s why it’s important to keep an eye out for warning signs. Some warning signs could include change to a child’s normal behavior, personality changes, avoiding school or activities, dropping grades, and increasing stomach aches, head aches or other illnesses.
Report Bullying Behavior
Become familiar with your school’s anti-bullying policy so that you know who should be contacted if something happens, and so that you’re clear about how the situation will be handled. If your child reports that they are being bullied, contact school personnel to discuss the incident and how to get it stopped immediately.
Bullying is never acceptable and we can all do our part to prevent it! For more information about how to prevent bullying, you can visit https://www.stopbullying.gov/.