The state of the epidemic
Partners HealthCare is committed to being part of the solution to bullying in Massachusetts. They presented Bullying and Young people: An Educational Forum, at the State House on Thursday, April 28.
"We are sharing our clinical expertise to help prevent one of the most serious challenges facing our children today," says Partners CEO Dr. Gary Gottlieb.
More than 500 policymakers, healthcare providers, educators, parents and young people attended. They received the new Words Can Work DVD, Bullying: True Stories, to further their outreach on this issue.
As a medical journalist and the creator of Words Can Work, I've talked with hundreds of children and adults who describe the physical and emotional harm they experienced because of bullying.
Research shows that targets of frequent bullying are more likely to experience headaches, sleep problems and stomach ailments.1
Bullied children sometimes feel so powerless, they may believe suicide is their only option. Boys who are bullied are four times more likely, and girls are eight times more likely, to be suicidal than young people free of such behavior.2
Some survivors of bullying say its effects last a lifetime.
Tré, age 19, is featured in Bullying: True Stories. She describes lingering effects of high school bullying. "I don't like getting too close to people," she says. "I don't know that I'll ever completely get over it. But, I'm definitely getting stronger and stronger every day."
I've seen adults cry as they recount their childhood bullying. One friend, a CEO of a successful media company, turns off the radio when he hears a song that was popular when he was bullied 40 years ago. The music stirs bad memories.
In every public health epidemic, we all have a role. We can help prevent, identify, and stop bullying. We can help end the pain.
Doing so will require a cultural change, according to Dr. Robin D'Antona, author of 101 Facts about Bullying: What Everyone Should Know. "Many people still see bullying as joking or teasing, rather than the cruel behavior it really is," she says. "Bullying harms and changes people. The entire community must work together to stop it."
Parents and other adults with kids in their lives must model respect and peaceful means of resolving conflict. They must be tuned in to young people and take bullying seriously when it's reported or they witness it themselves. Too often parents and other caregivers don't recognize bullying or minimize and ignore it.
Schools must be diligent in protecting kids. Massachusetts law requires that they have policies and procedures in place, and to respond when bullying occurs. Still, some schools struggle to meet the full expectation of the law.
Young people have a role too. When students observe bullying and stand up for the victim, or tell a trusted adult, bullying behaviors tend to decrease and often stop. Many kids fail to report bullying incidents, believing that adults won't respond effectively.
Think of the children you love. Let's work together to end this public health threat.
Next >> Learn the facts
2. Bullying Prevention is Crime Prevention, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, 2003, http://www.fightcrime.org/
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