October is National Bullying Prevention Month
Unite for Kindness, Acceptance, and Inclusion
By Narda Gatgen, LCSW-R
Did you know October is National Bullying Prevention Month? The national campaign in the United States was founded in 2006 by Pacers National Bullying Prevention Center. This campaign focuses on preventing bullying, and promoting kindness, acceptance, and inclusion. Let us start with a trivia Quiz: See how many of the following bullies you can match to the TV show, movie, or cartoon. No cheating looking at the answer key.
- Johnny Lawrence 6. Bluto
- Regina George 7. Sid Phillips
- Scut Farkus 8. Cartman
- Draco Malfoy 9. Nellie Olson
- Nurse Ratched 10. Richard Vernon
- Karate Kid 2. Mean Girls 3. A Christmas Story 4. Harry Potter Series 5. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest 6. Popeye 7. Toy Story 8. Southpark 9. Little House on the Prairie 10. The Breakfast Club.
Although these are fictitious characters, we all can probably relate to at least one of the above having encountered someone similar. Bullies show up in all age ranges.
– 1 out of 5 students report being bullied
– Students/kids experiencing bullying are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, school avoidance, and other negative health effects.
– Students with disabilities (emotional and physical) and students of color experience bullying at a much higher rate than listed above.
– 70% of LGBTQ youth report having experienced some sort of bullying.
Do you long for the old days when parents and teachers’ advice for being bullied was “Don’t be a tattletale”, “mind your own business, and ignore them”, “There are bullies everywhere in life you have to toughen up and learn how to deal with them”. Many of us growing up heard these statements, and our employees in their 20’s were still hearing this during part of their formal education, then experiencing the shift to discussing bullying. As noted above, in the early 2000’s, the campaign began spreading bringing attention to this issue, educators and parents began tackling this very real problem. Now it is not uncommon for this to be discussed in the classroom, at home, celebrities speaking out on public service announcements, and anti-bullying messages being incorporated into children’s tv programming. We are doing better, but still have a long way to go. The very real occurrence of bullying and the power it has on youth goes way beyond hurt feelings. The real and damaging effects are traumatic for many, and sometimes fatal for others.
Youth now have the added pressure of witnessing or experiencing cyberbullying. Mainstream access to computers, cell phones and other devices allows bullies into our lives and into our homes. Cyber bullies are not physically present and visible but can hide and be anonymous. This type of bullying extends beyond school hours, and into our private lives, homes with access to our kids 24 hours a day 7 days a week. This type of bullying leaves kids vulnerable and parents and educators often unaware. Clearly times have changed and helping our kids be safe in the wonderful world of technology is a challenge. Still wishing for a simpler time? Despite the challenges of navigating our present world I believe when we know better, we do better. Parents and educators and schools are promoting and enforcing an anti-bullying environment and acting when there are safety concerns. School policies and protective measures are being addressed as well as codes of student conduct. Youth are encouraged when they see something or experience something to say something, report, confront and support their fellow peers.
Reading intake information and referrals for nearly 30 years at New Directions for youth entering Residential care, Foster care and Agency Operated Boarding Homes it has only been in the past 10-15 years that the mention of bullying has been listed as a common concern or experience of the youth we serve. A sign of the times? Bullying has always been present, but service providers recognize the impact and see the correlation to depression, anxiety, school avoidance, suicidal ideation, and many other behavioral and health concerns. When adopting Normative Culture at New Directions, the concept of peer-to-peer support was a key element. The shift from “mind your own business” to ” your peers are your business and need your support” is an aspect of promoting safety. It is noted in a study (Davis & Nixon 2010) that students who experience bullying report supportive actions and allying from their peers or bystanders was more helpful than actions by educators or self-actions.
-Check out the Pacers anti bullying website, https://www.pacer.org/bullying/
-Talk to the youth in your life about anti-bullying efforts, what they can do and encourage them to report concerns to a trusted adult.
-Do something kind when you see despair.
-Recognize Unity Day on October 20th, wear orange.
Unite for kindness, acceptance, and inclusion.
Narda Gatgen LCSW-R
Clinical Director Residential & AOBH Services