CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -Adolescence is a time of rapid physical and emotional changes.
Add social challenges and the bullying that sometimes accompanies them as young people struggle to find their place, and the teenage years can be a perfect storm of crisis.
Data shows that young people who report being bullied frequently, as well as those who report frequently bullying others, have increased risk for suicide-related behavior.
September is Suicide Awareness Month and as part of the effort to lead the conversation on suicide prevention,Summit Health is encouraging parents to remind their children to spread kindness and not rumors as they do their parts to stop bullying and help prevent suicide.
What is it?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bullying is any unwanted, aggressive behavior, commonly seen among school-aged children, that results in a real or seeming imbalance of power.
"Bullying becomes apparent when one person or group appears to have mental or emotional leverage over another," said Director of Outpatient Behavioral Health and Licensed Clinical Social Worker Candace Rutherford of WellSpan Behavioral Health. "This doesn't include isolated events that happen once or twice. Bullying is habitual."
Bullying can include verbal or physical attacks, threats, exclusion and rumors. While over the years it traditionally occurred in person, the increased use of online social media platforms and cell phones among young people means bullying is happening more and more through technology.
"In a lot of ways, technology makes it even easier for bullying to occur. People can be empowered and often feel safer from repercussions when they use technology versus being in person," said Rutherford.
Ways to stop it
One of the primary ways to shut down bullying is surprisingly simple; stick with friends.
"It's easy to pick on one person, but it's a lot tougher for a bully to go head-to-head with a group of people," explained Rutherford. "If friends stick together and support one another, it limits the opportunity for a bully to pursue his or her target."
There are several ways adults can help stop bullying, according to: www.StopBullying.gov:
- Intervene immediately. It is okay to get another adult to help.
- Separate the children involved.
- Make sure everyone involved is safe.
- Meet any immediate medical or mental health needs.
- Stay calm. Reassure those involved in front of the other children.
- Model respectful behavior when you intervene.
Teaching, modeling and rewarding kindness from a young age can help prevent bullying since it helps children learn how to better interact with others.
Research shows that when students in elementary schools perform several kindness acts a week, there is an increased level of acceptance of their peers.
Parents can help instill kindness in their children:
- Take part in gratitude activities
- Include your child in volunteer activities or service learning
- Have children develop ways to help others
- Facilitate respectful conversations
- Generate open-ended discussion questions
- Encourage teamwork
- Teach and model how to name and express emotions
What to look for
There are signs you can look for that indicate your child is being bullied or is the bully.
- Unexplained injuries
- Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics or jewelry
- Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
- Changes in eating habits like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch.
- Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
- Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to attend school
- Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
- Feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem
- Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, self-harm or talking about suicide
- Getting into physical or verbal fights
- Is friends with children who bully others
- Acts increasingly aggressive
- Gets sent to the principal's office or to detention frequently
- Has unexplained extra money or new belongings
- Blames others for problems
- Doesn't accept responsibility for actions
- Is competitive and worries about reputation or popularity