October 17th, 2013 | 1 Comment
October is here, and in the realm of Public Health it is easy to forget about autumn foliage and pumpkin spice lattes. Instead, we busy ourselves with flu shots and preparing for the cold weather. However, October does not only mark the beginning of flu season. It also is National Bullying Prevention Month.
Bullying has garnered attention as a national concern. Nationwide surveys and studies have revealed that one in three youths experience bullying on a weekly basis. Estimates put 2.1 million bullies and 2.7 million victims in American schools, with 160,000 children missing school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students. By the time students graduate high school, nearly all students will have had some type of exposure to bullying.
Why Is Bullying a Public Health Risk?
Bullying can have a profound impact on the health and well-being of both bullies and victims. In their study “Bullying and Suicide: A Public Health Approach,” researchers Hertz et al found that bullying can lead to depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties and poor school adjustment in both parties. Additionally, they found that bullies had an increased risk of using alcohol, cigarettes and drugs later in life. Most alarmingly, although perhaps unsurprisingly, the study also informed of a correlation between bullying and suicide-related behaviors. With the multitude of dangers involved with bullying, the CDC came forward earlier this year with the message that bullying is officially a public health risk.
What are we doing to prevent bullying?
The link between bullying and public health is earning support and recognition. Interventions are springing up across the country to help communities with bullying problems, as well as to prevent bullying from happening at all. The Tufts Public Health and Professional Degree Programs are participating in National Bullying Prevention Month by sharing several successful intervention strategies from the past few years.
Preventing Individual Incidents of Bullying: In McKinney, Texas, students at any school can anonymously text tips to police officers stationed at the school or communicate in real time with the officers via computer. With so much interest in technology, students are eager for the opportunity to use technology-based programs, turning out positive results within the first month of the program. Officers have stated that by being in the school already and then receiving tips as bullying is happening, they have been able to stop several fights and thwart multiple potential bullying incidents.
Reflecting on Past and Current Bullying, and Preventing Further Bullying: Schools across the country have participated in the assembly program “Names Can Really Hurt Us” where high school students learn about bullying, are encouraged to speak about their own bullying experiences in front of their peers and teachers, and participate in small group workshops. Teachers have noticed students becoming more courageous about standing up for others and having higher expectations of respectfulness and kindness, while students have noticed an increased awareness about the serious consequences of bullying.
Reaching Out to Victims of Bullying: Campaigns supporting victims of bullying have gained popularity on a local and national level. After incidents of bullying-related suicides, many towns have raised awareness about mental health care and suicide-hotlines to encourage victims to seek help. In the national arena, the “It Gets Better” campaign offers hope to LGBT teens who have been bullied because of their sexuality. Since the campaign took off it has expanded to helping those who have been bullied for any reason, with teens and celebrities speaking up about how bullying does end and victims can persevere through the difficult times.
Do you want to learn more about bullying? Are you interested in helping with bullying prevention? Check out one of our recommended sites:
CDC: Understanding Bullying
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s bullying fact sheet
ADL Education & Outreach: Bullying/Cyberbullying
Anti-Defamation League’s anti-bullying programming and prevention page
Education World: Bullying Intervention Strategies that Work
Interventions in an educational setting
Make Beats Not Beat Downs
Alternative help to youths affected by bullying through art, music & education
Public Health and Professional Degree Programs
© 2014 Tufts Public Health