If I had to identify the biggest challenge for those of us who work with young people is helping students identify bullying behavior and coming up with solutions. Elsbeth Martindale, PsyD, has created a wonderful tool, How to Spot a Bully card deck. Dr. Martindale reached out to me (and was generous enough to send me a deck for my review). I was so impressed with How to Spot a Bully I wanted to share my thoughts with all of you.
You may have seen my post on the long term health risks related to bullying over the summer. A new study by Michael Murphy of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, has linked repeated experiences of teen rejection to a decrease in strength in one’s immune system. The study focused on teen-aged girls and not surprisingly. While many students discuss bullying this type - social rejection or what I’d call relational aggression - is most commonly reported among girls; I often call it the Mean Girls mentality when working with teens.
Repeated experiences of being targeted can keep a person’s stress response system on high alert at all times. In this latest study, researchers point out that social rejection is particularly damaging:
I’ve tried to make a concerted effort not to write posts that only garner attention but try to use relevant newsworthy items to share a perspective on how to address and end bullying. When the news hit about Amanda Todd’s death this past Friday, I initially did not want to blog about it. The cause of her death is still under investigation but it is suspected Amanda is yet another teenager who may have taken her life at the hands of bullies. To write about her death and YouTube video initially felt exploitative.
Amanda’s mother has been quoted stating she would like Amanda’s video to be viewed and used as an anti-bulling teaching tool. Please note that the video can be triggering for some viewers who struggle with self harming behavior and please view the video with caution.
Through the school-based substance abuse prevention work we offer at Freedom Institute I constantly connect the dots between bullying and early substance use. How are two seemingly separate topics woven in together? Bullying behavior, like early substance use, can be viewed as a means for young people to gain social status, manage feelings, and indicate that a young person may need more parental attention.
When I meet with students we discuss why young people may resort to either behavior (depending on the topic of the day) to get their emotional needs met. The we delineate together what other, healthier, ways young people can get these needs met to prevent resorting to behavior that can harm themselves or others. As is the case with early substance use, bullying prevention efforts focus on increasing the already current protective factors in a young person’s life.