TW: Mentions of bullying, depression, suicidal ideation.
School is a space and an environment that is a significant part of the most important years of a person’s life, the stage which holds implications on all dimensions of development. Across all societies of the world, the importance of education and schooling has been realized and is being promoted through all means and to all extents. School is one of the first exposures that a child receives as they step out of the limited and protective environment of their home.
This exposure is not only in terms of education, knowledge, and information but also peers, diverse perspectives, views, and opinions. Our peers, the friends we make during our school life hold immense significance in our lives, not just during the schooling years but in some cases lifelong. Parents also send their children with this assurance that they will be adequately treated and taken care of. School should aim to be a safe space and environment that helps a child flourish and build efficiently in all possibilities.
School is a significant part of a child’s development.
However, there are different ways this flourishing experience can be compromised and in turn, can have serious negative implications. One of the ways is the dreaded term: bullying. Bullying is a dreaded scenario because it is sad to think what makes children indulge in such acts and what kind of a psyche makes them inflict such harm on others.
On the one hand, peers can be our companions, on the other hand, they can be the source of a child’s nightmares. Bullying is broadly defined as a desire to hurt and the execution of a harmful action; it is characterized by repetition and either a physical or a psychological power imbalance (Farrington, 1993, Rigby, 2002, Smith and Brain, 2000, Smith and Sharp, 1994).
It may come in the form of verbal abuse, physical aggression, or relational victimization. The first two forms of bullying have sometimes been called “direct bullying” as they include directly aggressive behavior. Relational victimization is the manipulation of peer relationships to exclude someone (Wolke, Woods, Bloomfield, & Karstadt, 2000). The last form of bullying can actually lead to isolation, loneliness, and consequently serious negative outcomes, which may not manifest physically but can be worse than that.
Cross-sectional research on the effects of bullying on psychological health has consistently found that those that are bullied exhibit poorer emotional adjustment in early to late adolescence, indicating an association but no direct causality (Alikasifoglu et al., 2007, Baldry, 2004). Hence, children who are bullied have a higher risk of depression and anxiety over the following school year (Bond, Carlin, Thomas, Rubin, & Patton, 2001).
Experiencing any type of bullying victimization corresponded with higher levels of depression and suicide ideation for females and males. These effects can be coupled with lower levels of academic attainment, self-esteem, and social functioning (Hawker & Boulton, 2000; Schwartz, Gorman, Nakamoto, & Toblin, 2005). Recent studies also suggest that bullying is related to sleep disturbances.
Moreover, on the other end, a study by Rivers et al. (2005) suggested that observing bullying at school predicted risks to mental health over and above that predicted for those students who were directly involved in bullying behavior as either a perpetrator or a victim. Observing others was also found to predict higher risk irrespective of whether students were or were not victims themselves.
Additionally, cases of cyberbullying are being reported in school these days, and with especially the pervasive influence of social media, it is creeping into the life of children and adolescents. Web series such as ’13 reasons why’ have managed to spark a debate on the prevalence of bullying in all forms among adolescents and the loss it can lead to.
Therefore, one of the immediate areas to intervene in the arena of school mental health is the detrimental impact of bullying and how to not just lessen but eradicate this practice from the school environments, and instead teach our children to be kind.
Originally Published Here
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