October is National Bullying Prevention Month with October 13 being Stop Bullying Day also known as Unity Day. These national campaigns that aim to spread awareness and prevention first became nationally recognized in 2006. Founded by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, the goal is to not only prevent bullying but also promote kindness, acceptance, and inclusion.
In schools, neighborhoods, and clubs across the United States, bullying is on the rise. From cyberbullies to those who bully in person, the need for understanding of this problem, awareness, and ways to prevent and stop it is essential now more than ever. Not only does bullying contribute to depression, anxiety, and suicide, it can cause serious problems later in life for both the person who is being bullied and the bully.
Bullying Today: Get the Facts
Most people have felt intimidated during their elementary or high school years by another student but today’s bullying has taken on entirely new levels of abuse. With the advent of social media, the person being bullied often cannot escape their tormentor no matter where they are. The statistics related to bullying are alarming and the problem is only getting worse. Here are some facts about bullying today according to PACER’s:
- 20.2% or one out of five students report being bullied
- 41% of students who reported being bullied believe the bullying will continue
- 24% of females report being bullied
- 17% of males report being bullied
- 49.8% of students between 9 and 12 years of age report being involved in cyberbullying (either bullied, doing the bullying, or witnessing another being bullied)
- Students report being bullied in the following areas:
- 43% in the hallway
- 42% in the classroom
- 27% in the cafeteria
- 22% off school grounds
- 15% online or by text
- 12% in the locker room or bathroom
- 8% on the bus
- 46% of students being bullied report it
- Students report being bullied about the following:
- Physical appearance
- Race or ethnicity
- Sexual orientation
No matter what the bullying is about, it can result in serious and long-lasting effects on the person dealing with the bully. It’s essential that awareness of this serious problem is raised but also that tools to prevent bullying and properly handle bullying when it happens are more accessible. Data from PACER’s also shows that when schools implement bullying programs, bullying decreases by about 25%.
Everyone can play a role in the prevention of bullying. From families and friends to teachers, schools, and coaches, knowing how to spot bullying early on and what to do is essential in order to help youth in need. The effects of bullying can be significant and long-lasting. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that youth who are bullied report more of the following mental health conditions:
- Sleep issues
In addition, students who are bullied are more likely to have lower academic achievement and higher dropout rates. Students involved in bullying also report:
- Increased, twice as many, health problems such as headaches and stomaches than their non bullied peers
- Decreased self-esteem
- Increased problems with family and friend relationships
- Increased risk for mental health issues (in both those who are bullied and the bullies)
- Increased risk for delinquent behavior (in bullies)
- Increased risk for maladjustment
It’s also vital to understand that being bullied can lead to an increased risk for the development of an alcohol use disorder (AUD) or substance use disorder( SUD). This risk also has other factors involved but being bullied and experiencing trauma in childhood are both factors that increase an individual’s risk for developing one or both of these addictions.
Bullying and Increased Risk for AUD and SUD
When it comes to bullying most people think about the person who is being bullied. And while it’s vital that the person being bullied is helped immediately, it’s also essential to recognize that the person doing the bullying is also at risk for developing mental health disorders. In fact, those students who report being both bullied and engaging in bullying are at the greatest risk for adverse outcomes.
To date, there isn’t conclusive evidence linking bullying directly to substance abuse, but the correlation is there. The LGBTQ+ community is an example of this. This group has higher rates of being bullied as well as higher rates of substance and alcohol use issues. Many times a person who is feeling uncomfortable in their own skin may begin to drink or use drugs to help ease these feelings. In addition, during the school years, many individuals succumb to peer pressure. If someone is being bullied or feels like they don’t fit in it may be easier for them to give in to peer pressure.
And, as many addictions go, what starts innocently may turn into dependence on that substance in order to just feel okay. Many people in recovery often tell the story of how they just wanted to feel normal or fit in and that led them to take their first drink or use a drug. For some, this first use will simply be a memory but for others, it will be the first step in becoming addicted. In addition to bullying, there are other factors that contribute to a person developing an AUD or SUD.
It’s also important to note that today’s youth are developing other types of addiction. Many of these have to do with video gaming, internet use, and other online dependencies. These also can help the person to escape their world and feel like they fit in somewhere. Parents, teachers, and others involved with youth need to be aware of these process or behavioral addictions. They can also cause problems in the person’s life.
Factors Increasing the Risk for Addiction
As mentioned, there are certain factors that increase a person’s risk of developing an addiction. Being aware of these risk factors and a person’s behaviors with alcohol and drugs is essential for early intervention and prevention. Here are some factors that experts believe increase a person’s risk for alcohol or substance abuse:
- Family history of addiction
Certain models of addiction reveal a genetic factor. If there is a family history of addiction, there is a greater risk of developing an addiction.
- Presence of certain mental health disorders
The presence of mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, conduct disorder, or ADHD can increase the risk of addiction.
- Impulse control issues
Youth (or adults) with impulse control or behavioral issues are more at risk.
- History of trauma
Children who experience or witness traumatic events such as violence in their youth are also at greater risk for addiction.
- Environmental factors
This includes cultural views on drugs and alcohol, peer and family use of drugs and alcohol, and how easy access to these substances all contribute to developing an alcohol or drug dependence.
- Age of first use
The early in life an individual first tries alcohol or drugs is crucial to the outcome. Research shows that the earlier a substance is used, the more likely addiction will develop.
Addiction can happen to anyone. An individual can have all of these risk factors and never develop an AUD or SUD. However, an individual may have none of these risk factors and go on to develop an addiction to alcohol or drugs. These risk factors don’t mean a person will become addicted, but, they are factors to be aware of especially if you or someone you love is using alcohol or drugs.
When it comes to bullying, the development of an addiction is just one concern. As mentioned, youth who are bullied are more likely to be depressed and according to research are 2.2 times more likely to have suicidal ideations and 2.6 times more likely to attempt suicide than their nonbullied peers.
How to Prevent Bullying and Help
One of the most important ways to stop bullying and help those involved in bullying is to open the conversation about it. That’s just one reason why National Bullying Prevention Month is so important. It’s vital to educate everyone involved with youth to know when someone is being bullied, what to do, and how to prevent bullying.
According to PACER’s the following are ways to help with bullying:
- Actions that support the student being bullied were more helpful than those that were aimed at changing the behavior of the bully
- Students reported the following to be most helpful from teachers:
- Checking in with them to see if bullying stopped
- Listening to them
- Giving them advice
- Students reported the following as the worst things teachers can do:
- Tell the student to handle it themselves
- Tell the student if they changed their attitude or behavior it wouldn’t happen
- Ignore the bullying
- Tell the student to stop tattling
- Bullied students report that the following behaviors are most helpful from peers:
- Talking and supporting them
- Helping them get away from the bully
- Spending time with the student being bullied
- Giving advice
It’s essential to support youth who are being bullied. However, it’s also important to help the youth who are doing the bullying to stop. Often, bullies are hurting deeply themselves and while their actions are not acceptable, they too are young and need healthy adult support in order to develop better coping skills of their own.
Bullying is on the rise and communities need to come together in order to support those who have been and are being bullied. When bullying goes on, the impact can be devastating. From depression and suicide to developing addictions, the effects of bullying can be long-lasting and far-reaching.
If you or a loved one are being bullied and have developed depression or anxiety, Futures Recovery Healthcare can help. We have a Mental Health Program aimed at supporting adults to manage their mental health disorders. In addition, Futures has three different substance use treatment programs; Core, Rise, and Orenda. Call us today at 866-804-2098 or visit us online to learn more about how we can help.