As long as students have been going to school, bullying has taken place. Thankfully, in more recent years adults have begun to recognize the problem and work on making schools safer for all. One result of this hard work was the founding of National Bullying Prevention Month in 2006.
Initially, PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center named the campaign as a weeklong push to bring awareness of bullying prevention, but seeing even greater need, the event was expanded to the entire month of October in 2010. This year’s planned anti-bullying activities include speeches by celebrities and Twitter campaigns.
In honor of National Bullying Prevention month, we are sharing the latest research on youth bullying and what clinicians can do to help reduce bullying in our schools.
Research on bullying
The most likely victims of school bullying are those who students identify as being different. Children who have disabilities are often common targets, including physical and learning disabilities, Asperger’s Syndrome, and children with speech difficulties. Children and teens who are a racial or ethnic minorities and children who identify as or are perceived as being LGBTQ are also at higher risk.
Children and teens who experience bullying of any kind are more likely to experience poor outcomes, even well into adulthood. Research shows that a high percentage of youth, often over 60%, receive mental health services primarily as a results of having been bullied. Children who are bullied are also three times more likely to self-harm when they become adolescents.
Fortunately, research into bullying prevention has early, encouraging results. One program, the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP), has been shown to be effective in Norway and the United States, with students reporting lower anti-social and bullying behavior. Other evidence-based interventions include creating a safe, caring school environment and teaching students strategies to stand up to bullying.
How You Can Support Bullying Prevention
Counseling – When students have experienced bullying, which includes as victims and perpetrators, early intervention is important. If you work as a counselor in a school or educational system or with children in private practice, educate yourself on best practices for working with clients who have experienced bullying. Clinicians who work in schools should also keep an eye out for any signs of bullying within the environment.
Parent education and support – Many clinicians work with adult populations, and many of these clients are parents. Those clinicians who work in parent education settings will want to teach parents how to look out for signs of bullying in their children’s schools and what to do if they suspect their child is being bullied. Therapists of adults can help adults cope and support their children if they discover their children are victims or perpetrators of school bullying.
Consulting services – Preventing school bullying starts on the macro level. Clinicians who are knowledgeable about bullying can offer their that are skills as consultants in schools and other organizations for children. They can work with the school and discover the greater systems at play that are encouraging bullying. From there, they can help the school make policy changes and enforce interventions that will make it a safer place.
Teaching skills – The first line of defense for bullying is helping the children themselves. Clinicians working with children can teach them how to handle the situation if they suspect they or a classmate are being bullied. In addition, clinicians can support students in learning mindfulness and other coping skills that will help prevent children from bullying.
If you work with children or parents, make this the month you add more skills to your anti-bullying toolbox. Together, we can work to end the problem of childhood bullying.