National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month-Part 1: Who is at risk for bullying?

National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month-Part 1: Who is at risk for bullying?

Bullying can be defined as unwanted and aggressive behavior used to intimidate, threaten and be violent towards someone. An individual begins bullying due to a real or imaginary power imbalance and can target anyone, be it school kids or adults. Bullying includes threatening a person, spreading false rumors, subjecting someone to physical or verbal abuse, or intentionally excluding someone, especially from a group. It is widespread in schools across the U.S. One out of every four students report being bullied during the school year, as per the National Center for Educational Statistics, 2015 (NCES).

Types of bullying

A kid can be bullied during or after the school hours. However, the maximum cases of bullying have been reported as having taken place inside the school building. A number of such cases also take place outside the school premises such as in the playground, the bus, while traveling to or from the school, and even on the internet.

Bullying can take various forms, such as:

1. Physical

 This includes indulging in activities that physically hurt an individual or his or her possessions such as hitting, punching, spitting, kicking, pushing, making rude comments or snatching away one’s belongings.

2. Verbal

 Verbal abuse can involve saying or writing nasty or lewd comments targeting a specific person, with the intention to cause hurt. Teasing, passing sexual comments, taunting, threatening or making fun, are a few common examples of verbal bullying.

3. Social

When an individual’s reputation or relationships are hurt due to another’s intentional actions, then he is a victim of social bullying. Also referred to as relational bullying, it includes activities like leaving someone out on purpose, telling other children not to be friends with him or her, spreading false rumors about the person, and embarrassing the individual in public.

4. Cyberbullying

It includes indulging in activities to embarrass or harm someone via the internet, digital technology, or mobile phones. Common tactics include, excluding an individual from an online group, harassing him or her via emails and messages, gossiping to damage a person’s reputation or relationships, and creating a fake account on social media with the intent to humiliate or disseminate wrong information.

Who is at risk?

There is no defined set of people, age, culture or region which is at the risk of bullying. However, few groups such as lesbians, gay, bisexual, and youth who are differently-abled are at a higher risk of being bullied. There are other factors that can be associated with an increased risk of bullying for students which include:

  • perceived as being different from their peers such as by wearing glasses, being overweight or underweight, or being new to a school
  • deemed as being weak and unable to defend themselves
  • depressed and anxious
  • low on self-esteem
  • not popular as others in class
  • do not mingle much with other kids

Effects of bullying

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), kids who are a victim of bullying are at an increased risk of poor school adjustment, sleep difficulties, anxiety, and depression. Even kids who engage in bullying are at an increased risk of facing academic problems, substance abuse, and violent behavior later in adolescence or adulthood.

Bullying has a negative impact on the victim. It makes him or her aggressive, affects his or her social skills, academic performance, leads to negative thoughts and difficulties in solving social problems. If a student is both a target of bullying and also engages in bullying behavior himself or herself, he/ she is at a greater risk of mental and behavioral problems than students who only bully or are only bullied, as per the CDC.

Preventive measures for bullying

Bullying can severely damage an individual’s mental health. Therefore, it is essential to take steps to curb the issue before it is too late. This National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, observed every year in October, encourages communities to stop bullying by spreading awareness about the issue and its impact on children of all age groups. To support the initiative, we are bringing a series of articles that would help in developing a better understanding of the concept of bullying and effective measures that can be undertaken towards eradicating the problem.

If you know someone who is seeking medical assistance for mental health issues triggered by bullying, the Florida Mental Health Helpline can help. You may call us at our 24/7 helpline number (866) 846-5588  or chat online to know about the best treatment for mental disorders in Florida.