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Bullying and mental health issues

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A study was published on December 17 in Psychological Medicine, which pertains to the long term effects of bullying. According to this study, bullying during childhood, whether as a victim or a perpetrator, may increase the risk of developing psychotic experiences in early adulthood. Bullying is at the center of many a front page news story. Unfortunately, it is often associated with a suicide or some other tragic death tale.
This community-based study of more than 4700 participants from the United Kingdom showed that those who were bullied at the age of 10 years were more than twice as likely to suffer from episodes of psychosis by the age of 18 as those who were never bullied. Of greater interest in this study, found that children, who reported doing the bullying themselves, were almost 5 times more likely to have psychotic experiences by the age of 18 years. Lead author of the study, Dieter Wolke, PhD stated “"We were not surprised that there was a relationship to psychotic symptoms, particularly if you were chronically victimized, but we were surprised that we found an increased risk for the bullies,".
These results illustration that bullying can have a significant impact on adult life and that pediatric health care providers should routinely ask their patients about peer bullying experiences. Often times, parents are unaware that their child is being bullied due to the humiliation the child feels about disclosing this information. Some children might even think that the bullying will increase if there is parental involvement. The other focus of this study has become the actual bully. Parents are often not aware that their child may be the culprit in bullying situations.
A major problem is that Anti-bullying programs usually fall short of their goals. There is little consistency throughout the school year regarding bullying intolerance. Most anti bullying programs focus for about a week on anti-bullying and there is no follow up.
What makes bullying worse than previous generations is the fact that it has become an unrelenting event. This verbal, emotional and possible physical assault does not afford a child in this era of technology a break from this behavior. Years ago, children were bullied in school, on the bus or playground but this behavior ceased once a child entered their home. Going home actually meant leaving the harassment outside your threshold. This is no longer the case. The cyber bullying of children from social media, texting and other forms of electronic communication invades the home allowing no respite from this harassment. This psychological onslaught can be overwhelming to a child, who no longer has a refuge from the outside forces. This stress can lead to lashing out behaviors, low self-esteem, poor grades, depression and possible suicide.
Perhaps this study will cause our school and other social communities to consider the long range effects of bullying. In turn, preventing this form of harassment can decrease mental health issues in our adults. As I see it, you can either deal with a bully now or later, when it will be harder to address the mental health issues of an adult. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Stay well.

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