Bullying affects students psychologically, administrators say

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Editor’s note: this article is to be paired with “Bullying: its evolution, how to combat it.”

Youth who face bullying today also face an “increased risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties and poor school adjustment,” according to a Center for Disease Control and Prevention report released in 2016.

That’s why more administrators, counselors and even school resource officers are getting involved in combating bullying in schools, said Jeff Ward, a teacher at Timpview High School in Provo.

“Counselors are a lot more involved now than when I was in school,” Ward said. “And school resource officers are always gathering information and investigating kids.”

Emotional issues aren’t the only consequence for children who are frequently bullied, according to Cherstine Willis, vice principal at Saratoga Shores Elementary School in Saratoga Springs. Sometimes the consequences include physical issues, including self- harm.

Negative effects of bullying — The National Center for Educational Statistics, 2016. (Michael Morris)

“I think if someone is bullied over an extended period of time, they can get into a really bad place where they might even commit suicide,” Willis said. “Unfortunately, we’ve had some suicide issues at our own elementary school. The students are so young, but we heard one of the kids who had been bullied talking (about) suicide.”

According to a report released in 1999 titled “Bullying, depression and suicidal ideation in Finnish adolescents: school survey” by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, both those who are bullied and the bullies themselves are more likely than their peers to have “an increased risk of depression and suicide. The need for psychiatric intervention should be considered not only for victims of bullying but also for bullies,” the report said.

Chad Jensen, professor of psychology at Brigham Young University, agrees. “Bullying is associated with increased risk for anxiety, depression and aggressive behavior,” he said. “Individuals who are bullied are more likely to experience anxiety or depression while a much smaller group is at risk for aggressive behavior.”

Jensen added that those who bully others are sometimes victims of bullying.

“Because bullying is often an attempt to assert social power and achieve social status, people who have been bullied often engage in physical or relational aggression to improve their perceived social status,” said Jensen.

Ruel Haymond, a high school teacher at American Heritage School in American Fork, agrees bullying is cyclical. Drawing on experience, he said once someone has been bullied or even abused, that person is more likely to do the same to others.

“It’s easy to continue that kind of behavior,” said Haymond. “Victims are influenced by the negative pressure around them.”

Bullies also risk becoming involved in problem behaviors, like smoking and drinking, according to a report titled “Bullying” released by childtrends.org in 2013.

But the problems don’t stop there.

According to a report released by the National Voices for Equality, Education and Enlightenment foundation, “87 percent of students said shootings are motivated by a desire to ‘get back at those who have hurt them.'”

The evidence related to school shootings is still inconclusive, but according to the report, problems with violence and bullying have always been issues at schools.

One of the main problems with combating bullying is people are often afraid to speak up or ask for help, according to Ward.

“Sometimes you have to confront the bullies,” he said. “You can’t be afraid to talk to a counselor or administrator.”

According to Haymond, the impact of bullying is a serious problem and can be found both inside and outside of schools. He said everybody needs someone to help protect them, whether that be parents, counselors, resource officers — or all of the above. Without some form of help, people become more and more vulnerable.

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