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Bullying and Adolescent Mental Health: What Caregivers Need To Know

Bullying and Adolescent Mental Health: What Caregivers Need To Know

Feb 17, 2023

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately one in five high school students reported experiencing bullying at school in the last year. Adolescents who are victims of bullying and those who bully others are at greater risk for behavioral problems and mental health concerns. Fortunately, bullying is preventable, and there are ways for caregivers to help. 

What is bullying?

“Bullying is unwanted and repeated aggressive behavior that one child or a group of children direct toward a peer,” said Tarrah L. Bowick, LCSW at Inspira Health Bridgeton. “It can cause physical, social or psychological harm and distress.” 

Bullying often occurs in person, but cyberbullying is increasingly common. With cyberbullying, perpetrators harass their victims through threatening, intimidating electronic communication via text messages and social media. 

The most common forms of bullying are: 

  • Physical bullying such as hitting, kicking, pinching, pushing and tripping 
  • Social bullying, which is lying and gossiping to cause reputation damage
  • Verbal bullying such as threatening, name-calling and teasing 
  • Property damage, which is the deliberate destruction of belongings 

The impact of bullying on mental health

“The consequences of bullying are severe,” said Bowick. “It can result in physical injury, emotional distress, social anxiety and even death.” There is a strong link between bullying and suicidal ideation. It can also increase the risk of other behavioral and mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, academic problems and sleep issues. 

Adolescents who bully others are also at increased risk for behavioral and mental health concerns and are more likely to have substance abuse issues and experiences with violence. 

How caregivers can help

“As a caregiver, one of the most helpful things you can do is listen to your child,” said Bowick. “When a child talks to someone they trust, either at home or school, it can help them feel less alone.” 

Educating adolescents on bullying behaviors and appropriate ways to respond can also help them cope. If your child experiences bullying, the first step they can take is to look at the other person and tell them to stop calmly and clearly. If talking to the bully feels unsafe, they can walk away to separate themselves from the situation and find an adult immediately. 

You can also help by connecting your child to caring adults and activities, such as after-school clubs and mentoring programs. By ensuring your child is in a safe, supervised environment, you can minimize their exposure to unsafe behaviors. 

Monitor your child’s social media accounts, and talk to them about internet safety. If you think your child is a victim of cyberbullying, ask questions to learn what is happening and document the repeated behavior. Report the issue to your child’s school and get support from a guidance counselor or mental health professional if needed. 

Inspira Health is a high reliability organization (HRO), which means safety is the top priority for patients and staff. To make an appointment, call 1-800-INSPIRA.

Topics: Behavioral Health, Addiction Services, Health and Wellness