Bullying can happen among all age groups in every social setting from school to work to the internet. It can have many forms, including physical, verbal, social, and even virtual manifestations. Verbal bullying may happen by teasing and threatening, while social bullying can involve spreading rumors and encouraging others to exclude the victim. Because of people’s increased access to social media and the internet, virtual bullying may happen by way of slandering or sending hostile, even anonymous, messages.
A child being bullied can lead to many unseen mental health effects. For this reason, bullying among children is a risk factor for a range of social and emotional problems that may worsen through adulthood. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has listed bullying as one of the most common Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). In the workplace, bullying may happen via a toxic work culture. A general outcome of bullying is the lasting trauma felt by victims who might feel their social environment is unsafe or have trouble trusting people. Being the target of bullying has a negative and lasting impact on one’s mental health and can increase one’s vulnerability to substance abuse as a way to cope.
Impact of Bullying on Children
Bullying often happens when one child uses a physical or social advantage over another child in an aggressive way. Intimidation and emotional violence are at the core of bullying behaviors. Targets for bullying are often children who already seem to have self-esteem or social integration issues. Even if and when bullying ends, the experience tends to cast a long shadow on a child’s psychology, triggering things like depression, sleep problems, lower self-esteem, and even thoughts of self-harm.
Long-term effects of bullying include a general sense of anxiety, panic disorder, depression, social isolation, and potential substance abuse. Moreover, bullying also has lasting effects on the one being a bully, as they are more likely to become more aggressive or develop antisocial personality disorders if left unchecked.
Helping Children Who Are Being Bullied
Some parents consider bullying a part of growing up, but this is not a responsible philosophy for a child’s developmental well-being. As the guardian, parents should support their child if they find out bullying is happening in their social life. Parents and educators must understand the complex power dynamics of a bullying situation. Their intervention can help both the bully and the bullied grow into healthier, more well-adjusted adults.
Parents should listen to the child and understand that it can be hard for them to talk about the bullying situation. They should verbally assure the child that bullying is not permissible behavior and should be brought to light even when someone threatens you not to tell. If a child or teenager exhibits any of the mental health effects of bullying outlined above, it may be time to involve a mental health professional who knows how to handle the situation.
Because bullying can become a point of intense emotional trauma for young people, parents and educators should work with professionals who have been trained in trauma-informed approaches that understand bullying as a form of abuse with lasting mental health implications.
Treatment for children or adults who have been bullied should include a plan to prevent the abuse from happening again. The person who has been bullied needs to be told that bullying is not their fault, no matter the reason they were targeted.
Mental health professionals can teach new constructive thought patterns to help the individual recover from past hurts or negative self-talk. There are many forms of trauma-informed psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), that can help the individual identify troubling memories of abuse and learn new coping skills to heal from that trauma.
Raising Mental Health Awareness
Society should increase large-scale mental health awareness in order to stop bullying from happening and heal people from its harmful effects. Awareness can also educate bystanders in bullying scenarios to act responsibly. It’s not enough to help people who currently or have previously experienced negative mental health effects from bullying; everyone should be taught how to prevent bullying from happening, whether that be helping the recipient of bullying, standing up to a bully, or alerting the correct authority so they can step in. This way, mental health can be protected even before it needs to be healed.
The fact that bullying may even lead to teen suicide should be raising alarm for society at large. Everyone has a part to play in curbing bullying behaviors and in elevating the importance of mental health. Creating bullying-free school and work environments is a worthy social cause.
Bullying can lead to many unseen mental health effects, including self-esteem issues, anxiety, depression, and more. Bullying can even cause an increased risk of substance dependence and suicide in young people. We all have a role to play in curbing bullying behaviors in schools and workplaces by raising awareness and elevating the importance of mental health. If you have a loved one who suffers from mental health issues due to bullying, seek professional help for that person and see what you can do to stop the bully in their tracks. At Laguna Shores Recovery, our team of licensed mental healthcare professionals and therapists can treat various mental health conditions, including co-occurring mental health issues with substance addiction. Our approach is holistic and trauma-informed, providing clients with custom treatment plans. Our full medical residential facility offers a range of treatments, including diagnosis, behavioral therapies, and 12-step programs. Call Laguna Shores at (866) 906-3203.