One in every four children in Australian schools are experiencing bullying. One in four!! In excess of 200 million children worldwide are experiencing bullying. Children who are bullied are 3 times more likely to experience depressive symptoms and 9 times more likely to consider and/or attempt suicide.
We are losing citizens of this earth young and old because bullying has caused them to feel there is no other escape from their pain. Despite what we know about suicide and its causes and the tragedy of it, what we need to remember is its permanence. When we lose someone to suicide, there is no way to communicate that there is hope, there is no way for the bullies to realise the error of their ways and attempt reparation, there is no way for the situation to improve and for this reason – we need to tackle bullying head on, early on, from the very beginning. Each and every child needs to be educated on bullying and of equal importance, every single adult needs to be educated on its importance.
There have been numerous studies conducted in the last decade and the trends are alarming (high risk of mental health issues, high risk of suicide, high risk of criminal tendencies and psychotic episodes), however, they have provided hope and guidance in tackling this issue. Unsurprisingly, there are trends with parental behaviour being modelled for children and this leading to mirrored behaviour outside the home from something as small as a mother being critical of another woman’s outfit resulting in her daughter being critical of a fellow student’s state of dress to the more extreme examples of the parent abusing the child and the child using bullying as an outlet, a means for control in a life so out of control.
Either way, the most significant message is that adults need to get their shit together. We are the reason this has gotten out of control. The culture of criticism and bitching, of having an opinion on everything and everyone, and cynicism in all things has lead us up this path where we are now wringing our hands wondering what to do to control this epidemic of bullying in the youth of today.
One only needs to log onto social media to see adults behaving in a bullying manner. Mothers bashing other mothers, people referring to each other as “weak c*&ts” when they don’t bow down to pressure for whatever the latest fad may be or social plans, people getting involved in teenage disputes and engaging themselves in a bullying manner with teenagers – this list could go on and on.
How can we stamp out bullying in children when adults continue to bully? They are at home, at work and on the internet. Bullies are easily recognisable and it’s easier said than done when the advice is to avoid them. What if they are your boss? On the flip side, what if your personality is introverted and the only way to address a bully is to challenge them?
The answer is that there is no easy answer. The answer is that it won’t happen overnight. The answer is that we can only control the controllable, within our circle of family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances, we need to conduct ourselves in a manner that we would expect from our children, we need to expect more from those around us and deal with the uncomfortable situation of speaking up against bullying conduct – even if it is someone that you really are uncomfortable to address about this issue (boss, colleague etc) because, at the end of the day, depression and suicide are a hell of a lot more uncomfortable to deal with.
Bullying should start and end with us, we each need to take responsibility and instil the right mindset in the next generation. By nature, children do not see difference or feel the urge to practice prejudice against people. This behaviour is learnt – this behaviour is our fault and saying sorry as a generation is not enough, taking action to address this crisis his apology in motion.
I am guilty, I have gossiped, I have laughed at jokes that were at the expense of others. I am sorry for this and to prove my remorse I am raising my daughter to embrace difference, I am challenging bullies I come across in my daily life and I am refusing to sit on my hands any longer. Yes, this social issue is difficult and the resolution is neither quick nor simple – it’s just requires action from as many people as possible and it will flow on. Even if your actions stop one incidence of bullying, that’s enough. Love and acceptance is the answer – live it!