There is very little doubt that bullying can have a devastating impact on individuals. Bullying is linked to many negative outcomes including having a significant impact on mental health, substance use, and suicide. (Stop Bullying.gov). I was a victim of bullying throughout my time in school and it had an immediate and lifelong effect. Everyday I had to try and drag myself out of bed, knowing the physical, verbal and emotional abuse which was sure to follow. It was a very dark time for me personally and the effects live on with me today. Bullying is a problem which can destroy the self-esteem and self-worth of children and as such needs to be responded to aggressively. However, I would argue there is a significant correlation between adult bullying and mental health which is often overlooked.
In truth, when we talk about bullying, people frequently think about schools and children. However, I find that Governments and School Districts have been at the forefront in this battle against bullying. A slew of creative programs and anti-bullying laws have been formulated across the globe and directed squarely at schools. For instance, according to the Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network, In Ontario, there is a formal legislation on bullying, Bill 13 Accepting Schools Act, 2012: An Act to amend the Education Act with respect to bullying and other matters. The bill states the rights and responsibilities of teachers, schools, school boards, and ministries when preventing or dealing with bullying instances. The law pertains to all incidents of bullying that affect the school’s learning climate, whether on or off school property, face-to-face or electronic. A problem has been recognized in schools and it has been aggressively addressed. While schools are not perfect in all cases certainly…there is no doubt they have tried hard to tackle a very complex issue. Considering all of this, I am always quite dismayed to see news reports which reveal the growing prevalence of bullying…and in particular… cyberbullying among adults.
For evidence of this concern, take a study which was conducted at Simon Fraser University in Canada. While the story does cause alarm, it also provides further evidence that bullying is indeed a societal problem and not simply related to children and adolescents. It has suggested that university students frequently harass their peers and faculty members on social media. It also reveals that faculty members are not only attacked and harassed online by students, but they are by other faculty members as well. Indeed, the numbers indicate that one in five undergraduate students has been cyberbullied. Professor Wanda Cassidy, one of the professors who worked on the study, outlines the fact that the adult cyberbullying is accompanied by such dire consequences as anxiety, sleep deprivation and thoughts of suicide. (1) Indeed, this story may cause dismay and concern, but it really should not come as a major surprise. University students and adults can easily be involved in or become victims of bullying and cyberbullying. If anyone really doubts this claim I invite you to see the trolling which can go on in Internet forums, on Twitter and in particular, Reddit. While Social Media can certainly be used for good, as I have found with the Mental Health community on Twitter…it will still be plagued by trolling and cyberbullying at times. Bullying and cyberbullying are societal problems which directly impact the mental health of individuals and as such need to be addressed by society itself.
I have noticed a growing trend among children and youth whereby they have little taste or tolerance for bullying by their peers. In many cases it is no longer seen as “funny” or “cool” as it once was to pick on others… but is now considered mean and distasteful. While this trend is growing… and by no means complete…I do believe our children are getting the message. So when I see a study about the prevalence of bullying and cyberbullying amongst our university students and adults, or witness the trolling which can happen on social media it really makes me stop and think. How can we as society hope to eliminate bullying among our children and youth when we see daily examples of it modeled by adults who should know better? In this case it seems to me that society in general could learn a lot from our children.
1. Vivian Luk, Cyberbullying on the rise at Canadian Universities. Globe and Mail http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/cyberbullying-on-the-rise-at-canadian-universities-studies-show/article17422371/