So what about depression and bullying?
Alexandria is such a pretty kid, in all other ways, lovely. We are standing in line and I hear a childlike voice saying cruel things to the other kids. “You’re so ugly, we should let you die.” “Nobody likes boys like you and nobody ever will.”
Then I figure out who would be saying those incredibly harmful things.
I am astonished; I know Alexandria’s parents and they would be horrified. We are in line for a community dinner, in a liberal, thoughtful organization that ardently teaches that every human being is worthy. The children she is talking to were great little kids who aren’t saying anything, let alone standing up for themselves or each other.
I was the only adult within hearing distance. I grabbed her shoulder, turned her around so she faced me. “Are you being nice?” She’s frozen in place-she is caught and challenged. She can’t say anything. “This is a place where people are good to each other, say nice things to each other, like each other. What you are doing is mean. Be nicer.”
The key for me in the incident is this: nobody in that little gang of kids stood up for her or explained that she was joking or playing a game. They look relieved.
She will bear watching.
The recent research into the bullied and the bully suggests that depression and anger, along with anxiety, drive bullying behaviors. Those significant psychological factors also make children who suffer with them targets for miserable behaviors by kids who want to manipulate or dominate other children. Being bullied and bullying come from the same antecedents and suffer the same outcomes. Twenty years down the road some of those kids will still be suffering from self-esteem issues from trying to deal with a troubled life haunted by depression, by anger.
More on Depression and Bullying and their relationship to anger…
Depression, bad enough anyway, seems to be worse in the presence of anger. The two emotions fuel unhealthy and uncontrolled emotional and social states: poor impulse control, high rates of substance abuse along with more and more severe anxiety, and increased antisocial behaviours.
It’s a short step from there to bullying behaviours in both boys and girls. Boys tend toward physical violence, domination, stealing, and humiliation. Girls focus more on name-calling, teasing, taunting, and insults. Relationship bullying factors in ignoring people, telling lies and spreading gossip, and excluding people for being a little different, maybe a lot different. Then there is cyber-bully, which is just as dangerous. It’s all harmful, distressing, and creates big problems for bullies and the bullied. Sometimes, it is problematic, all throughout the course of a life. More help here.
There’s a lot you can do either as a parent or a teacher, or a person like me, the handy adult. It requires community responsibility, mental health involvement, an active educational system that teaches thoughts and actions that keep everybody safe.
Depression and Bullying: What the kids can do
- Tell, tell, tell parents, teachers, police officers, when danger arises from a bullying episode.
- Make sure that the kids do things in groups.
- Don’t walk alone.
- Don’t exclude people.
- Don’t lie or gossip about other kids.
Depression and Bullying: What parents can do
- Be specific on what behaviours are safe and acceptable, and which ones are not.
- Get to know the families and the children in your child’s class.
- Work closely with the teachers to assure a safe environment for learning.
- Watch for depression and anger in your own children.
Depression and Bullying: What teachers can do
- Teach positive, acceptable, safe behaviours every day. There are programs that can help you.
- Get to know the kids in your class very well and their families.
- Assure that the students are supervised at play, during times of transportation and transition, class time.
- Spend time in classroom during lunch and recess, allowing children a safe place.
- Assure that every child feels valued, wanted, capable of learning and growing, safe, particularly children who are a little different or on another track. Kids who felt odd and outcast have turned lethal when the bullying was unchecked.
Depression and Bullying: What the community can do
- Provide an active police presence or resource officers.
- Provide mental health services and refer children with depression and anger issues, early and often.
- Work with other parents to provide a safe community.
- Report sexual or violent episodes to the police and to school/ community leadership. First time it happens.
- Confront bullying behaviour.
For detailed information on Depression and Bullying click here.
For decades, we believed that bullying was a phase; something that kids had to go through to grow up, a rite of passage. Now we see it differently. Bullying has long-term,highly consequential outcomes for both bullies and the bullied, beginning with depression and anger. Best pay attention.