Mark Myers, a licensed clinical social worker and a certified drug and alcohol counsellor in Crystal Lake, Illinois, talks to NoBullying.com in a video interview on the issue of Emotional Bullying.
Below is a transcript of his interview on Emotional Bullying with the Founder of NoBullying.com, Ciaran Connolly :
Ciaran Connolly: So today I am joined by Mark Myers from ‘Myers’s Counselling Group’. Mark, thank you for taking time to talk to us today. Would you like to give our listeners some of your background?
Mark Myers: Again, I appreciate the opportunity to speak today. My name is Mark Myers. I am a licensed Clinical Social Worker, also, a certified drug and alcohol counsellor. I have been working in the private practice for over 15 years. I have also had experience in working in schools systems and hospital settings prior to my private practice and currently I am located in Crystal Lake, Illinois.
Ciaran Connolly: Very good. Excellent. And do you see bullying today as big an issue and even I am thinking as big as it was maybe five or ten years ago? Or is it with all the press and PR it is getting at the moment, is it slowly starting to improve?
Mark Myers: I think awareness has greatly increased regarding bullying. I mean, people are much more sensitive to bullying and able to recognize it. Unfortunately though, I think it is as big a problem today as it was years ago.
How does Emotional Bullying happen?
Ciaran Connolly: I understand. And do you see a difference in how bullying is happening today? I guess in the last few years everyone has got internet on their mobile phone, social networks have taken over the world so the world is a different place today. So, is bullying still done in the playground or on the school buses or in the streets outside our home or is there a different type of bullying happening at the moment?
Mark Myers: Well, you do have a good point. When I communicated that there is more awareness to it, that’s the good news. The bad news is that there’s many more means that people have at their disposal today to bully, whether it be texting, some of the social media, Facebook. I unfortunately usually see every couple of weeks somebody coming in as a result of some form of cyber bullying. Clearly, cyber bullying is on the rise and there’s many more means for people to take advantage of other people along those lines; as you mentioned texting. Again, there is much more at their disposal through the social media, through our technology and advances in technologies today. There’s many more means for them to be able to exert their bullying on other people.
Emotional Bullying and Cyber Bullying
Ciaran Connolly: And you mentioned there are people actually coming in to see you in regards [to] cyber bullying. Has it gotten that bad?
Mark Myers: Correct, particularly Facebook. Before talking specifically about teenagers, one person liking or disconnecting another person or not liking on Facebook, you know, can certainly create repercussions throughout their own little community there. So, I certainly have seen some pretty nasty things going on on Facebook, and that’s not specific to Facebook, but that’s just mainly one of the social media. As well, that happens within Twitter, within, as you’ve mentioned before texting. There’s just many many means that they have at their disposal now.
Ciaran Connolly: And would it be generally children that are having the problems on the social networks with cyber bullying or is it adults as well?
Mark Myers: Well, it is not just exclusively cyber bullying. Again, that’s one form. It presents itself as a good deal of
- physical bullying that’s going on.
- As well as verbal bullying, again could take on many different forms. I previously mentioned texting. That’s a form that people use to bully. Rumors. These are all things that fall within the auspices of being people being bullied.
Ciaran Connolly: Of course. And I guess the bullies themselves probably use a variety of methods at their disposal to target a victim?
Mark Myers: Correct. Whether it be cyber bullying, whether it be direct bullying. Usually, there is a full process that may go with some of the bullying. As much as we come up with avenues to address it, unfortunately, there may be just as many creative avenues that people will use to bully victims.
Media, Parents and Other Factors in Emotional Bullying
Ciaran Connolly: I understand. And the media has actually done a good job of raising awareness, but also there’s maybe a downside to the media as well. The way that we treat celebrities and even on Twitter and sites like this as we are talking about. Sometimes they can get a little bit haunted. Maybe fans. A football player might get some abuse after a game and these are things that are maybe accepted or are now becoming a social norm and it’s maybe giving our young people a bad impression about what can and should be done on the social networks and the internet. And we see that filtering down into our school systems as well which is never a good a thing. If a parent was talking to their child about bullying, how could they explain or try to educate the child? What’s the best way for them to try to ensure that their child understands that bullying is a bad thing and they shouldn’t be involved in it in any way or form?
Mark Myers: Well, the first thing, I think [for] parents, it needs to come from within, from the families, from the school systems, from the community. You mentioned as well the media. They have come up with many forms of the way people behave and conduct themselves. If you don’t mind, on the side, I also volunteered to do some of the community, you mentioned, sports. I do a lot of volunteering sports for some of my kids and we have refs out there that are 14, 15, 16 year olds that are doing their best jobs to try to referee games where you’ll have parents, just from the stands, trying to barrage and intimidate some of these kids if they don’t feel the calls are going their way. So, I certainly think a lot of the role modelling that goes on happens within the mainstream media that are particularly for people who see these things. They see things, whether it be actors or sports figures, certainly as prominent. So, what parents could do, and we can start with the parents, I think first what is important is for parents to be able to present and convey to their kids a couple of important concepts here. Number one, they need to recognize that bullying is going on.
Again, some of these things could to be pretty subtle whether it be somebody inadvertently or quote unquote ‘knocking somebody’s books down and laughing about it’ or being put down or people laughing when they walk into a room. It’s important for parents to get kids to understand that bullying doesn’t have to be being put and shoved inside a locker and it doesn’t take on that form. To have enough confidence in themselves; that “Something is wrong about this exchange that I am having with this person. Something makes me feel uncomfortable enough that I need to recognize that this is just not acceptable.” I think that’s the first thing. It’s empowering a kid. Number two is, even if a kid does recognize it, they are not always going to feel safe in being able to present these concerns. And I think that message needs to come from the school; that there is no acceptance of this type of behaviour and that the school will back this child up if this child discloses that he is a victim or he or she is being a victim or being bullied. I think going back to the feeling within the parents to be aware, to work on, to do whatever they can to build their kids’ confidence up enough to be able to feel that they can disclose and can trust, that they can give that information and work with the parents, work with the schools or work within the outside community or other parents in addressing this issue.
Long Term Effects of Emotional Bullying
Ciaran Connolly: Of course. And I think you made an excellent point and I am shocked to hear the story about the young referees. That they are doing their best and develop their skills and maybe a career for themselves, and you are right. Getting abused is not acceptable and when you do think about it, and again going back to football games or sport games, when something goes wrong, the players tend to surround the referee and often you see them being berated and abused and yet again this what we accept and it is exactly the role models our children are looking at. So, it is not just something in schools or in homes. It’s actually society itself that is broken, that we need to really have a look at what we are doing and what is happening and maybe start again. So, a big job for all of us, I think, and if we are talking about this, is there long-term effects on people who are bullied? Have you seen that in your years of practising?
Mark Myers: Yes, there is. There is certainly long-term effects. Adolescence particularly is a very influential time. Your kids have…there’s been some documented cases of kids being bullied and as a result of that:
- committing suicide or making attempts at committing suicide.
- Statistically, there’s been some indications of kids with lack of confidence in themselves,
- social isolation,
- low self-esteem.
There’s significant long term effects and numerous ones that children could experience through their childhood that may [give] themselves the possibility of entering into bullies is certainly a possibility. When you talk about a child that feels he is being picked on on a regular basis, there’s certainly going to be a lot of anger in that child growing up.
Most things are going to be presented and most things are going to be coming out in other relationships that he or she has whether it be their own children or husbands and wives. They are certainly going to be playing a role as far as the experiences that they’ve had being victims of bullying.
Ciaran Connolly: Very good then. You’ve hit a very valid point. So, the cycle continues and continues and we never break it.
Mark Myers: Exactly.
Emotional Bullying: Understanding Bullies
Ciaran Connolly: And when we’re talking about bullies themselves, how do you think the school should, or even the parent, deal with a bully when they get the very sad news or realize or even start to worry that maybe their child could be a bully? What should they do or say to try to bring them back to the normal actions and activities that the child should be doing?
Mark Myers: Well, we did discuss about coming from within the family. Regarding the school, a lot of schools are implementing bullying programming whether it be…there’s 7 pillars, Second Step, Rachel’s challenge. A lot of schools are incorporating this into their curriculum. So, that’s a very positive step. There are limitations to what schools can do. In fact, a few years back, I believe the schools were able to be a lot more aggressive to being able to address the bully; there would be zero tolerance and I still think that schools are making an active attempt at trying to stagnate the bullying. Unfortunately, with somebody with zero tolerance policies, you know, that the schools would implement, with that zero policy came a lot of different lawsuits and challenges to school districts and a lot of them found it pretty expensive to enforce the zero tolerance. They had to back off from some of those policies. Most schools still have these policies. With some polices in place to address bullying, almost all school systems, in fact all school systems in recently Illinois area do have some sort of social worker or psychologist on board that children could talk to and discuss these issues [with]. A lot of schools are implementing actual programming into their curriculum. There is no state-wide or federal mandates that tell them they specifically have to do this. It really varies and each policy varies from school district to school district. So, you might have a school district and another school district ten miles away from me; they may conduct themselves or have their policies a lot different from the one I would be at.
The Signs of Emotional Bullying
Ciaran Connolly: Wow. Amazing. So, basically, we need to fix the problem at schools and encourage better communication at home and hope that society and all the role models that surround us everyday start to realize what the impact is in their actions when everyone is watching them. If a child is being bullied, do they personally change? Is there a change in behavior? Is there a thing a parent might see that might give them an indication that their child is being bullied?
Mark Myers: Yes, there is. There is what we apparently look for. We would look to see if their child is a victim of bullying, and not that these signs in and of itself will be an exact indicator, but these are things that parents may look for. You may look for:
- unexplained injuries, bruises, cuts, scrapes. Things in that regard.
- You may see a child withdrawing more, isolating.
- Children, wherever they are being victimized, there would be an avoidance of wanting to go to that particular location whether it be school. You may see a child not wanting to go to school.
- Present more somatic complaints, “I don’t feel well”, “I don’t want to go to school today”
- You may see them have fewer friends
- Lack of confidence in themselves. You know, that is really kind of hard to cage but you could always tell by statements; self-defeating statements. Things in that regards.
- Change of eating habits. Basically, you want to look at particularly what is something [that’s] strikingly different from your child. Particularly, a child may not have a large network of friends or may start out with low confidence. You really want to be aware of any kind of behavioral changes that you see in your child. Again, not all of these are going to be clear indicators that you know that about it “My child is being bullied!” But I certainly think that if a parent starts seeing some of these indicators, that surely leads itself to a conversation and you are not necessarily going to get any answer from your child but I think you need to open that up. Maybe even talk to the school or location, if it is a church or if it’s a community group or a sports team. You know, talk to the person whether it be the coach or teacher or social worker. Ask them for their assistance in exploring or ruling out that bullying that is happening to your child.
Ciaran Connolly: And do bullies themselves ever feel remorse for what they have done?
Mark Myers: Well, usually not when the actual bullying is taking place. I think at some point for some bullies, there could be some inherent issues going on that will not allow them at this particular point in their lives to access the empathy. Sometimes, when kids have more of a chance to reflect back maybe during a time, for instance, if a child was a school bully, he was doing most of the bullying in school, maybe after a few years after his formidable high school years, he may reflect back and say “Boy! Was I a real jerk about that!” but usually in the midst of it, you are not often going to see that. You know, what you may see is, if you recognize and confront the bully at some point when you are able to step back from that moment then, you may see them starting to experience remorse or regret or recrimination of what impact their actions have but usually not when the episodes are happening.
The Aftermath of Emotional Bullying
Ciaran Connolly: And do bullies themselves, as they grow older and become adults, do they tend to continue to bully later in life? And what personality traits do they tend to have as they are older?
Mark Myers: Well, we have been talking about the contacts usually within the education. It certainly doesn’t exist. I mentioned before I am part of a basketball association and I see this. We have had to ask a few coaches every now and then to step down because they are bullying the kids, they are bullying the referees and they are bullying other parents. So, these are certainly things that we can’t rely on or let go of and certainly we see these. Workplace bullying happens and it happens in a lot of different forms; within the community, within workplaces. These things, again, don’t end. The behaviours don’t end once a kid grows older. Often times, such bad behaviours could be embedded, you know, especially if they feel that there is a gain that they can get from that. You know, people are backing down, they are being intimated and they get what they’re looking for from their bullying. That gets reinforced and that has gone into other life experience throughout their lives.
Ciaran Connolly: And would you have any knowledge or have you ever seen very severe cases of bullying which have had some, I guess, very astounding consequences?
Mark Myers: Sure, I can name a couple here. I mentioned the basketball association where an adult was bullying a 15 year old ref where the ref wound up in tears. What I have seen on the critical level, I have seen ones where it may be difficult to pinpoint bullying in some cases. One year, I was working with this one bullying that started in sixth grade. And here in Illinois we have sixth, seventh and eighth grade as middle school. So, starting at the beginning of this middle school where these youth were friends but these youth apparently became kind of jealous of my client, and suddenly during the course of time really started making things difficult for him. Like, if he had a birthday party and wanted to do a sleepover, the other youth would call people and get them to sleep over at his house instead. Conversations when they sat down at a table; he would be sitting with his friends and this kid, the bully, would come in and sit with them and try to get the kids talk to him and ignore my client. Some of these things were subtle at the beginning; enough to make my client certainly feel uncomfortable and certainly feel not a whole lot of confidence in himself. And as they went into 7th grade, he became a lot more aggressive with it, where he would actually be calling him names.
Then, in 8th grade, that’s the point where a lot of school personnel were called in. I started working with the child in 8th grade and for the most part we were working on that one part we worked on for over a year, is ways that he could cope and get through the next couple of months. School had limitations to what they could do because, again, some of the bullying was subtle and it became where this child was just not wanting to go to school. His grades were dropping. He made it through 8th grade and the good news is he went on to High School. It was a bigger school and he was able to avoid that a lot more but, you know, we were able to work on different types of coping skills to get him through the year.
Another kid had caused him some disturbance with the youth in 8th grade. The same kid came into the High School. My client ended getting into numerous complications because of this. Usually, geographical boundaries for schools are pretty solid. Very rarely do they deviate from that but in this case, it got to be where it was so extreme for my client to be able to have to stay in that same High School, that they agreed to transfer to him to another high school.
Ciaran Connolly: So, they moved the victim from the school to protect him and to allow him to study and progress in his education. That’s what happened?
Mark Myers: Correct. Yes, with the high school student, we were able to get the school to agree that the transfer was necessary.
Ciaran Connolly: So, it shows you it really is impacting. You know, these people should be studying and enjoying their life while it’s carefree and not worried about bills and families and jobs and looking forward for their future careers and seeing the world but they are afraid to go to school and their studies are the last thing on their minds. So, of course for sure our future generations are being impacted by this.
Mark Myers: Exactly. And you also have to look at the fact that high school years are very formidable years; emotionally, developmentally [for] kids. I mean, that may seem like something to avoid. You know, as an adult we should be able to deal with it or ignore it. For a kid going through this every day, having to disconnect with peers and feeling intimidated and that’s a horrible experience for a lot of kids to go through at this age or at any age but particularly their formidable developmental years. You are right. That’s just something you’d want them to see enjoying. You want to get them to enjoy life. To enjoy going to school with their peers and look back at those years with fondness and not with horror.
Ciaran Connolly: A big challenge but sounds like you are doing a great job with the teenagers that you are dealing with. So, it’s very good to hear. Again, thank you so much for taking time out to share your knowledge and experience with us today. Very much appreciated. If anyone in your local area, of course, wants to reach out to you to talk or get more details about yourself, what would be the best way for them to do that?
Mark Myers: Well, I have a website that has all my contact information. I have YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. My website is http://myerscounseling.com/ and all my contact information, all my social media outlets, will be posted on it. That’s probably the easiest way to do that. I do have a phone no. 847 263 1269 and people can reach me there.