In Bullying Experts, Expert Interviews

Shiphra Bakhchi on The Effects of Bullying

Shiphra Bakhchi holds an undergraduate Bachelors Degree in Psychology from Columbia University, a Masters Degree in Education from New York University, and Masters Degree and Doctoral Degree in Psychology from Yeshiva University at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Licensed in New York State in August 2010, Dr Bakhchi received specialized training as a predoctoral intern through her work at the Mental Health Association of Westchester. She Talks to Macartan Mulligan, Co-Founder of NoBullying.com on the effects of bullying and effects of cyberbullying.

The interview on The Effects of Bullying can also be found here and here.

Below is a transcription of the interview on The Effects of Bullying: 

Shiphra Bakhchi: My name is Doctor Shiphra Bakhchi. I’m a clinical psychologist. I have a PhD in clinical psychology and work with children and adolescents and adults. I have a private practice in Great Neck in Long Island, New York and also in Manhattan.

Macartan Mulligan: Ok, great. Great, I will start Doctor with the questions and obviously you know, you respond. Do you feel, is bullying as big an issue today as it was 10 years ago? Or what differences obviously do you feel that there are?

SB: Differences in bullying, I mean, it’s… you can’t even compare it to the way that it was 10 years ago because of lots and lots of younger children and the vast majority of children that are using the internet and social media websites like Twitter and Facebook. So, it’s really widespread, probably more widespread, than it ever was.

MM: OK and do you feel with the new ways of bullying, if you like, is it as severe as ever or worse?

SB:I believe it’s more severe. I believe that the most obvious reasons for the bullies is that they a lot of times have depression, isolation, social problems and this is how they act out on their victims and this is how they try to get the attention that they so desperately need and doing it in the wrong ways.

MM: OK and do you feel Doctor that, you know, with all the publicity in the media about cyber bullying in particular, is anything changing? Or you know, the greater awareness of it, has that helped anyway at all? Do you think?

SB:I think there is definitely greater awareness of it, that the schools are having anti-bullying weeks and anti-bullying… talking to parents about what to do when there is bullying in the school, what to do if they believe that their child is a victim of bullying or if they believe that their child is a bully.

School psychologists, school counselors, guidance counselors, priests, rabbis in the area are becoming more aware of the problem. I think that the effects can really be drastic and tragic when there are young children, adolescents, teenagers who have things written about them online that are afraid to go to school that the truancy rate is much higher and I think that the problem has gotten worse overtime but that there are being steps to remedy the problem.

MM: OK and you have touched on it there. I mean, you know, we all hear of the really tragic cases that make the headlines but as you say in general truancy and different things like that, I suppose, we are just asking about what do you see is the most common effect, if you like, of cyber bullying on particular?

SB: Sure. I see children and adolescents that are withdrawn. They become afraid to go to school. They become afraid to really push forward and become involved in things like school sports. They are afraid to speak up in class. They are afraid of what others might think of them and will make excuses to not go to school and there has been a high dropout rate as well in terms of teenagers that are not finishing school and dropping out.

MM: OK and obviously all those things potentially could have long term implications for those particular kids as they grow?

SB: Absolutely. In terms of career, in terms of social ties with friends and becoming withdrawn and isolated from the community.

MM: OK and could we ask one thing we are very interested in. Some schools we speak to, according to them, cyber bullying for example, they say “We have banned Facebook and Twitter. So, we don’t have any cyber bullying among our students.” but we all know that isn’t the case. What the actions among the schools and you know, that you have been dealing with in general because as we know, to refer to schools, sometimes cyber bullying may not occur during school hours but it still does occur among the students of the school.

SB: Right, it probably is. It’s probably happening more when kids go home and all of a sudden understand that there has been stuff written about them on their wall, on Twitter, on Instagram, on Facebook and so there is a denial of the problem I think by schools because if they say that this is a problem, then it’s possible that parents won’t want to send their children there or if they have a choice of schools, might choose the school where this is less of an issue and you see that happening also with college campuses and you know, bringing the rate of crime or rape or something like that down in their handbooks because they don’t want to raise people being alarmed but sweeping it under the rug is clearly not helping and I have seen that in the higher incidents of suicides and later finding out that there has been bullying involved.

MM: OK. What do you suppose, for people who are being cyber bullied, what is the best advice, you know, that you recommend to give them because you know, many may watch this video eventually?

SB: The best advice to…Sure, I hope there are many people who are watching this video right now who will come to understand that they are not alone in this. That this is a worldwide problem and that they need to get help so that this does not continue.

Often times, the bully will target the person that they believe is weak, that they believe is submissive and won’t tell and will just, you know, take the abuse and the advice that I would give you is to speak up. Go talk to your teacher, to the principal, to your parents, to a therapist, to anybody in the area that you trust and will help you to get the help that you need.

MM: Great and from your experience, you know, from what we have been listening to from different children victims, if you like, is that, you know, there is a huge initial fear to tell anybody about what is happening to them but again from our experience and a lot of cases, once they do tell parents or teachers, it usually helps and makes things better. How do you feel about that?

SB: I absolutely think that will help them make things better to tell. I don’t think that there could be any harm in it. I see many children and adolescents who are being bullied and are even abused and they wait a long time to tell and that has detrimental effects on your psyche because the longer you feel vulnerable and helpless and the longer you go on without getting help, the harder it’s going to be for you to recover and move on from this experience.

MM: OK, yes because one thing we want to try and get across to, you know, to children who are being victimized is that, you know, just because they are not one of the news stories, they are far from being alone and that there are so many of them being discreetly victimized if that’s the way to put it. There is still a need to sort it out if you’d like to talk about it, you know.

SB: Sure.

MM: I mean, in general, are there any other comments in relation to cyber bullying or bullying that you would like to add, Doctor?

SB: Well, I think that also for the bully, it’s often times maybe they don’t even understand the consequences, the drastic consequences that even writing a few sentences about somebody or a few words about somebody could have on your life, that people could take it to a point where they feel like they are hopeless and helpless, that they are ashamed or embarrassed and this is going to be on a website forever and there is no way to take it down and will, you know, will cause irreversible damage to their bodies, will take their lives and people need to understand those consequences before they write things about people online.

MM: Yes and we have spoken to parents as well, just when you mentioned that doctor and they, you know, they have great concerns about, you know, how easy it is for a relatively good child to become a cyber bully purely by liking a photo or a nasty comments.

SB: Absolutely. The other thing that I would say is for parents to monitor their children [bad quality of sound] and their use of the internet, to try to be in the room when they are on the internet, to take a look at their Facebook page and what’s being written.

A lot of times parents have no idea what’s going on until it is too late, until there has really been damage to their children in terms of their mental [bad quality of sound] health.

MM: Do you feel that parents have the absolute right to ask their, you know, in particular their teenage kids, you know, that if they are on Facebook, you know, “We want to see what you are doing on this”?

SB: Absolutely. I was actually interviewed after the Sandy Hook shooting. You know, we had a mother who was a teacher and she had no idea that her son had access to these guns, that her son was spending the amount of time that he was spending playing these extremely violent video games and really becoming obsessed with them and I think that…I believe in the right of privacy for children and young adults but I absolutely believe that parents need to be involved in their children’s lives, to ask questions and to really be able to, you know, be a source of guidance and encouragement and help for them.

MM: Yes and again we will be the same, that absolutely the right to privacy is very important for children but I suppose the flipside of that they’re still classed as a child until they are 18 because they do need the guardian/a parent.

SB: Absolutely, they’re living under the parents’ roof and so the parents have the right to know what’s happening on the internet, what kind of video games their child is playing and what’s happening in their school.

MM: Yes, absolutely. Well, thank you so much, Doctor, for giving us the interview. I’d absolutely say we will be in contact again. I mean, if anybody wants to contact you, how they can go about this if they’d like to contact you directly and one of your practices?

SB: Sure, the best way to contact me would probably be to email me. My… go ahead.

MM: Yes and what is your email address, Doctor?

SB: It’s my first name [email protected].

MM: Super! Thank you so much, Doctor. and we’ll definitely keep in contact to let you know how we are getting on. Thank you so much.

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