Bullying kills kids. Lead by example

CONTENT/ TRIGGER WARNING: Suicide

Remember being a kid and being bullied, or watching your friends being bullied? Wasn’t it horrible to see the pain and damage it caused? Today bullying is still globally reported as a major issue of concern by young people. Bullied children are 3 times more likely to suffer depression, and up to 9 times more likely to consider suicide.

Suicide is the leading cause of death in young people in Australia.

Suicide kills more young people than road accidents, drowning and cancer. The rate of bullying in Australia is 50% higher than the reported international rate, placing Australian children in one of the highest risk environments for bullying. Our kids are at huge risk. Bullying is killing our kids.

The largest survey conducted by the Australian government into the mental health of children and adolescents, released last month (September 2015), found that:

  • One third (34%) of 11-17 year olds in Australia reported being bullied in the last 12 months,
  • Almost two thirds (63%) of young people with depression reported being bullied, and
  • Young people with depression experienced more frequent and severe bullying (three times more), compared with their non-depressed peers.

Depression is a complicated illness with no simple answer that fully explains its manifestation. This study shows that bullying has a two way relationship with depression: bullying is a contributing factor to developing depression, and depression is a risk factor for a young person becoming a target of bullying.

Depression and bullying are not the only factors to consider in the issue of suicide, but once a young person develops depression, their risk of suicide is significantly impacted. The survey found that:

Half of all young people with depression have seriously considered suicide in the last year.

Yes, that’s right. Half! Worse, the study reports that over 20% of girls and 13% of boys with depression made an attempt on their lives in the previous year. No matter how these facts, findings and statistics are reported or interpreted, it cannot be ignored that bullying kills our kids. It’s a horrific truth.

So what can we do? Bullying is a serious and significant issue, but the problem is not “bullies”. This may come as a shock to you. Bullying is a behaviour that, like most behaviours, is learned by example in a child’s environment, and is reinforced through feedback, consequences, validation, inaction or unhelpful action by the grown-ups whose example children look to. Yes we need to build our children’s resilience; that is an absolute must. However as parents, adults, teachers and bystanders, we are the ones who are in a position to create real, sustainable and cultural change in the world of bullying. It is not right to expect our children to learn new behaviours while the adults around them unknowingly condone or display bullying behaviours. If we are to protect our children, we need to be the ones to create the change.

Lead by example.

For more than 30 years, traditional anti-bullying strategies have not worked to significantly reduce bullying rates. It is now widely recognised by “anti-bullying experts” that the issue of bullying cannot be solved. It is time for a different approach, an approach we all need to be a part of. The Bullying Revolution’s mission is to create a community of people focused on creating a world without bullying. We aim to do this by educating parents (and their children) on what they can do to recognise, prevent and protect their children from bullying, and to engage their community in a collective approach to creating a bullying solution. Together, what is thought to be impossible, can be made possible. It has to be – our children’s lives count on it.

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