THE recent death of a fourteen year old girl known as ‘Dolly’, who took her own life after years of bullying, has thrust the issue of bullying and mental health amongst young people once again into the spotlight, and in the spotlight is where it should remain.
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In 2016, suicide was the leading cause of death of children between five and seventeen,
In Indigenous communities, the rates are also alarming, and not widely publicised.
As a community, and as a nation, we must take action,
Laura Francke, Principal Psychologist at Port Stephens Clinical Psychology Services, told News Of The Area, “Children who experience bullying experience significant disadvantages and poorer outcomes across a wide range of areas.”
“While most children experience some form of low level teasing during their school years, when this is pervasive it impacts on academic and social wellbeing and in its more severe form can lead to serious mental health implications including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, school refusal and in some cases suicidality.”
Whilst we often hear the comments ‘we didn’t see this coming’ when a young person takes their life, Laura explains there are some signs parents and caregivers can keep an eye out for.
“Children generally either internalise or external use their inner turmoil.”
“Internalising children may become withdrawn, anxious or sadder than usual and may experience somatic complaints such as stomach and headaches.”
“Children who externalise may show increased aggression, problems regulating their behaviour or targeting of peers or siblings who are ‘weaker’ than them.”
With this modern technological age, social media and the increase of young people having access to technological devices means that children who are experiencing bullying literally can often find no reprieve, with the online world giving bullies a sense of invincibility and false bravado.
Lauren said, “In addition, the severity of bullying appears to have increased as children no longer need to face the response of their victim or accountability to their peers as they are in a private space with no immediate consequence to their actions.”
There are some important things that parents can do to try and protect young people in these situations.
“Children need to develop a capacity to manage bullying with strength and resilience, by teaching them to disengage immediately from anyone behaving aggressively to them – a crucial life skill,” says Laura.
“Remembering as parents our words create their inner voice, we need to instill confidence in our children and a directly teach them to be assertive to anyone treating them disrespectfully.”
“Children do not have the developmental capacity to self regulate when using social media and as parents it is our responsibility to keep their world as safe as possible as they learn these skills,” Laura added.
“Setting clear rules about device usage that maintains parental supervision is key to protecting children till they have the maturity to handle these situations.”
By Rachael VAUGHAN