Why bullying should be taken seriously

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A 15-year-old boy wanted to commit suicide as a result of being physically and verbally bullied at school. The boy was teased for being intellectual and not excelling in sport. He wrote a suicide note that was luckily found by his mother before he could go through with his plan. Fortunately, with the help of an ER24 counsellor and active steps that were taken by his parents and the school, the boy now lives a happy life. While there was a happy ending in this instance, sadly it is not the case for a number of other children who are bullied on a daily basis.  Henning Jacobs, the trauma support co-ordinator at ER24, stated that parents must pay attention to their child’s behaviour to establish if they are being bullied. “Parents should be aware that bullying occurs in every school grade. The intensity increases with age. It is vital that steps be taken immediately to help a child who is being bullied. It is also imperative that immediate and effective steps be taken against the bully or bullies as their actions, if not stopped, could continue to affect a victim,” he said. Speaking about the effect of bullying on a victim, Jacobs said that the child could become withdrawn or undergo personality changes. A once bubbly and happy child may now be quiet and depressed. There may be a change in school marks. They may also experience panic attacks and fear going to school. “In extreme cases, the child may resort to suicide. Bullying can also result in killings. It is essential that parents have a close relationship with their children. Children who are bullied mostly keep quiet about what is happening to them due to being ashamed. However, some speak up. It depends on the type of home they live in and the type of relationship they have with their parents. Parents and even teachers need to let children know that it is okay to come to them for help if they are being bullied,” said Jacobs. He said that it is wise to educate children and discuss bullying with them as early as possible. Grade R is a good time to start. Difference in bullying among boys, girls While it used to be a case of girls displaying more verbal and emotional bullying and boys displaying more physical bullying, this has now changed. “These days we find that girls also display physical bullying and girl fights are common. Boys now display more emotional bullying than before. Reasons for bullying, however, do not differ between boys and girls,” said Jacobs. Explaining some of the reasons for bullying, Jacobs said these include anything from physical looks, weight, height and the use of braces. “Reasons for bullying also include the difference in cultures, race and colour, being poor, speech impediments or anything that makes a child stand out negatively to a bully,” said Jacobs.  There are various reasons why children become bullies. They could be jealous of another child, unhappy with something in their own lives, feel a need to impress others around them and believe that bullying is the way to do it or they may have a big ego. Explaining further, Jacobs said, “Bullies may be insecure about themselves and use bullying to feel more powerful and successful than the person they are bullying. Violence at home, on the television or TV games also has an effect to some degree. Bullies can also be victims of bullying. There are cases for example, where children are bullied at home.” Types of bullying Bullying, which refers to repeated behaviour by someone intended to hurt another person either through verbal, social or physical behaviour, could include anything from making threats, teasing or name calling, spreading rumours or pushing or tripping a person. “Emotional bullying is automatically part of the trauma experienced as a result of physical bullying. No bullying case is only physical. It is however, possible to have emotional bullying cases that do not result in physical bullying. Children are affected when they are teased or when nasty things are said to them. Bullying usually starts verbally and emotionally and usually only goes over to physical bullying when the child that gets bullied stands up for themselves or displays behaviour that the bully does not like,” said Jacobs. Long-term effect Speaking about the long-term effect, Jacobs said that victims never forget the bullying they experienced as a child but can overcome it. “While bullying has a negative effect on some victims for the rest of their lives, others become motivated to succeed in life. A child can overcome the effect of being bullied, provided however, that the bullying stops. Children can also overcome the effects of bullying if they receive lots of care, love and even counselling. Counselling is a great way to get help. School counsellors or educational psychologists are trained to help children. Parents, teachers or children should seek their assistance,” he said. ER24’s Emergency Contact Centre can be reached 24 hours a day on 084 124 for any medical emergency. Also read:

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