When someone is being hurt either by words or actions on purpose, they have become a victim of bullying. Bullies habitually abuse, taunt and deliberately intimidate others. Acts of bullying can be physical or verbal causing victims to feel powerless and are intentional behaviors that are repeated and aggressive. People who bully others are looking to gain a feeling of power with physical or emotional control over a person.

Attacking others with words or physical violence can stem from stress and trauma. Studies show that those who bully are far more likely to have experienced a stressful or traumatic situation in the last five years. We all respond to stress in different ways. Some go to therapy or use mediation whereas others use negative behaviors such as bullying, violence and alcohol abuse to mask the issues they are really facing.

There are four types of bullying, which can occur separately or simultaneously:

     1) Physical bullying such as kicking or pushing.
     2) Verbal bullying such as name-calling or yelling.
     3) Relational bullying such as excluding or rumor-spreading.
     4) Cyberbullying which involves sending hurtful messages over digital devices.

WHO IS AT RISK?

Anyone can be in danger of being bullied. Depending on the environment determines the outcome of their behavior. Some bullies have self-troubling issues or family problems. The victims are usually bullied for social isolation, gender differences or disabilities.

WHAT ARE THE RESULTS?

The effects of bullying involve both the bully and the victim. People who are bullied are more likely to suffer from the following:

  • Depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and thoughts of suicide.
  • Health issues like headaches, sleep problems, abdominal pain, bed-wedding, and fatigue.
  • Academic issues including poor attendance, low test scores, and increased dropout rates.
  • Are at greater risk of smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol.
  • Perform poorly in school and have a poor perception of school environment.
  • Are more likely to become involved in criminal activity and to experience psychiatric disorders.

BULLYING AND SUICIDE

There is a strong link between bullying and suicide. Some say bullying is just part of being a kid, but it has grown to be a serious problem leading victims to feel depressed, have anxiety, a lack of self-worth, and suicidal thoughts or actions.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people. Bully-related suicide can be connected to any type of bullying, including physical bullying, emotional bullying, or cyberbullying. Since bullying can be a catalyst for suicide, its significance should not be overlooked. Suicidal thoughts and actions should always be considered when the person is being bullied. Although not every child will threaten suicide before actually doing it, some do. Take notice if someone mentions taking his or her own life. Even if there is no intention for following through, this is real cry for help. People who contemplate suicide often become moody, appear hopeless and experience changes in personality.

WHAT CAN PARENTS DO?

  • Know the signs of bullying: One of the best ways to recognize bullying in your child’s life is to notice if they are experiencing mood swings. If they are suddenly feeling anxious or expressing they are no longer interested in school, they might be facing a bullying situation. 
  • Know the signs of depression: Symptoms here often include a decrease in grades, loss of interest in activities, withdrawing socially, or sleeping more or less. Some even show signs of anger and irrational behavior.
  • Help your child overcome bullying: Make sure your child is comfortable in talking to you and commit to resolving the issue even if this means calling the school until the issue is addressed. Make sure your child has access to the resources they need to talk about their feelings and cope with what is happening.
  • Have your child treated: Anytime you suspect your child is showing signs of depression or suicide, it is smart to have them professionally treated. This is the best option for recovery.

WHAT CAN KIDS DO?

There are things you can tell your children to do to keep themselves from being bullied.

  • Treat everyone with respect.
  • Stand up for others.
  • Talk to an adult you trust.
  • Get involved.
  • Always apologize if you feel as if you have bullied someone.
  • Stop and think before you say anything.

CYBERBULLYING

Bullying does not always happen in person. Cyberbullying is a criminal act that happens over digital devices such as online social media, on apps, through text or email. It also consists of sending, posting, or sharing negative and offensive content, or personal information about someone else. It is common for cyberbullying to happen among young kids and teens.

Here are some preventative steps.

  • Always think about what you post. You never know what someone might forward.
  • Do not share anything that could hurt or embarrass someone.
  • Keep your password a secret from others.
  • Keep your parents in the loop.
  • Report it

LAWS, POLICIES AND REGULATIONS

Local and state lawmakers have taken action to prevent bulling. All 50 states and the District of Columbia address bullying differently. Most state laws, policies and regulations require school districts to implement and bullying policy and procedures. The U.S. Department of Education developed a framework of laws, polices and regulations to focus on preventative bulling strategies. 

In Texas, anti-bullying laws and regulations are rooted in the curriculum. They encourage districts to include preventative information as well as identifying and reporting incidents of bullying programs. Texas district policies also require a procedure for providing notice of an incident of bullying to the parents or guardians of the victims.

If you or a loved one is experiencing bullying or know someone who is bullying, please visit the link. https://www.stopbullying.gov/

If you or a loved one are in need of an attorney or would like to explore other resources, you can visit the Texas Crime Victim Legal Assistance Network.

Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm focused on advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations. Lone Star Legal Aid serves the millions of people at 125% of federal poverty guidelines that reside in 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and 4 counties of southwest Arkansas. Lone Star Legal Aid focuses its resources on maintaining, enhancing, and protecting income and economic stability; preserving housing; improving outcomes for children; establishing and sustaining family safety and stability, health and well‐being; and assisting populations with special vulnerabilities, like those who have disabilities, or who are elderly, homeless, or have limited English language skills. To learn more about Lone Star Legal Aid, visit our website at www.lonestarlegal.org.

Media contact: Clarissa Ayala, cayala@lonestarlegal.org