Bullying Column

Bullying… What does the word make you think of? For some, it’s the harmless girl on the playground who poked a little fun at them. For others, the word causes them to flinch from unbearable memories that  they would rather forget.

“Nobody truly understands the severity of bullying – the effects, the aftermath. Until it happens to you, it often goes unnoticed. You don’t have a drastic reaction because it doesn’t directly hurt you, but what everyone needs to realize is that somebody will always be hurt, regardless of who or how badly,” remarked Alyssa Rosenzweig. “There’s always a consequence.”

Bullying is defined as an aggressive behavior that intends to hurt, intimidate, frighten, or threaten a particular person or group. More often than not, an imbalance of power between the aggressor and the victim is involved. How could anyone push someone so hard to the point of psychological breakdowns, dropping out of high school, or even suicide? Can you imagine being that afraid of someone? So afraid you’d be willing to end your own life? Even worse, could you imagine being the person who caused another to end their own life?

Bullying can occur in many different settings for many different reasons. Bullying can be found in schools, through social media, and even in the victims’ own homes. People are bullied for countless reasons, including their appearance, their sexuality, the clothes they wear, and sometimes simply out of jealousy. Usually, those who bully others are hurt themselves. These people are often bullied or abused at home, which reflects on the attitude in a school or work environment. Oftentimes they have  low self-esteem and putting others down makes them feel better. Other times, they simply feel left out, especially if no one has ever taken the time to reach out to them.

“Hurt people hurt people. People hurt others when they are hurting themselves, or have been hurt in the past. Too many people are hurting and [are] not being encouraged or cared about, and that is fueling the fire of ‘bullying’,” stated a sophomore at
Central High School, Gwendolyn Sofield.

One of the biggest forms of bullying happens directly at your fingertips. The touch of a button or the click of a mouse can send someone’s life into a downward spiral. Physical and verbal bullying that occur face-to-face are not nearly as common as cyber-bullying these days. Some believe that cyber-bullying is “easier”. To many, the feeling of guilt and disgust is not there when posting derogatory statements hidden behind the mask of a computer screen. In a lot of cases, bullying via social media is the worst kind, simply because it can turn into a viral “game”. Rather than two or three people ganging up on an individual, cyber-bullying can include up to a hundred people attacking one person. Although it may be more secretive online, it is much less laborious to handle a single bully than a network of people that only grows day by day.

A number of studies have examined the psychological aftermath of frequent bullying. A Korean study of seventh and eighth grade students showed that bullying added to the possibility of stunted social development. In this particular study, social problems were described as being overly dependent on adults, acting younger than one’s age, and social immaturity. All of these factors increase the risk of social isolation within a peer group.

“I believe [bullying] can lead to several different [psychological] problems like a lower self-esteem, a victim mentality, [becoming] introverted, and suicide is always a possibility because [bullying] can be very demoralizing,” shared Psychology teacher Tina Staton.

In addition to the psychological impairment of social development, symptoms such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse, and suicidal tendencies are much more likely if a young adult is repeatedly bullied. Teenagers who are victimized by their peers are 2.4 times more likely to have suicidal thoughts and 3.3 times more likely to attempt suicide at some point in their young adult years. Bullying results in over 4,400 deaths per year from suicide, and over 149,000 teenagers receive medical treatment for self-inflicted injuries every year.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover… Before you judge someone, look into their eyes and discover their true beauty,” said Tanya Arkushenko.

If you know someone who is being bullied, don’t be afraid to speak up for that person. Make a noise for a voice unheard.