For the past few years my personal and professional contacts that work with teens and young adults have wondered aloud if bullying can lead to mental illness. Researchers are starting to question the same thing and various studies are suggesting childhood bullying can lead to psychosis and paranoia.
A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in 2011 found that preteens who were bullied were twice as likely to experience psychotic symptoms compared to their peers who were not bullied. An annual study the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto shows since 1999 when they first began studying this subject that 34 per cent of Ontario students in grades 7-12 have reported psychological distress due to bullying.
I was bulled in elementary school and while I'm not in a position to suggest it was the cause of my mental illness -- I'm also not ruling it out either. The bullying definitely made me more anxious and there were days that I went home crying confused as to why I was being targeted. I do believe my experience being bullied changed me forever as a person.
I am a firm believer that the only way to create positive change is to speak out and draw experience from your own life. Jonah Mowry, 14, of California did just that. Jonah created a viral video on YouTube that has gotten close to 10 million views and has even caught the attention of Lady Gaga. In the video, Jonah talks about being bullied since grade 1, self-harming since grade 2, and has contemplated suicide. Because the video was such a hit Jonah has now launched videos in which he gives his own take on subjects such as depression and self-harm.
It seems as if every time I look at the news there's a story from somewhere in the world of teens or young adults taking their own lives due to bullying. Other times we hear of people going on to physically harm their bullies. Every time this happens I hear people talk about how unacceptable bullying is. Then why aren't we doing anything about it? Bullying is costing people their lives!
I believe since the time I was in elementary school, which was only 15 years ago, that childhood bullying has gotten worse. I think this is due to the overwhelming presence social media and other forms of communication children and teens now have access to. I see children with cell phones and I am aware that these same children have social media accounts.
In today's busy world parents are using these tools as a way of keeping a better tab on their children. While I am not a parent myself I do see the benefits as to why parents allow or at least monitor their children's online presence. But what some people aren't talking about is the fact that these technological mediums are now allowing bullying to no longer be exclusive to the schoolyard.
I encourage everybody reading this blog who was a victim of bullying to find his or her inner-Jonah and speak up and share your story. I also urge anybody who has been affected by bullying to seek out help immediately because if you don't, the bullies will win. Their goal is bring you down and you cannot let that happen no matter how hard it is.
The Ontario Government passed anti-bullying legislation last month and while it is a big step -- more must be done. While corrective action such as criminal charges or suspension from school is one solution; we must also strive to find other means so bullies can get understand the impact of their actions but to also look inside themselves to understand why they bully because it could be part of a much bigger personal issue.
Let's start talking about bullying but even more so let's do more about it!
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