The issue of bullying and cyberbullying has mostly been viewed as a behavioral problem in K-12 schools. Recently, however, bullying is increasingly being categorized by medical professionals as a public health issue.
The prevalence of bullying and cyberbullying and their effect on K-12 students has grown in recent years, noting the effect on students’ attendance rates and graduation rates especially. However, doctors, such as Dr. Jorge Srabstein, Medical Director of the Clinic for Health Problems Related to Bullying at the Children’s National Medical Center (CNMC), are placing a greater emphasis on bullying’s physical and psychological health effects.
“Those bullied and their bullies alike complain of headaches and stomachaches, have difficulty falling asleep and fall victim to psychological symptoms, most notably depression and very significant anxiety," Srabstein said.
Research done by CNMC also shows that the symptoms associated with bullying tend to appear in a cluster. For example, a student affected by bullying will normally not just complain of a headache, but will also mention anxiety, a stomachache, depression, etc. These findings have caught the attention of other public health officials and healthcare providers. Julia Hertzog, Director of the PACER National Bullying Prevention Center, states that her organization has received an increasing number of requests to educate health providers on recognizing, treating and preventing bullying.
According to a recent article, health professionals can help in the fight against bullying in three main ways:
1.) Contribute to Community and K-12 School Programs: This will increase the awareness of bullying and promote a more respectful school environment.
2.) Identify Bullying When it Happens:This will allow schools and doctors to work together to find signs of bullying. Health professionals can do this through various efforts, such as incorporating bullying-related inquiries into the standard sets of health questions. For example, a doctor may routinely ask children if they feel safe at school. Any evidence of bullying should be shared with parents and possibly the school.
3.) Treat the Symptoms of Bullying: This means addressing the headaches and stomachaches as well as the depression and anxiety. Srabstein explains that psychological problems are extremely important, as victims and perpetrators face higher risks of self-harm.
Get tips on how your school can help prevent bullying and pass it along to your school administrators today. Download our guide!