Bullying is an epidemic, a serious problem dealt with in all corners of the world. Being rampant, the effects can often be catastrophic. Bullying is defined as a deliberate misuse of power in relationships, through repeated verbal, physical, or social assaults. All of these intend harm to the victim. Bullying can happen in person or it can happen online through cyberbullying, and whichever form it takes induces effects on those involved. According to the National Education Association, over 160,000 children in the United States refuse to go to school every single day out of fear of being bullied. It is also estimated that over 282,000 students each month report physical assault in some way throughout America. It is important to note that the number is growing, and the effects can be profound. Ten percent of students drop out of school due to bullying. In fact, 70.6% of students across the country have reported having witnessed bullying occur on campus. Bullying does not only happen in schools, but also our communities and unfortunately, our homes. The statistics on bullying are staggering, and should very well merit serious consideration and action, as the effects can be lasting and permanent. The effects of bullying manifest well into adulthood, and the scale of impact depends on the role of the person in the bullying circumstance. In this case, the person can either be the victim, the bully, both victim and bully, or the onlooker. Each role has a certain degree of impact as influenced by bullying, and here we look at each.
Research postulates that the long-lasting psychological impacts of bullying are directly caused by the short-term impacts children experience from constantly being bullied. The tendency to suffer from depression and anxiety is high, which tends to wrap itself around their emotional outlook long after the years of bullying, characterizing and extending into their adult lives. Once this happens, care for mental health plummets, leaving depression and anxiety to become chronic and lifelong problems. These make a functioning personal life difficult to achieve, affecting even eating, working, sleeping, exercising, and engaging in hobbies. Daily life becomes challenging, and sometimes impossible, to achieve, along with maintaining friendships and romantic relationships. The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress posits that the lasting damage is beyond the physical manifestations of the bullying. Emotional harm, especially during childhood, can destroy the victim’s self-image permanently. As children, physical wounds heal quickly – broken bones can only take several weeks to mend, but how does a bullied child mend the intangible, like self-perception? Dr. Mark Dombeck from the Academy explains that bullying is an attempt to inflict fear and promote self-loathing. Repetitive bullying severely impairs one’s ability to see himself as an individual that is desirable, effective, and capable is slowly being undermined.
Bullying results in the victim’s inability to see and trust himself as a capable individual, which manifests strongly during challenging times. Here, the victim has been made to believe that they are too weak to overcome such challenges, so they do not make any attempts to seek any remedy, let alone muster the strength to do so. There are major repercussions with respect to work, relationships, along with other life circumstances that call for grit and perseverance to succeed. Victims are also observed to be wary of people, and tend to find trusting people extremely difficult. This results to reduced occupational chances, where they grow into adulthood as what people refer to as “loners”. There is little chance of making positive choices, and they often act less to defend their own happiness. All of these are attributed often to the lack of perceived control inculcated during the bullying years.
Contrary to conventional expectation, bullies are also susceptible to damaging effects as a result of their actions. Studies show that bullies often end up as unhappy adults, as the familiar methods of relating to the world known to them do not work in their favor come adulthood – violent actions and quick tempers have no stable place in society. Difficulties include inability to keep jobs, as well as strained relationships with friends, romantic partners, and even family. Bullies are also observed to be at risk for suicidal ideations, though this is more likely when they play the dual role of bullies and bullied. Unfortunately, most of the research available is dedicated to the effects of bullying on victims rather than the perpetrators, so data on lifelong impacts remain limited. Psychologists, however, put forth the indubitable idea that bullies are at greater risk for antisocial personality disorder.
Victim and Bully
People who have been both victims and bullies exhibit the most severe emotional disturbances into adulthood. Studies show that bullies oftentimes act on learned behavior, which they may have acquired during experiences of abuse in their formative years at home from abusive parents, relatives, siblings, or guardians. JAMA Psychiatric, Adult Psychiatric Outcomes of Bullying, and Being Bullied by Peers in Childhood and Adolescence conducted a study that show that these people often remain depressed and anxious long after their bullying years, with some even developing psychiatric disorders. This puts both the bullied and the bullies at greater risk, with increased rates of childhood psychiatric disorders, which include agoraphobia, panic disorder, and generalized anxiety. The study also shows that these people also show greater risk of suicide over pure victims. An estimated 5.7% of young adults who are neither victims nor bullies have admitted to suicidal ideations, but a disturbing 24.8% of victim-bullies reported to having suicidal tendencies. The data acquired suggests that there is an extremely dangerous nature to being both a bully and a victim, and the lasting effects are alarming.
Unknown hitherto, witnesses of bullying circumstances also fall victim to psychological trauma. Most of these manifest in alcohol and smoking abuse, which wreaks physical havoc on physical health. Similar to manifestations on both bully and victim, depression and anxiety are also effects, which cause trouble keeping relationships, work, and overall life fulfillment. Onlookers also report feelings of hopelessness or regret for the inability to stop bullying actsew. They become prone to truancy and even dropping out, as circumstances they have witnessed can be extremely disturbing. These bullying incidences, imprinted in their mind and psyche, in turn, affect the possibility of success later in life, chiefly because of the alteration of their routines to avoid witnessing any more incidences. Therefore, it is vital to talk to children about the harms brought forth by both bullying and witnessing it. It will also be helpful to teach them how to respond to a bullying situation when they come across it, as the ability to stand up against such cruel behavior will ward off feelings of helplessness that invariably to depression and anxiety.
Bullying and Suicide
The worst effect of bullying, though, is still suicide. Ongoing studies continually try to understand the link between bullying and suicide, and while it does exist, the link does not only root from a victim’s contemplations of suicide. Truth be told, the situation arises from various other factors.
StopBullying.gov, a federal government website managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, believes that bullying alone does not result to suicide. The victims are at great risk, yes, but plenty of other issues contribute to this. Depression, trauma, and problems at home are chief contributors. Moreover, specific groups are linked to an increased risk of suicide, which includes Native Americans, Alaskan Natives, Asian Americans, and the members of the LGBTQ+ youth. The risk is magnified if left unsupported by parents, peers, and even the school. Bullying is the primary contributing factor, as it leads to hopelessness and helplessness, both of which greatly aggravate self-harm and suicidal tendencies.
There is no certain evidence as of late that supports the argument that bullying directly causes suicide. However, there is an undeniably close association between being a victim of bullying and suicidal ideations. This means that parents, teachers, administrators, and every person in authority should closely monitor bullying cases in their respective homes and institutions. Bullies must be rehabilitated, and known victims must be subject to counseling and help. There is an immediate need for children and adults alike to be educated about the existing relationship between suicide and bullying, which can help to understand that bullying is not merely a harmless behavior, and that there are grave dangers to it.
Bullying is a serious matter that results to serious consequences and seriously affects every person involved – victims, bullies, and onlookers. Part of the cyclical problem is the culture of inaction, carrying over from the days when bullying was simply ignored and to a certain extent, tolerated and egregiously perceived as a character builder due to the morally flawed zeitgeist at the time. With the alarming number of tragic cases, it is important to start working now to stop the epidemic it has caused. The solution begins with changing the culture of inaction to one of openness and courage to mediate. Public discussion is highly encouraged, especially all the effects caused by bullying, directly or indirectly, can only worsen. Most of this happens to children, so it is vital that we amplify their voices – we must be their voices. This persuasive essay seeks to do just that effect.
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