How to Deal with Bullying
By Stephanie Napoli, Psy.D., MCHC
“Bullying can happen in the locker room and the chat room — on a crowded bus or an empty hallway — in school and on Facebook. It takes place anywhere and everywhere. And so, if we truly want to prevent and end bullying, we will have to mobilize entire communities against it.” This was the consensus of the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference (CBC/ACL) Anti-Bullying Braintrust in 2012.
We all know bullying when we see it. It is unwanted, aggressive behavior often by a more powerful person to someone less powerful, whether in strength, position or popularity. Bullying includes making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose. Dealing with bullying, or a bully, can be difficult and traumatic for people of any age. Yes, adults are bullied too.
Some effects of being bullied or witnessing bullying include poor school or work performance or attendance, depression (sometimes leading to thoughts of suicide), anxiety, difficulty in forming healthy personal relationships (sometimes leading to dating violence), low self-esteem, poor sleep, ambiguous body or headaches, and vulnerability to sickness. These effects can also be seen in the bullies themselves — bullying is bad for everyone.
What can we do as community members? First is to stop it before it starts. Establish a culture of acceptance, tolerance and respect. Then, talk to the bully. Find out why he or she may be acting this way. Support, friendship or even mental health interventions may be needed.
How does one combat a bully? A youth does not need to fight back. This encourages aggression as a solution to problems. Encourage him or her to avoid the bully when possible. Suggest that he or she walk away and go find a teacher or other trusted adult. But then, we trusted adults need to act on the youths’ behalf. Also, teach the youth to move in groups. A good support system can be an effective deterrent against bullies. Have the youth go to school and other places with trusted friends when dealing with bullying. Youth can also stand up straight and firmly tell the bully to leave him or her alone. In some cases, this type of assertiveness will work. Other times, humor can diffuse the situation.
When dealing with an adult bully in the workplace, use your chain of command to make specific complaints. Otherwise, ignore and try to avoid the bully. Adult bullies are often not interested in working things out or compromising. Rather, they are interested in power and domination. They want to feel important and they do this by bringing others down.
Wherever and whenever bullying is seen on Molokai, we have the power to show that it will not be tolerated. As bystanders, stand up for the victim and say that the behavior is wrong. Be the one who helps mediate or be the one who escorts the victim to safety. Molokai is the Friendly Isle. Let’s uphold our reputation.
If you have mental health questions or topics you would like addressed in the Dispatch, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions. MCHC’s Behavioral Health psychologist is also available for therapy, personal coaching, and life effectiveness skills training.