Bengaluru: Bullying is banned in schools and colleges, but many children continue to face harassment at the hands of their peers and seniors. Though educational institutions work hard to contain the menace, it continues on the school premises and on school buses.
What is worrying is that bullying has a lasting impact on a child and increases the risk of mental health issues among victim children, say doctors. “School bullying causes a significant psychological distress among children and adolescents and continues to have an impact over a long period of time. They experience a plethora of mental health issues, from anxiety, depression, PTSD, somatic symptoms to aggression. It impacts their physical health, social relations and self-esteem,” warned Dr Megha Mahajan, Consultant, Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist, Fortis Hospital.
In one such case, mother of a 10-year-old complained that the child’s academic performance had suddenly declined and he was showing behavioural issues. The child reportedly had anger issues and was irritable most of the time. He also refused to go to school and listen to his parents.
Sessions with the boy revealed that he had been a target of bullying and it was severely impacting his life, to the extent that going to school had become a nightmare for him. He had not talked about it at home, as he was worried about his parents coming to school and making a fuss. But gradually with time, the fear became overwhelming and he started experiencing extreme anxiety and sadness. He started looking for excuses to miss school, which triggered arguments with his parents and led to more aggressive behaviour.
The child was given supportive care to freely express himself in a safe environment. With his consent, the school was informed about the bullying incident. Last but not the least, life skills-based work and cognitive behaviour-based approach was used to help the child get back on track.
A recent study by the Royal Economic Society’s annual conference at the University of Warwick found that being bullied in school increases the extent of mental health problems at the age by 25 by 40 percent.
Dr Vijay Mehtry, Consultant Psychiatrist, MindfulTMS, said that immediate effects of bullying include feelings of social isolation, shame, anxiety, depression, changes in biological functions including sleep and appetite disturbances, low self-esteem, avoid going to school and bedwetting. “If bullying is ongoing for a long duration of time, the child can develop a depressive disorder, suicidal ideations, anxiety, substance abuse, trust issues and difficulty in making and maintaining long-term relationships,” he said.
Experts stressed that at such a tender age a child’s mind is not prepared to tackle such overwhelming emotions as those felt by bullying and it becomes the responsibility of parents and teachers to ensure a healthy environment for the children not just to grow but also to express their emotions and to understand other children’s feelings.
Mr Nagasimha G. Rao, director, Child Rights Trust, said, “Bullying is common nowadays. It is important for schools to have certified counsellors. If not every school, a group of 4-5 schools can have one counsellor. This gives a window for children to open up and express themselves. Teachers can’t do the job of a counsellor as children might be unsure of sharing their experiences with their teacher, while counsellors are trained for such sessions.”