The Golden Rule: treat others as you want to be treated. A simple statement, biblical reference and rule to guide our moral compass as we live our lives. Unfortunately, we commonly hear, see and feel the negative impacts of a bully. Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior that includes a repetitive action to achieve an imbalance of power. Bullying occurs at all ages and in many different forms.
Verbal bullying is speaking or writing harmful comments. This includes teasing, name-calling, inappropriate comments, taunting or threatening to cause harm. Social bullying involves hurting ones reputation or relationships by purposely excluding them, telling others not to befriend them, spreading rumors about them or publically embarrassing them. Physical bullying involves hurting a person’s body or possessions. Physical bullying includes forceful contact, stealing belongings, making mean or rude gestures. Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital media. Cyberbullying can occur via SMS, text, apps or online in social media, forums or gaming where people can view, participate or share information.
There are a multitude of factors as to why some individuals bully others. The first are peer factors, this leads one to be a bully to impress their peers. This is an attempt to attain or maintain social power or to elevate their status among their peer group. Family factors also play a large role in bullying. Those who live in a home where bullying, aggression and violence are common are more likely to be a bully themselves. There is also evidence that the parents of a bully are not providing emotional support and have low involvement in the child’s life. Emotional factors can contribute as the bully doesn’t know how to properly manage their feelings. Research suggests that insecurity, low self-esteem and not possessing skills to handle tough social situations positively are all common traits of a bully.
The signs of being a bully are often evident and necessitate immediate action. Signs include becoming increasingly aggressive, blaming others for their problems, not accepting responsibility for their actions and consistently worrying about their reputation or popularity.
Being on the receiving end of a bully can have a negative impact. Being bullied is linked to outcomes such as declined mental health, substance abuse, extremely violent retaliation and suicide. With such negative outcomes, it is important to identify if someone is being bullied. Signs of an individual being bullied include depression, anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness. They might exhibit changes in sleep and eating patterns or a loss of interest in the activities they used to enjoy. Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations and self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, inflicting self-harm or talking about suicide are all red flags that require immediate attention.
We have the capability to stop bullying. Being conscious of our in-person and online words, actions and their impact on others is the first step in the right direction. We are all role-models. Some of us are role-models to our children, friends, co-workers, congregation, ect… Our actions and words can either make a positive or negative impact on someone else. Let’s make certain we are all creating a positive impact on others as we move forward. Be the reason a friend smiles, be the reason your children had great day, be the reason that Meigs County is such a great place to live.
For more information, visit stopbullying.gov
Marc Barr is Meigs County Health Commissioner.