Bullying Prevention Survey

Jason Schwarz at The Bullying Prevention Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing incidence of bullying, is compiling a list of best practices for the treatment of bullying for inclusion in a free, online handbook for professionals working with children to reduce aggressive and bullying behavior.

The Bullying Prevention Project is hoping that people experienced in working with children on these issues can assist this initiative by taking a few minutes to complete a simple, seven question online survey. To take this survey, you can go to it at the following link:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/X88MYCC

I look forward to seeing the results from The Bullying Prevention Project study.

Bullying Video Sends Powerful Message

I received an email from a Star Victoria, an independent filmmaker that created a very interesting and somewhat disturbing video about Bullying and the emotional breakdown of children that are bullied. She is trying to get her film entered in the Sundance Film Festival and asked that I share the link to it.

Because of the quality of the film and the powerful message it gives, I am sharing it here. But, be warned, it has a music soundtrack with strong language used and is meant for an older audience. To watch the video, you will need to go to:

http://mishmash.gettyimages.com/work/O12036

Thankful for Inspiration

Being that it is Thanksgiving in the United States, I wanted to share that I am thankful for people that help inspire me and others when we need it. As we know and have read, sometimes bullying brings people so low that they start to lose sight of what life CAN be about. As Joel Burns said in his speech about bullying, it can and will get better if you let it.

Sometimes something I see inspires me to realize how great our world is and how inspiring it can be just to live in it. Some years ago I saw a video Matt Harding made. He decided to quit his job and travel the world. Along the way he videotaped himself doing a silly dance in the most exotic places. I can’ t really say why it inspires me. Maybe it’s the music. Maybe it’s just the free way that he dances, letting life go, with a smile on his face, really enjoying his opportunity to live and be able to do this. Maybe sometimes that’s all we need to be inspired to get out of bed. I hope you enjoy Matt and the world he dances in.

Did you enjoy that? I hope so. Well, if so, Matt wasn’t done. He actually became somewhat famous for doing this. Stride Gum sponsored him to do it again and fans sent him video of their dancing. He was then inspired to invite them to dance with him for his next video. Again, for some reason I also felt this was a wonderful video of people connecting positively around the world.

So I am thankful that Matt made these videos. When he made the first one, I doubt he realized that he would inspire people and bring much needed joy to others. When he made the second one, I think he knew the joy he brought and he was smart enough to share it all in the video. For those celebrating thanksgiving, I hope you find something to inspire you and be thankful for. I know that sometimes this website and blog can be sad to read. I hope this article brought some joy to you and help you in some small way as these videos have done for me.

So I hope you can find some way to be thankful,
be inspired to have hope,
know that there are great things to see out there,
find a way to discover new things,
see the joy in the world around us,
and maybe, when no one is looking, or even if they are,
DANCE!

Using Empathy to Avoid Creating a Bully

TIME magazine wrote an article called “How Not to Raise a Bully: The Early Roots of Empathy” that I wanted to share here. The article discusses techniques parents can use to help teach empathy to children at an early age. This is a subject I have talked about many times on this website and one I believe we can all take away some learning from.

The article discusses some research findings that correlate issues of bullying with early childhood development. In the article it states:

“Childhood — as early as infancy — is now known to be a critical time for the development of empathy. And although children can be astonishingly resilient, surviving and sometimes thriving despite abuse and neglect, studies show that those who experience such early trauma are at much greater risk of becoming aggressive or even psychopathic later on, bullying other children or being victimized by bullies themselves.

Simple neglect can be surprisingly damaging. In 2007, researchers published the first randomized, controlled study of the effect of being raised in an orphanage; that study, and subsequent research on the same sample of Romanian orphans, found that compared with babies placed with a foster family, those who were sent to institutions had lower IQs, slower physical growth, problems with human attachment and differences in functioning in brain areas related to emotional development.”

It goes on to discuss this and ways you can help your children in greater detail. I found the research and article supports most of my assumptions about the importance of teaching empathy at a young age and how you choose to discipline your children. Click here to read the whole TIME article .

If this interests you, you may also want to read the book Born for Love: Why Empathy Is Essential–and Endangered. It talks further about the importance of learning empathy and the damage that can be done if children are raised without empathy knowledge.

Bullying and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (Part 1)

In my continued goal to try to explain and help recovery of the long-term effects from bullying, I have been bypassing an important item that I even have some experience working with: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). We have heard much about PTSD in the news, mainly focused on soldiers who return from war. In fact, several times in my career developing online and stand-up training, I have worked on PTSD recovery programs. But, in all the time, I never truly correlated PTSD to the long-term effects of bullying.

I would say this is mainly because it is a term so associated with soldiers and war. In fact, I think as it is brought up in discussion against issues of long-term effects of bullying, another term should be developed specifically for that. I have several times talked about a term I use to explain some of what I have seen, which is the Perceived Threat Syndrome. I have seen and experienced reactions around that concept many times from people who suffer from prolonged bullying.

This article, which begins a series of articles, will start to shed light on the connection between long-term effects of bullying and PTSD. The main goal in discussing this is to help figure out how to receive the correct help and support to recover from these effects. This first article reprints a question and answer posted on CNN in 2009 from a person asking about the connection between PTSD and bullying.

A visitor to the CNN site named Michelle asked Dr. Charles Raison, a Psychiatrist at Emory University Medical School the following:

I suffered long-term verbal abuse and bullying at school for nearly six years. Recently a friend in the mental health field suggested that some behaviors I have begun to exhibit appear to correlate strongly with PTSD. Is it possible to develop PTSD from schoolyard bullying?

Dr. Raison’s answer to this question was:

I feel for you, because I was also bullied growing up, not just at school but in the neighborhood, too. One bully in particular left a lasting impression on me. And not just on me. Recently I saw a childhood friend I hadn’t seen for 30 years, and the first thing he wanted to comment on was how much he still hated, and was haunted by, this particular bully. The bully himself has spent much of his adult life in jail.

So, yes, one can develop PTSD (or post-traumatic stress disorder) symptoms around all sorts of traumatic events, not just the classic ones like warfare or rape. For example, many people develop PTSD after motor vehicle accidents or after a stay in a hospital intensive care unit. There are even a couple of studies showing that bullying does indeed increase the risk of PTSD — and that women are twice as likely to develop symptoms as are men subjected to the same traumas. Thus, anything that really shakes a person up, scares her half to death or makes her feel completely vulnerable and out of control can produce PTSD symptoms.

Although I’ve written about PTSD before, let me just remind folks that PTSD symptoms cluster into three large groups.

The first group revolves around re-experiencing the traumatic event, sometimes in the form of flashbacks, sometimes in the form of dreams. The second group is like a mirror image of the first and involves all sorts of attempts to avoid things that remind one of the trauma. This behavior is often linked to growing feelings of social withdrawal and a loss of a sense of being fully alive. The third group of symptoms relates to what has been called hyperarousal, which means an emotional, mental and physical tendency to drive one’s flight-or-flight nervous system too hard, a classic sign of which is a tendency to startle too easily.

If you have some combination of these symptoms, you most likely are struggling with PTSD to at least some degree and would benefit from treatment.

As with psychiatric conditions in general, treatment options tend to be either psychotherapeutic or pharmacological. Researchers still debate the best type of psychotherapy for PTSD; it’s a complicated and fascinating story that is too long to tell here. Even given this, I think you would be helped a great deal by finding a warm and empathic therapist to whom you could share your situation. In addition to PTSD proper, such a therapist would help you recognize and deal with the feelings of anger and shame that almost always come with having been bullied.

I still carry anger and fear toward the bully of my childhood: When I go home, I won’t walk by his parent’s house (where he still lives) out of fear that he’ll come out and hurt me. And I tend to be more stern than I need to be with patients who try to bully others, almost certainly another legacy of my own early experience.

Antidepressants are the best studied and probably most useful agents for treating PTSD. There is no evidence that one brand is better than another, but evidence would suggest that you want to choose one that has serotonin activity, as most new antidepressants do. If your life is really being affected by the trauma of your schoolyard, I strongly recommend you see a specialist who will be better able to decide what mix of therapy and medications are most appropriate, given the details of your situation.

What an honest and refreshing answer Dr. Raison gave. It surprised me to see his honesty about his own bullying. In the end the concept of therapy and antidepressants was his answer. These are decisions that each person needs to work on in conjunction with their therapist and doctors. This is but one take on the connection and help for victims suffering with long-term effects from bullying. I will continue to share other interesting ties that discuss bullying and PTSD in future articles in this series.

Ultimately, I still feel that a different name should be given to this issue for bullying, due to the close ties that PTSD shares with soldiers and war, but as part of a concept for long-term issues, it is an item studied and termed for the same suffering. Please feel free to share articles you find on the subject of PTSD and bullying as comments to this one as the discussion continues.

(question and answer quotes above courtesy of CNN.com)