October is a busy month for awareness in Kentucky: Breast Cancer Awareness, Domestic Violence Awareness, and even Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month. Thanks to Governor Beshear, October will now also bring awareness about the problem of bullying in the Bluegrass, as he recently declared this Anti-Bullying Awareness Month.
It’s hard to deny that bullying isn’t happening in our schools. The Kentucky Department of Education reported 15,520 incidents of bullying during the 2013 school year. With such a large number of incidents, Governor Steve Beshear recently appointed a 22-member panel to look into this issue. The Kentucky Youth Bullying Prevention Task Force will identify and recommend policies and practices to create safer schools in Kentucky.
Bullying has taken on a new form in the last few years with the increase of technology in our society. Kids face threats and negative attention from social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter. The internet makes it easy for rumors and pictures to spread beyond the classroom to the whole community within minutes. It is no longer something that can be swept to the side and ignored. Children who experience repeated bullying can suffer from long-term consequences, including depression, anxiety and other mental health related issues.
The Kentucky Youth Risk Behavior Survey in 2011 showed 43 percent of middle school children and 18.9% of high school students stated they have been bullied on school grounds. A large portion of our children are ridiculed and harassed at school over things that they may not be able to control such as disabilities, their physical features, or even where they live. The child who is bullied is not the only one affected: even the children doing the bullying or witnessing the acts are at risk for developing mental health issues like anxiety and depression.
Whether you are a parent, an educator, or a community member, you can take steps ensure children have a safe environment to grow and learn. Check out http://www.stopbullying.gov for how you can help. This includes how to recognize bullying, how to talk to your children or students about bullying, and how to stop it. There’s even an app for that: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has developed an app, KnowBullying, that provides tips and tools for regularly checking in with your children about bullying. Learn more about it on the SAMHSA website or in this video.