The Emotional Toll of Bullying in Schools
Bullying has become a pervasive problem that negatively affects all who are involved. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 50 percent of students are occasional victims of bullying while 10 percent are bullied continuously. Bullying is linked to numerous negative effects including mental health problems, low academic performance, and suicide. The emotional toll of bullying affects not only the victims, but also the bullies, bystanders, and the overall school atmosphere.
Students who are bullied are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide when compared to their peers. Victims of bullying often experience changes in sleeping and eating patterns, and they begin to lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. Student absenteeism increases, negatively affecting their overall academic achievement. Their social life diminishes and creates low self-esteem.
Students who bully experience numerous adverse effects. Bullies are more likely to steal and vandalize property, get into altercations, experience substance abuse, carry a weapon, and commit crimes later in life. Unfortunately, students who bully can be highly sociable and do not always have blatant behavior problems, making it difficult for school personnel to identify them. Consequently, bullies continue to victimize peers, causing everyone involved to experience the emotional toll of bullying.
Bystanders are also negatively affected by bullying because they often have feelings of guilt and fear. Some bystanders become active participants in bullying to avoid becoming a target themselves. Select bystanders generally encourage bullies by laughing, cheering, or prodding them to victimize others, however, most bystanders often stand by and watch without directly intervening. Due to feelings of guilt and helplessness, bystanders are more likely to skip school, experience depression and anxiety, or abuse substances.
4 School Atmosphere
The overall school atmosphere can be negatively affected by bullying. Widespread feelings of fear and frustration can hinder both the social and academic experience for many students. Victims, bullies, and bystanders often lose interest in academics, ultimately causing them to dislike school. Bullying is a serious issue in school, and can cause students to wonder about their safety and whether school staff care enough to protect them. Consequently, school administration should implement programs such as peer mediation, conflict resolution, or zero-tolerance policies to create a safe and inviting atmosphere for all students.