Industry News

When is it time to get away from the bully?

Jeff Nalin
March 9, 2020

Death from completed suicide by adolescents and young adults account for nearly seven percent of all deaths for this age group. Apart from the higher risk of being a victim of homicide for certain groups, suicide ranks second only to accidents as the cause. And, the decision of adolescents to escape the pain of life through ending it is gaining traction. The number of young people committing suicide over the past several years has more than doubled from previous decades.

Many of these tragedies occur as a response to the extreme pain of social rejection that develops as a result of being bullied. The situation has become so common, that death by suicide due to being harassed has gained its own terminology. Bullycide is the term now used when the person who has completed suicide cites relentless bullying as the source of this hopeless course of action.

Reasons To Leave The Situation

Deliberately putting a young person into a situation where he or she is at risk of physical harm is not ever a good idea. Many parents would be down at the school, demanding justice, if their child arrived home with a black eye and torn clothes. The problem with bullying, however, is that it has largely evolved away from physical altercation, and into a form of psychological warfare. The bruises and scars that it leaves are most often on the heart and mind. Sending a young person into a school of bullies is like sending an unequipped soldier into an invisible battle.

Developmental Needs of the Adolescent

There are some parents who believe that the best way to combat a bully is to have the children learn to deal with their adversary. While this may work in an ideal group setting -- where the bullied individual has an entourage of support -- the reality is that many bullied children are isolated from the group.While there may be only one direct attacker, the majority of those surrounding the victim often suffer from the bystander effect. Even though the victim is surrounded by peers, there is no one available to help. By their silence, the onlookers can appear to be condoning the behavior of the bully.

Young people, in particular, are at a critical stage of psychosocial development. This is the period in life when the adolescent learns what to expect from others, and what to expect from the self. If the social climate is hostile, the young person can begin to believe that he or she does not belong here. A victim can begin to internalize the feelings of pain and rejection imposed by the bullying, and the severe depression which follows can create prime conditions for consideration of suicide as the only escape plan.

Environment Makes A Difference

While being sent into a hostile environment can be devastating for the developing adolescent, being provided with a healthy social space can create the conditions for self-confidence, resilience, and success. There are few parents who desire anything else for their children than for them to grow up to be well adjusted, happy, and secure. Providing them with this type of experience in their younger years will be setting the groundwork for them to recognize the importance of ensuring it as adults.

How To Leave A Toxic School Environment

For those who have decided that removing their bullied child from the situation provides the best option for successful development, open enrollment initiatives may allow for hassle-free transfer to a school of choice. For parents who may have difficulty arranging their schedules for a long commute to a school which is out of district, our current technological age has provided convenient options.

Some young people may benefit from spending these final stages of adolescence in the safety of the home environment. With online schooling, they will be free from the harassment which would otherwise impede their ability to focus on schoolwork. They will also be able to continue to develop their understanding of the world as being one of acceptance and possibility, rather than experiencing it as being cruel and unwelcoming. If pure home schooling doesn’t provide enough social interaction, these distance-learning programs can often be supplemented with a hybrid of classroom and group interactions.

Dealing With Cyber Bullying

Over half of all teenagers are reported as experiencing cyber bullying. Short of going off-grid, there are very few options for getting away from the online world. Young people who are victims of this modern form of bullying may need to take a more proactive role in avoiding the toxic culture of social media. In addition to being educated in smart internet practices and deleting unnecessary accounts, there are a couple more safeguards to apply.

Open Communication Lines

In all situations of bullying, maintaining communication with the adults in their lives is important for adolescents. In order for this communication to occur, parents need to make sure that the relationship that they have developed with their children is a safe one. Young people need to feel confident that asking for help will result in applicable help.

Set Boundaries

Online bullying is always purely psychological. The bully wants to get into the head of the victim, and sabotage his or her social presence. It is important to learn how to erect proper boundaries against the mental and emotional intrusion of bullies, and apply them consistently.

Jeff Nalin, Psy.D, is a licensed clinical psychologist and the founder and chief clinical director at Paradigm Malibu Treatment Center. The center has locations in both Malibu and San Francisco.

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