The mental health effects of bullying

Unprovoked hostilities from peers has proven to degrade the mental health of young people. Whether the bullying targets sexual orientation, race, simple quirks or other attributes, the emotional and even physical well-being of the survivor can be at risk in a number of ways that can require diagnosis and treatment.

Raychelle Cassada Lohmann, M.S., defined bullying as spreading rumors, threats, gossiping, outing (especially of the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity), harassment over the Internet and any other behavior that inflicts emotional difficulties. These actions are often underestimated by school officials and other adults.

One particular study released in the spring of 2015 agreed that bullying could have worse effects than many people may think. The research used data gathered from over 6,000 people on the subjects of bullying by peers and poor treatment from adults. The scientists focused on these negative experiences occurring between eight weeks and 16 years of age and measured the mental health statuses of 18- to 25-year-olds.

Dieter Wolke, professor at the University of Warwick Department of Psychology and lead of the study, was galvanized by the results he and his cohorts found.

“The mental health outcomes we were looking for included anxiety, depression or suicidal tendencies. Our results showed those who were bullied were more likely to suffer from mental health problems than those who were maltreated,” Wolke said.

He opined that bullying is not a “rite of passage” or an “inevitable part of growing up” but a trauma requiring attention from schools and other organizations to protect victims and deter the practice.

Whether or not young people with preexisting emotional difficulties “invite” victimization from belligerents has been up for debate. In response to this and other questions, Lyndal Bond, Ph.D., from the Royal Children’s Hospital in Victoria, Australia, led the study called “Does bullying cause emotional problems? A prospective study of young teenagers” to further shed light on harassment.

In the research of 2,680 students, Bond et al concluded:

  • Recurring emotional problems in bullying victims did not significantly correlate with future bullying incidents
  • A history of bullying contributes to future depression and anxiety, especially in young women
  • Combating bullying in academic environments is essential for improving the mental health of youths

The long-term effects of bullying often need treatment lest they lead to serious mental illnesses and damaging physical ramifications, such as drug abuse, self-harm or suicide. Mental health interventions are often necessary to steer bullied teens into recovery from this and other possible traumas.

White River Academy is a mental health provider for young men between the ages of 12 and 17. Our experts of various disciplines can treat a variety of behavioral issues and traumas. Find out more about treatment by calling our 24/7 helpline.

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