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Bullying and Mental Health in California: The Impacts on Schools

One in five students have reported being bullied on school property, and one in six have been bullied electronically in the last year, according to the CDC website. Bullying and mental health in California are inextricably linked to teenagers, as it is a form of violence that can impact a person's self-esteem and become a stress disorder or cause depression in those prone to these mental health disorders.

Although California has anti-bullying laws, it still occurs daily around the state, especially within school environments and teen peer groups. Educational environments cannot be places of learning if peer interactions consistently impact teens' mental health, so teachers and administrators are working to stop school bullying.

Contact BeWellLine by calling our help center at 866-349-0854 to learn more about using virtual mental health services.

Recognizing the Mental Health Impacts of Bullying

Bullying can have a serious mental health impact on teenagers. For some, especially those identifying as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, it can be a daily stress, impacting their ability to learn and causing issues like depression, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, panic disorder, PTSD, and suicidal thoughts to become a reality. If untreated, in some cases, these problems can affect the rest of the child's life.

Evidence suggests that even bystanders to bullying who are simply witnessing the events can develop anxiety, stress disorders, and depression, especially when they want to intervene but cannot or if they fear being bullied themselves.

5 Effective Ways to Stop Bullying

The following are five ways to stop bullying that have been implemented successfully throughout schools and communities in the U.S.:

  1. Teaching about bullying early, telling kids how to handle bullies, ensuring all children know what is and is not acceptable (in person and online), and where to get help if needed.
  2. Getting bystanders involved, as the more people who stand up for the victim, the less likely the bully will be to act out again. Bystanders who help will also feel better about themselves and their role in the world.
  3. Learning to recognize the signs of bullying and then take steps to talk to the child about it, providing a compassionate ear and further resources if needed.
  4. Having parents, teachers, and adults keep communication lines open, checking in with all kids often, and getting to know their friends and what is happening in their lives regularly. A simple "What did you do at lunchtime?" may be all it takes for your child to tell you about their bully.
  5. Teaching your children not to bully, spread rumors, or single other children out. Instead, teach empathy and kindness.

Collaborative Initiatives: How Schools are Combating Bullying

Californian institutions have come up with ways to stop bullying in school:

  • Clearly define bullying so students understand unacceptable behaviors, with clear, enforceable rules and expectations.
  • Incorporating the Bullying Module from the California Department of Education.
  • Rewarding positive behaviors to encourage a welcoming atmosphere at school.
  • Watching for warning signs, like changes in attitude, unexplained injuries, or declining grades in students.
  • Educating staff on discovering the whole story before doling out punishments during altercations, using empathetic listening and open communication.
  • Incorporating parents into children's lives and letting them know about their behaviors and issues while working with parents to enforce the same rules inside and outside the classroom.
  • Keep an eye out in places where bullying is most likely to occur.
  • Referring students to counselors, school psychologists, or social workers for additional support.
  • Understanding California state laws regarding bullying and the school district rules.
Contact BeWellLine by calling our help center at 866-349-0854 to learn more about using virtual mental health services.

Making a Difference: Ways You Can Help Prevent School Bullying

To help prevent bullying in your community, you can:

  • Learn to watch for signs of bullying, and let the youth in your life know you are there for them with open, judgment-free communication.
  • Step in if you witness bullying or harassment of any kind to let the bully know their behavior is unacceptable.
  • Try the free Bullying Prevention Training Course, a research-based guide to help you lead an anti-bullying campaign in your community.
  • Give children information about teen support, like BeWellLine, the California Youth Crisis Line (1-800-842-5200), and Teen Line.

Frequently Asked Questions About Effects of Bullying in School

How does bullying impact a child's mental health in the long run?

Bullying and mental health are closely related because bullying can cause a person to develop generalized anxiety, depression, panic disorder, low self-esteem, and other long-term issues. It can also stunt social development in some kids or instill fear in leaving safe places like home or the classroom. Kids may also skip class or pretend to be sick to avoid their bully, causing them to fall behind in school.

Adults who were bullied in school statistically experience more unstable relationships, are more likely to be obese and earn less money than those who were not bullied.

What are the most common forms of bullying in California schools?

The most common types of youth bullying in California include physical violence or assault, social bullying, verbal bullying, racial or religious bullying, sexual harassment, and electronic bullying (cyberbullying).

How can teachers and parents identify signs of bullying?

Common signs a child is being bullied include faking illness to stay home, lost or destroyed belongings and clothing, unexplained injuries, changes in eating and sleeping habits, poor performance at school, avoidance of social situations, and self-destructive behavior like self-harm or substance abuse.

What steps can students take if they witness bullying?

Students can choose to get involved themselves if they feel safe, or they can reach out to a trusted adult for help. They may question the bully's behavior, try to diffuse the situation using humor, or get more people involved in the incident. Showing support to the victim can also raise their self-esteem and reduce the emotional harm the bully may have caused.

How do anti-bullying programs in schools reduce incidents?

Anti-bullying programs are one of the most effective ways to stop bullying because they incorporate peer pressure and social dynamics, with kindness generating more social approval than violence or power plays. They help empower children with knowledge while encouraging them to get involved in incidents, stopping bullying in its tracks.

Why is it important to address youth violence as an extension of bullying?

When it comes to youth violence, bullying is often the first step. Victims who are continuously harassed suffer social harm, emotional pain, and sometimes physical harm due to bullies and may retaliate with violence or using a weapon. Counseling or referrals to mental health help may assist these students in taking back control over the situation without turning to violent measures.

Are there legal consequences for bullying in California schools?

Yes, mainly if the bullying includes threats to a person's physical safety. In some states, it is also illegal to utter threats, blackmail somebody, stalk a person, post "revenge porn," and post hate crimes online, all of which can be reported to the police.

To learn more about protecting the youth in your community and bullying prevention, call BeWellLine at 866-349-0854. We can provide immediate, free support and help you learn to cope.

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