In my 27 years as a school psychologist, I have seen an increase in how many students and families are concerned about bullying. I have witnessed first-hand the damage it can cause –not only to the children being bullied, but also to those who witness bullying, and even to kids who bully. Thankfully, I have also seen this issue go beyond what many used to think of as an acceptable “rite of passage,” to one that is seen for what it actually is: an important public health issue that merits community prevention and response.
As a mental health professional, I’m sure you have seen these human costs as well. You have seen how bullying can affect the mental and physical wellbeing of kids who are targeted and may cause them to dislike, avoid and even fail or drop out of school. You also know that bullying others can be an early-warning sign of trouble that may require the support and intervention of mental health professionals based in or outside of schools. Most importantly, you know that steps can be taken to prevent bullying and reduce these human costs. As mental health professionals, we are in a position to help.
What Can You Do to Prevent Bullying?
Because of our training, expertise, and our collaborations with others in our schools and communities, we can play unique and critical roles in preventing bullying and helping to lessen its effects. We can:
- Offer counseling and skills training to help kids who bully manage aggression, support and coping strategies for those who have been bullied, and counseling for family members or friends who have been affected by bullying.
- Help school and community leaders assess the amount and nature of bullying in schools and organizations, use local data to inform bullying prevention efforts, and help evaluate progress in reducing bullying over time.
- Identify and help to implement bullying prevention efforts that have evidence of effectiveness and fit the needs of local schools and community groups.
- Train other mental health professionals, educators, community members, families, and youth about the nature and prevalence of bullying, its effects, and effective prevention and intervention strategies.
- Consult with educators, parents, and administrators to develop reasoned policies about bullying that avoid harsh, inflexible discipline strategies such as zero tolerance policies.
Take the First Step
- Learn more about bullying prevention through the Training Module, User Guide (“Understanding the Roles of Mental Health Professionals in Community-Wide Bullying Prevention Efforts”) and other resources on StopBullying.gov.
- View the webinar, “Moving from Awareness to Action in Bullying Prevention” co-presented by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP).
- Plan a bullying prevention event to inform school- and community-based mental health professionals, parents, youth, and other members of your community to share “what works” in bullying prevention and dispel some common myths and misdirections.
As a leader in the mental health community or the subject matter expert in your school, you have opportunities to make a difference in a child’s life every day. These commonsense steps for action and resources will provide you with the tools you need to take action today and help the kids who need it the most.