Study Shows Teen Bullying Leads to Mental Health Problems
Bullying is not a new topic for teenagers. It could be tripping someone in the hallway at school. It could be whispers at the back of the bus. It could be missing lunch money. It could be the ping of a comment notification on social media. There is no shortage of ways that teens can experience bullying during their day. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, over 1 in 4 students in grades 6-12 have been bullied. Despite efforts to minimize teen bullying, it continues to happen–but what are the future consequences?
New studies are confirming that experiencing teen bullying can follow a child into adulthood. The scars of the past might not heal and could cause serious issues, like anxiety and depression, in the future.
Understanding Bullying in Teens
Bullying is described as aggressive and unwanted behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. This behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. In past decades, bullying may have been isolated to school hours. But in today’s digital age, bullying can occur anywhere. Teenagers are now constantly connected to each other. This can have the positive effect of creating community or the negative effect of being unable to disengage from bullying behaviors.
Cyberbullying can take place over digital devices like your teen’s phone or gaming device. Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation. Some cyberbullying can even cross the line into unlawful or criminal behavior.
Warning Signs of Bullying
It is important for parents to be aware of their teens’ personal interactions in person and online. Teens who are experiencing bullying behaviors from their peers may not feel comfortable reaching out for help. They may feel embarrassed or ashamed. They may internalize the bullying behavior and begin to believe that they are deserving of the abuse. This is why being aware of shifts in your teen’s habits or emotions is crucial. Teens who are experiment bullying may exhibit behaviors such as:
- Unexplainable injuries
- Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry
- Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick, or faking illness
- Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Teens may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch.
- Drastic sleep changes such as difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares or excessive sleeping.
- Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
- Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
- Isolation. This may be self-imposed where your teen begins to show less interest in activities they previously enjoyed or it may be that former friends are no longer inviting them to hang out.
- Feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem
- Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide
Bullying and Mental Health
Although bullying is a common experience for many teens, that does not make it any less detrimental. Teens who are bullied can experience negative physical, social, emotional, academic, and mental health issues. Teens who are bullied are more likely to experience:
- Depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. These issues may persist into adulthood.
- Decreased self-esteem.
- Decreased academic achievement, GPA and standardized test scores, and school participation. They are more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school.
- Intense feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.
Adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood (0-17 years). This could include experiencing physical or emotional violence through bullying. ACEs are linked to chronic health problems, mental illness, and substance use problems in adulthood. ACEs can also negatively impact education, job opportunities, and earning potential. According to the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, people who had multiple ACEs were, on average, at a much higher risk for serious health issues. Because of the repeated nature of bullying, it may be experienced as ACEs for those who are bullied.
Some children who experience trauma and bullying may have strong feelings of distress, while other children may appear desensitized. As an example, a study on bullying and post-traumatic stress found that some children may repress their thoughts or feelings about what took place. This study also found that children may experience intrusive thoughts, such as sudden flashbacks of their bullying experience. It is important that parents and families understand how to respond to bullying and are sensitive to possible traumatic stress.
Bullying can make teens feel helpless. They may not be able to see a way for the abuse to end. They may worry that if they speak out, their bully will retaliate and the situation will get worse. They may also feel like no one will understand their struggle. Building a foundation of communication early in your child’s life can help set the stage for open and honest conversations during adolescence. Show your teen that you are always there to listen to their concerns without judgment and that you will always be there to help them. Remind them that no problem is so large that it does not have a solution. It can also be beneficial to help your teen re-engage with activities or hobbies that they enjoy. These activities give teens the chance to have fun and meet others with the same interests. They can build confidence and friendships that help protect them from bullying.
Residential Treatment for Positive Peer Relationships
The social culture of an adolescent has a powerful influence on his behavior. Positive Peer Culture is a therapeutic approach that utilizes the social culture of the residential treatment center to create healthy changes in our boys. These changes are achieved through the therapeutic use of our students’ “community,” which includes peers, staff, community roles and responsibilities, groups, and meetings. In combination with other therapeutic interventions, peer culture can be incredibly powerful in changing the lives of young men.
The home-like setting of Equinox–a year-round program for troubled boys–also more closely matches the settings our young men will return back to. This provides even greater and more realistic insight and opportunities for change. With a smaller therapeutic setting, we can better see where our student’s strengths and weaknesses are, helping them to grow in real-life scenarios.
Clinical and residential staff work together seamlessly in the creation and implementation of a therapeutic milieu to create the most lasting positive outcomes in our students. Through our milieu and experiential therapy, our boys are led back onto a path that benefits them in the future. The Equinox Team harmoniously works together to help every student make needed changes as they continue on their journey back toward health and happiness.
At Equinox, we create a culture that fosters the development of strong, positive identities among young men and strongly challenges old ways of being and thinking. As they develop and learn alongside one another, they form trusting, caring relationships. One method that helps is by challenging our boys through adventure therapy. The Equinox Adventure Therapy program is designed to provide our students with well-rounded, meaningful learning opportunities through outdoor recreation, experiential education and community service and events. Our program creates a culture that fosters the development of strong, positive identities among young men and strongly challenges old ways of being and thinking. As they develop and learn alongside one another, they form trusting, caring relationships.
Each week our students participate in an experiential education group that brings therapeutic concepts to life. Experiential groups focus on DBT concepts, social skills, leadership, emotional regulation and relationships, and competency. Lessons are then integrated into weekly off-campus activities and community service to provide a context for students to apply these skills in real-life settings. Our goal is for our students to be exposed to a variety of healthy activities that can assist them in the development of their identity, self-confidence, and social skills.
Equinox is here to help your son
Equinox RTC is a residential treatment center for teen boys, ages 14 – 18. Our students often need help with depression, anxiety, trauma, drug use, and other behavioral or emotional issues. With decades of experience working with adolescents in residential treatment, our founding team developed a clinically intensive, trauma-informed, neurologically-based and adventure-filled program focused on the specific challenges and needs of young men. The Equinox Difference focuses on respected, evidence-based approaches to the recovery from trauma, loss, depression, anxiety, relationship deterioration, and impulsive and addictive behaviors. Our holistic approach–which treats the mind, body, and soul–is just one aspect that sets us apart from other treatment programs for troubled teens.
We strive to help students develop healthy habits and lead themselves back onto a path of success through meaningful therapy and a nurturing environment. At Equinox, teenagers work towards building accountability, respect, and a solution-oriented approach to solving their challenges.
For more information about how we help with teen bullying at Equinox, contact us today at (828) 414-2968