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Hello Idaho: The effects of bullying, recognition and prevention

“Bullying has negative effects to all involved and those impacts range from mental health, substance abuse disorder, to suicide.”

BOISE, Idaho — Bullying, whether it is in-person or over the internet, can have negative effects on all parties’ mental health.

As classrooms move from an online setting back to in-person learning in the Treasure Valley and beyond, many kids will be back in a setting to bully, or be bullied by their peers.  

“There is a fair amount of research that tells us bullying has negative effects to all involved and those impacts range from mental health, substance abuse disorder, to suicide,” said Casey Moyer, deputy director of Optum Idaho. “For kids that are bullied, they’re more likely to experience depression, anxiety, changes to sleeping and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities."

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But those doing the bullying are not immune either, Moyer warned.

"They’re more likely to get into fights, vandalize property, abuse future partners and children, and use more drugs or alcohol in their lifetime,” he said.

Parents should look for warning signs in their children to recognize whether their child is being bullied or bullying others.

“Things like unexplained injuries, lost or destroyed possessions, frequent headaches or stomach aches that are psychosomatic – and then obviously changes in self-esteem or interest levels,” Moyer said. “Those are all good indicators that something might be changing or is different.”

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If a parent finds their child has participated in bullying, or has been a bullying victim, it’s important to find out exactly what happened from everyone involved.

“Keep all youth involved separated, get the story from multiple sources – this can include both adults and children, listen without blaming and don’t call the act bullying while you’re trying to seek understanding, because sometimes that can derail the process,” Moyer said. “If it’s cyberbullying, make sure you document any kind of harmful post with screenshots, and then really try to understand how it made all of those involved feel. You’ll want to contact teachers, school counselors, school principals, and engage in solution-focused conversation.”

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Moyer adds that talking about bullying with your children can prevent it.

“Even if it’s not happening to them, kids can play a pivotal role in preventing bullying,” he said. “You’ll want to make sure they understand what bullying is, how they should be more than just a bystander or witness to it, and they need to engage an adult to report what’s happening.”

For more tips on how to prevent bullying, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services resources page.

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