Thoughts on National Bullying Prevention Month

October is National Bullying Prevention Month and there has never been a better time to talk about how we can rise above this very serious topic. Whether it’s happening in schools or in the workplace, bullying has the potential to lead to serious consequences for the victim, including depression, anxiety and even death.

The nation’s current health crisis and war on racial disparities have created division, rather than unity, intolerance rather than acceptance and hatred rather than peace. Instead of supporting one another, Americans are politically fueled and aiming to strike down those who don’t agree.

But bullying isn’t anything new. School ground bullies have been running the show in the educational settings for centuries, but what once was a bloody nose and stolen lunch has now become relentless behavior thanks to technology and social media. The old and young have shifted into a world of texting, commenting, posting, “liking” and messaging and the devastating effects could be worse than being forced to give up one’s lunch money. Ever hear the saying “go viral?” Just like we have learned about the coronavirus, words and photos in cyberland have the potential to multiple with no end in sight.

So, how can we react when someone – a friend, classmate, colleague or co-worker – decides to make us their next target?

Try to understand where the person’s animosity is coming from. Take a look at his or her background and try to understand where the feelings of insecurity are coming from.

Reach out. Maybe this person feels alone or feels left out. Have a conversation with this person to see if, possibly, the anger is simply a manifestation of needing someone to talk to.

Work with a mediator. When engaging with a bully, it is important to be sure that a mediator is available to allow for both sides to be heard. Perhaps a problem could be solved.

Stop responding. Oftentimes bullies are looking for a reaction. When we stop responding, the individual no longer gets the thrill he or she desires.

Block them from any form of communication. The best way to react sometimes is to not react at all and in the case of bullying, out of sight, out of mind is best. Make it so that outreach is impossible.

Be sure to make an adult or manager aware of the situation. Never try to handle the things alone. Always turn to a trusted adult or manager so that someone is aware of the potentially dangerous situation.

Seek mental health help. The effects of bullying can be long-lasting. Be sure to speak to a mental health professional or school counselor so that the feelings are addressed before they lead to depression, anxiety or thoughts of suicide.

Be sure to document every run-in with the individual should you need to bring this up to an adult or manager. It is best to be able to prove what has happened than to expect someone to take your word for it.

Find a group of trusted friends to act as your support team. Doing so not only sends a message to the individual that you are protected, but that you are surrounded by individuals who will help you through tough times.