MOUNT VERNON — Although some people do not want to admit it, bullying is a big problem which has long-term effects. As Psychologist Dennis Marikis said, most of us can remember our childhood bullies, so we know it leaves a long imprint in our brain.
The problem appears to be worse in middle school than any other time in the adolescent experience, and there has been at least one suicide and one attempted suicide in Knox County as a result of bullying in middle schools.
Marikis said thoughts of suicide occur when the victim of bullying feels like no one cares, like no one is taking his or her plight seriously.
“Hopelessness is a sense that this is never going to get better,” he said, “From a kid’s point of view, this — the here and now — is their world. They don’t see the world outside of these immediate days. They don’t have perspective, so they can’t say, ‘This too shall pass and I’ll get over this, and go to high school.’ It is like, ‘This is my life.’ So, when bad things happen here, it really is significant to them.”
The easiest thing parents can do to help their children deal with bullying is maintain lines of communication and talk to their children about school and what is going on. The adolescents need to know there is someone they can talk to.
When a problem comes to light, Assistant Knox County Prosecutor Chip McConville said, parents should try to gather as much information about the bullying as possible.
“If kids are being threatened at school,” he said, “that’s something that school officials and the Prosecutor’s Office can act on — if they have good evidence of it. Frequently, these days, these threats take the form of text messages, or Facebook postings, or things of that nature. You can take pictures of the texts, make copies or print them out. That way, you can build a record quickly that these things are going on.”
“Parents need to be good advocates for their kids with the school officials,” McConville continued. “That’s the first line of it. If it’s legally actionable, we take those kinds of phone calls, too.”