Battling bullying and its impact on children - – Rockford’s News Leader

Battling bullying and its impact on children

Sarah Holliday has helped her son through bullying for the past 4 years. Sarah Holliday has helped her son through bullying for the past 4 years.
Holliday's son still battles depression and social difficulties Holliday's son still battles depression and social difficulties
Wright says a community approach to bullying must be used. Wright says a community approach to bullying must be used.

This may be the beginning of just one story about bullying, but there are thousands more out there.

When Sarah Holliday's 6 year-old son wanted to try an activity that wasn't traditionally "masculine," she tried to shield him from any potential repercussions. She scheduled it away from where they live, as to not run into anyone her son might know from school. It didn't work.

"We chose a place for him to do [it] outside of our district and a girl from school had seen him and then came to school, waited for recess and then got a bunch of friends to give him a hard time," said Holliday, who knows a fair share about bullying. She's a bus driver.

Though it happened 4 years ago, Holliday says her formerly outgoing boy still struggles with depression and social interaction.

Sticks and Stones

As the old adage goes, "Sticks and stone may break my bones, but names will never hurt me."

Experts disagree.

Today at Giovanni's Convention Center, a seminar addressing children's mental health focused on educating educators and counselors on the signs of bullying and what can be done.

Rosecrance Health Network Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tom Wright has worked in children's mental health for 22 years. The licensed child and adolescent psychiatrist says there are really two victims of bullying—the bullied and the bully.

While bullying isn't a mental illness, it can cause it. Like depression. Wright says bullies or their victims are 5 to 7 times more likely to attempt or succeed in committing suicide, if there isn't any sort of intervention.

"We have to look at two different groups of people: the people that are the bullies," said Wright. "And then we look at the victims. We also know that those people, when they're hurt, or they're traumatized, they tend to develop other diseases, that we do call diseases ore illnesses, like depression or anxiety disorders."

Wright says the way to battle bullying is through a collective approach—bringing together victims, aggressors, teachers, parents and health care providers.

"Bullying needs to be addressed as a community. It really needs to be addressed, particularly with kids and a whole school environment."

Making Strides

As for Holliday and her son, she says they've worked through some of the problems he's had and is doing better. She herself has started working at Mildred Berry Center to help children through some of the same problems her family has gone through. But through it all, she says everyone—parents, teachers, friends, family—must see the signs of bullying, to stop it before it's too late.

"Always communicate with your children. Give them a safe place to express themselves," said Holliday. "Because, if they don't have one safe-haven in their life, depression is right behind."

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