I’m now 25, but I still remember this one particular afternoon when I was 8 years old. I was new to the school and I remember feeling lonely, like I didn’t fit in.
On this particular afternoon, the moment I saw my Dad after school, I burst into tears. A couple of kids had made fun of me… and I felt humiliated. They didn’t do anything major, but a bit of taunting was all it took for me to unravel.
You see, I was a fragile child. I had moved from South Africa a few years earlier and I was pretty traumatised and unsettled. I was still struggling to settle into a new country, let alone a new school. It all became a little too much.
Luckily, I had a great teacher. After that afternoon, she chatted with me and spoke to the class about friendships. Her actions really made a difference.
This week marks the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence, so to find out more about how bullying affects kids, I interviewed psychiatrist Dr James Scott a few weeks ago.
After our chat, I realised that my teacher might have actually impacted the trajectory of my whole life. Think I’m being dramatic? Well then read on…
Dr Scott is passionate about stopping bullying. Why? He works with many kids who have to work through the psychological impacts of bullying. In his opinion, ‘stopping bullying’ would prevent many issues that young people experience, such as anxiety and depression.
“Kids engaged in bullying-type behaviours… are set on a ‘bad trajectory’ – they are less likely to be employed, less likely to be educated, and are more likely to have health and social problems.”
His research has shown that 1 in 10 kids are victims of bullying each year. Adolescents who get bullied are three-fold more likely than those who are not, to attempt suicide. Similarly, they are three-fold more likely to have anxiety or depressive disorders.
Further than that, one of his recent research papers suggests that for those kids engaged in bullying-type behaviours from age 14, by 20 years of age, they are set on a ‘bad trajectory’ – they are less likely to be employed, less likely to be educated, and are more likely to have health and social problems.
Dr Scott says kids who are bullied are more likely to leave school, which triggers this bad trajectory. So, the key is to keep them in school as long as possible. A big part of that is to have someone ‘safe’ at school who they can go to– that could be a chaplain, teacher, guidance officer etc.
This is where the value of chaplains comes in. They can be there as a listening ear… their door is always open to chat with kids who feel like they’re being bullied. Chaplains have the time to proactively promote positive behaviours and attitudes, and run structured programs to help build self esteem and resilience.
Our 2014 SU QLD annual research project found that in secondary schools and P-12 schools, bullying is the #1 issue for which students seek support from their school chaplain. In primary schools, it’s the #3 issue. The project showed that in 2014, our chaplains supported students facing bullying issues through more than 22,000 pastoral care conversations.
I’m so thankful that there are such amazing chaplains, teachers and other support workers in schools, looking out for our kids!
They do such great work that might be changing the trajectory of a young person’s life….