Victims of bullying at risk of depression, long-term anxiety disorders –Experts


Amarachi Okeh

Mental health experts have called for more concerted efforts to curb bullying in children, noting that it could cause a wide range of mental health problems in adulthood.

According to the experts, even though childhood bullying is often ignored by many parents, it has a serious long-term effect on children.

They said when bullying is not appropriately addressed in children, it often manifests in adulthood through poor social behaviours, anxiety disorders, substance abuse and difficulty in establishing friendships and relationships.

The experts also urged parents to tackle young children who bully their age mates, noting that children who are bullies also tend to engage more in domestic violence in adulthood.

According to a 2017 study published by the Canadian Centre of Science and Education titled ‘The Impact of School Bullying On Students’ Academic Achievement’, bullying at school affects academic achievement since bullied children feel fear and weak, and at the same time, it affects students’ personality traits and self-confidence. 

The study report also noted that bullied students are usually unable to follow or to pay attention to their study and they might not like to go to school. 

Speaking in separate interviews with PUNCH HealthWise, the experts stressed that it is now important for society to address bullying noting that the attendance effects of childhood bullying have far-reaching mental health consequences in the long term.

Tackling childhood bullying, they said, is not just to protect children being bullied but also to tame the bullies.

The mental health experts explained that childhood bullying is when a child does something deliberately to hurt, belittle, demean, upset or threaten another child.

Speaking with our correspondent, one of the experts, a Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr. Chinwe Obinwa explained that bullying is often repetitive and persistent.

“There is usually a perceived imbalance of power between the child involved in bullying and the child being bullied. 

“There is no particular reason why bullying occurs but if a child is seen as weaker or different in some way, they may be more at risk of being bullied,” she said.

Apart from verbal, physical, emotional and cyberbullying, the Consultant Psychiatrist with Green Oaks Consulting stated that encouraging, colluding, watching and joining the child involved in bullying is also a form of bullying.

Obinwa further added that some casual behaviours Nigerians have imbibed could also be a form of bullying.

What is called ‘yabbing’ could be a form of a bully, she revealed. “It often happens in our society. It is usually called ‘yabbing.’ This should not be confused with friendly banter or even a falling out between friends and colleagues, she added.

Obinwa said the impact of the trauma of being bullied could extend into the adult life of a child. Bullying also affects the social, emotional and psychological development of a child.

She noted that victims of bullying are at risk of substance abuse, chronic depression as well as difficulty in developing meaningful social relationships.

“Short term effects include frequent headaches, stomach aches, anxiety and depression, low self-esteem, sleep disturbance, feelings of shame and poor school performance.”

“It is noteworthy to highlight that bullying also affects the bully. The effect on the bully in the short term includes increased risk of truancy, poor school performance and substance misuse. The bully may also have trouble with maintaining social relationships.

“The longer-term effects include increased risk of perpetrating domestic violence against spouse or child, substance abuse and other antisocial behaviours.

On her part, a clinical psychologist, Pamela Udoka said parents should build communication channels with their children so it would be easier for them to speak when they are being bullied.

Udoka, who is the lead therapist at Family Wellness Therapy Centre, said creating an environment where parents and children can have random gist would encourage children to provide such information if they are victims of bullying.

“If you and your child cannot have general random gist, there is a high possibility the child will not volunteer information when he or she is being bullied.

“Parents have to first cultivate the habit of having general random gist with their children. If the culture does not exist, the parent has to be observant.”

She also encouraged parents to watch out for the eating and sleeping patterns of the children, noting that sudden change in the pattern could also indicate how the child is being treated while at school.


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