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Bart Brewer: Bullying can not only disrupt learning and bring physical harm but can also cause mental harm.

It's back-to-school time and along with school supplies and other preparations, something that parents and educators should have in mind is bullying.

One out of every five kids has reported being bullied, with the real number likely being higher than that. Bullying can not only disrupt learning and bring physical harm but can also bring real mental harm.

In simple terms, bullying is any repeatable action that seeks to harm, intimidate or coerce the target. One of the key elements here is repeatability. While one-off actions of aggression or hate might be harmful in their own way, bullying is characterized by these sorts of actions being repeated over time.

Bullying is easy to think of as simply physical — getting beat up in the schoolyard or being shoved aside — yet verbal forms of bullying also have serious side effects, and are actually more common than physical harm. Bullying heavily relies on putting others down and mislabeling them through several methods, including name-calling, insults, teasing and taunting a person about details of their personal life, and even threatening to harm.

Bullying of any type will often wear down the victim and puts the bullied and the bully at a higher risk of mental health issues. These can include increased chance of depression and anxiety, low self-esteem, anti-social behavior and detachment from friends and family, difficulty sleeping and suicidal thoughts.

The true mental harms of bullying are vast and can happen to anyone. Brooke Johnson was Miss America 2018 and is a National Alliance on Mental Illness ambassador who has experienced bullying firsthand.Bart Brewer

"During seventh grade, I was bullied quite a bit," Johnson wrote. "I can clearly remember one time — a few girls were verbally ganging up on me at a lunch table in the cafeteria. Since I was cornered at the table, it was on the brink of getting physical."

These acts of bullying only furthered her feelings of depression and anxiety, things that would stick with her for years to come.

Taunting someone — saying that they are worthless or chanting at someone to kill themselves — will echo onward. What we say matters, and it's our responsibility to make certain that our children understand this as well.

If you or someone you know is suffering from the effects of bullying, stopbullying.gov offers many things such as immediate resources and educational tools. They offer additional methods on dealing with bullying and how to prevent it in the future. You are not alone.

Bart Brewer is the newsletter editor for Clackamas County's chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. You can read Brooke Johnson's full story at nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/January-2018/Being-the-Person-My-13-Year-Old-Self-Needed.


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