Therapy That Works...

Bullying and Suicide - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bullying and Suicide

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

Channel 11/TXA 21, March 31, 2010

A teenager in Joshua, TX committed suicide over the weekend after many years of bullying by peers. Thirteen-year-old Jon Carmichael reportedly took his own life due to a longstanding pattern of being bullied by classmates leaving North Texans asking how this could happen.

Here are the specifics of bullying:

Bullying is most definitely increasing with up to 30% of students reporting that they are involved with bullying in some way (either as the bully, the victim or bystander). As we see in this tragedy, the devastating consequences of bullying can be deadly. In addition, two out of three school shooters report being chronically bullied in school.

Here are the characteristics of bullying:

Intentional Harm: Bullying in childhood is an aggressive form of intimidation that marginalizes the best of children while deeply scarring them psychologically. It is a repeated attempt to harm and to emphasize a humiliating imbalance of power and influence.

Bullying Begins Early: Research reports that almost 34% of students that reported being frequently bullied were in elementary school.

Middle School Peaks: Bullying increases during transition periods such as moving from elementary to middle school.

Group Bullying: Bullying is usually a group activity. Studies show that a single child does not usually victimize kids. Bullying involves both active and passive participation by a group. The kids adopt a mob mentality as they team together to ridicule or emotionally torture another child.

The question everyone is asking is why a child would begin bullying others in the first place:

Modeling their Parents: They are often victims of physical and emotional bullying at home and have parents who have problems with anger and self control. They identify with the aggressor and inflict pain to establish internal self-control.

Intimidation and Revenge Justified by Parents: Parents who lack a moral compass and inflict pain deliberately on others in any way (including bullying in business, in social settings, at the mall, etc.) are more likely to have children who view bullying as a justified behavior. Family values that include rudeness, intimidation of others, revenge, character assault of others or deliberate treachery create children who are much more likely to engage in bullying.

Self-Centered Kids: Lots of kids have difficult parents and don’t go out in the world hurting others. Many bullies are choosing their heinous behavior out of their own self-centeredness and delight in hurting others. They literally lack a conscience and are in deep psychological trouble.

Bullies Know Difference Between Right and Wrong: The research about bullies reveals that most of the time they know exactly what they are doing. They understand the differences between right and wrong and commit the act anyway. They will lie, cheat and steal to avoid punishment and are deceptive with others. Although some studies suggest that around 40% of them have some mild empathy, another 40% are indifferent to the suffering of their victims and 20% actively enjoy the intimidation and control.

Now we are seeing a new trend with the advent of social media and the age of the internet: cyber bullying.

Anonymous Bullies: The common denominator of all bullying is the intentional act to inflict pain on another person. Unfortunately, the anonymity of the Internet is ideal for such vicious behavior. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project in 2006, one third of students are targets at some point.

Cyber Bullying Turns Dangerous: Most of the time, cyber bullying involves gossip and rude comments that do not express direct intent to harm. Around 50% of online bullies report that they inflict such cruelty “for fun” and to “teach the target a lesson.” However, a study published in 2006 reported that 12% of teens were physically threatened online and 5% actually feared for their physical safety.

What about the long-term effects of bullying?

All Kids Are Harmed by Bullying: The long-term effects of bullying for each participant can be severe with protracted trauma, depression and resentment stretching into the adult years.

Three Victims: Words are weapons and psychological harm can be as severe or worse than physical wounds. Bullying involves three victims—the bully, the recipient of the bullying and the witnesses to such cruelty.

The Victim, The Bully and The Bystander:

Victims Develop Serious Depression and Helplessness: Victims report more internal problems such as depression and anxiety. Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine found a significant connection between bullying, being bullied and suicide in a review of 37 studies from 13 countries. Bullying victims were much more likely to think about suicide.

Bullies and a Lifelong Pattern of Oppositional Behavior: Bullies have more conduct problems, anger and develop alienation from school and the community. Chronic oppositional behavior is typical of such children leading to a lifetime of hardship.

Bystanders Grow Apathetic and Uncaring: Witnesses become desensitized to the suffering of others and do not take responsibility for allowing such cruelty to occur.

Parents, here’s what you can do about bullying:

Stop Denying: Many adults prefer to view bullying as a normal “rite of passage” through childhood. Nothing could be further from the truth. Please educate yourself about this pattern of trauma and train yourself to recognize it when you see it.

Bystanders Are Key: Research now argues that the bystanders of bullying are one of the vital keys to decreasing this growing problem. Teaching non-bullied kids to speak up, to refuse to be an audience, to label bullying publicly and to go and get help when the situation is out of control are essential steps for parents and teachers.

Believe Your Child’s Perception: Believe your child about bullying. Do not dismiss his perceptions. Adults lose credibility quickly when the child’s perception is rejected or minimized. There are millions of victims who no longer believe that adults are going to protect them and they suffer in silence.

Move from Victim to Survivor: Victims are renowned for responding ineffectively through withdrawal, denial, silence and passivity. Such behaviors “feed” the bully’s control. We need to develop the victim’s talents, social skills, physical coordination and assertive abilities. He needs to be reassured that adults will take his complaints seriously and that he must report harassment. These are teachable skills and they increase self-confidence exponentially.

For More information about Dr. Sylvia, please go to www.gearingup.com

Sources:

American Academy of Pediatrics

Bullying and Teasing: Social Power in Children’s Groups, Gayle Macklem, Kluwer Academic/ Plenum Publishers, New York, 2003.

Cowie and Wallace (2006)

Patchin, J.W., and Hinduja, S (2006) Bullies move beyond the schoolyard: A preliminary look at cyber bullying. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 4, 148-169.

Swearer, S., Espeleage, D. Napolitano, S. Bullying: Prevention and Intervention, 2009

Vossekuil, B., Fein, R.A., Reddy, M., Borum, R and Modzeleski, W (2002) The final report and findings of the safe school initiative: Implications for the prevention of school attacks in the United States. Washington, D.C: U.S. Secret Services and U.S. Department of Education

Suicide and Children - By Chris Gearing

Friday, January 22, 2010

Suicide and Children

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

January 22, 2010, TXA 21 News

Today’s story about the apparent suicide of a nine-year-old Colony boy has once again raised the issue of depression and suicide in children.

Why do children kill themselves?

Suicides of Children Are Increasing: Although childhood suicide is relatively rare, it is increasing. For children under age 15, about 1-2 kids out of 100,000 will commit suicide. For kids between 15-19, the rate jumps to 11 out of 100,000.

Fourth Leading Cause of Death: Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for children between the ages of 10-14 and the third leading cause of death for teenagers between 15-19.

Values Change: In general, our society is more narcissistic and more callous toward individual concerns. Troubled children are often overlooked in a society concerned with achievement, a struggling economy and overworked parents. The child in a family with busy, overworked parents is often marginalized and neglected. Depression flourishes in such situations and the child gives up all hope.

Here’s what makes a child more likely to commit suicide:

Depression is Epidemic: If a child has clinical depression, he is seven times more likely to try suicide. Depression is at epidemic levels now and strikes a full decade sooner than it did a generation ago. Severe depression recurs in about half of those who have had it once and since it strikes so early in life, there are higher rates of reoccurance.

Motivations for Suicide are Complex: The motivations for either attempting or completing suicide are complex but the main motivations include a desire to escape depression and hopelessness, debilitating anxiety or a situation they regard as being hopeless such as being bullied or abused. The older the child is, the more likely it is that the suicide is connected to interpersonal conflicts.

But do bullied kids have higher rates of depression?

Increased Suicidal Ideation: Bullied kids have a much higher rate of depression and the effects linger into adulthood. Bullying victims are much more likely to think about suicide. Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine found a significant connection between bullying, being bullied and suicide in a review of 37 studies from 13 countries. We know that 34% of elementary students are bullied and that bullying peaks in middle school. It is a group activity with a mob mentality that is crushing to kids who are victimized.

You may be wondering what happens to kids psychologically who are bullied or who bully others?

Three Victims: Words are weapons and psychological harm is as severe as a broken bone. Victims report more internal problems such as depression and anxiety. However, research reveals that the act of bullying actually claims three victims—the bully, the recipient of the bullying and the witnesses. Bullies have more conduct problems, anger and alienation from school and the community. We find that witnesses become desensitized to the suffering of others and allow it to happen without a second thought. The long-term effects of bullying for all groups can be severe with protracted trauma, depression and resentment stretching into the adult years.

What happens to the parents who lose their children through suicide?

This kind of loss is emotionally “disfiguring.” They will most certainly experience a post traumatic stress disorder that will need to be treated. When a child dies, the trauma lingers for years and de-regulates the parents’ emotional and cognitive functioning. Traumatic bereavement includes guilt, devastating depression and a lingering sense of helplessness and hopelessness.

Here’s what you can do about bullying:

Stop Denying: Many adults prefer to view bullying as a normal “rite of passage” through childhood. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are millions of victims who no longer believe that adults are going to protect them and they suffer in silence. This can lead to tragic consequences in the future.

Bystanders Are Key: Research now argues that the bystanders of bullying are one of the vital keys to decreasing this growing problem. Teaching non-bullied kids to speak up, to refuse to be an audience, to label bullying publicly and to go and get help when the situation is out of control are essential to stop bullies for good.

Empower the Victims: Believe your child about bullying. Victims are renowned for responding ineffectively through withdrawal, denial, silence and passivity. Such behaviors “feed” the bully’s control. We need to develop the victim’s talents, social skills, physical coordination and assertive abilities. He needs to be reassured that adults will take his complaints seriously and that he must report harassment. These are teachable skills and they increase self-confidence exponentially.

Educate yourself about the signs of depression:

  • Talking About Dying: Any mention of dying, disappearing, jumping, shooting oneself or other types of self-harm
  • Recent Loss: The loss of someone through death, divorce, separation, broken relationship, self confidence, self esteem, loss of interest in friends, hobbies, activities previously enjoyed.
  • Change in Personality—sad, withdrawn, anxious, tired, indecisive, apathetic
  • Change in Behavior: Cannot concentrate on school, work, routine tasks
  • Change in Eating Habits: Loss of appetite and weight, or overeating
  • Fear of losing control: Acting erratically, harming self or others
  • Low self esteem: feelings of worthlessness, shame, overwhelming guilt , self hatred, “everyone would be better without me.”
  • No hope for the future: Believing that things will never get better, that nothing will ever change.

For more information about Dr. Sylvia please go to www.gearingup.com

Sources:

"The Optimistic Child" by Dr. Martin Seligman

American Academy of Pediatrics

The American Psychological Association

The National Association of School Counselors

American Association of Suicidology

Electronics May Overtake Your Children - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Electronic Media Can Overtake Your Children

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

CBS 11 News, January 20, 2010

Are you worried about your child spending too much time on Facebook, playing video games, or texting? Well, you may have good reason.

On average, kids spend more than 53 hours a week on electronic media according to a new study of 2000 kids. Compared with peers a decade ago, young people spend 79 more minutes of free time each day:

  • Listening to Music
  • Watching TV and movies
  • Playing video games
  • Hanging out on line

Most kids multitask while doing all of these things (i.e., play video games while listening to music).

Your kids have become big business in the land of advertising.

In 1983, advertisers spent an average of $100 million in marketing to kids. Now they spend $17 billion- an increase of 170%. Kids between ages of 8-12 years old spend $30 billion a year on video games.

And that’s great – children have a market share and are more empowered now than they ever have been. But there is a downside:

Your Brain Needs to be Stimulated: These activities take the place of face time activities. Electronic media does not replace the medicine of direct social interaction. The brain needs to be stimulated with conversation, social nuances and laughter. The continuous flow of conversation and shared activities activate numerous beneficial hormones and neurotransmitters.

Choosing Isolation: In a world of electronics, teenagers and people over age eighty are the loneliest people on earth. Teenagers choose to seclude themselves in their phones and computers, shutting out their family and maybe even friends. In extreme cases, games and other media (such as the extremely popular “World of Warcraft”) have been show to ruin lives and tear families apart.

Friends Are Like Medicine: They buffer the effects of stress. The stress of socially active people is buffered up to seven times. Having and interacting with friends can literally predict someone’s amount of brain activity and cognitive function.

Our world is more connected than ever – thanks to smart phones, Wi-Fi, and social media.

Although these can be an excellent tool, too much of anything is never good. Make sure to watch your dependence levels and try taking a break every once in a while. Who knows? You may like the world outside your door.

For more information on Dr. Sylvia Gearing, please visit www.gearingup.com.

Back To School Blues - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Back To School Blues

August 20th, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

As North Texas children return to school next week, parents are hoping for a smooth transition from summer activities to a great school year. But instead of excitement and anticipation, many children are experiencing the “back to school blues” as summer transitions to fall.

Parents often ask me what factors help usher in a smooth transition from summer to the new school year. Here’s the truth:

In the mind of a child, summer should never end! The return of routine and responsibility will damper their moods temporarily but they must learn that school and hard work are a part of life. Here are the key factors to keep in mind as school begins.

  • New Experiences Create Anxiety: How your child handles change and the anxiety that comes with it determines how bumpy the reentry into school can be. A new teacher, new friends, a new classroom, and a new schedule all create anxiety because the child is confronted with novel circumstances that demand more of him. He’s got to think faster, better and more effectively as he navigates the new environment.
  • Temperament and Personality: Temperament (which is physiologically determined) has a lot to do with how kids handle change and stress. For example, children who have a shy, slow to warm up temperament are going to retreat the first few days of school making a quick adjustment more difficult. Extroverted kids are going to “dive” right in and won’t skip a beat. Effective parenting that “fits” your child’s temperament style is essential. Be more patient with the slow to warm up kid and coach your extroverted child to enjoy school but behave in the classroom.
  • Major Family Changes Predict School Transition: Major family changes are tough on kids. Events such as separation, divorce, financial setbacks or relocation can affect how a child handles the first days of school. If a lot of change has occurred in their lives recently, they may just be more distracted. Coping skills may be “maxed out” and they may have trouble calming down
  • Academic History: Last year’s academic history affects this year’s beginning beliefs about school. Returning to school can be daunting if your child had a hard time last year. Remind him that he can determine a better start during this new school year by trying harder and doing his best.

Rarely, children can turn school jitters into something more serious. If you’re concerned, here’s what to look for:

After a couple of weeks, if your child is continuing to resist attending school or has prolonged bouts of tears before or after school, he may have a problem that needs to be addressed. Remember that problems with kids are usually progressive and develop gradually over time. A bad day once in a while isn’t a big deal. However, we become concerned when there is a steady pattern of misbehavior, sadness and school resistance. Take behavior changes seriously since children are often unable to articulate what is bothering them. They rely on you to figure it out.

Here’s my advice for parents to help their kids enter the new school year:

  • Teach Calming and Soothing Skills: Parents are the most important teachers in the world and when school anxiety overwhelms your child, you must stand strong. Do not become irritable because your child is struggling. Your job as a parent is to coach your child by helping him to restore perspective and resist catastrophic thinking. Don’t dismiss his concern, but use logic to argue against his worst fears and restore a feeling of predictability and safety.
  • Rules are Vital--Be Clear and Concise: Many of us fail to communicate clear expectations and goals for our kids since we usually think those rules are obvious. Don’t assume anything! Discuss clear expectations regarding friends, grades, school behavior, homework and morning and bedtime rituals.
  • Focus and Organize: The new school year and the new challenges that come with it make most kids feel out of control. Organize your child to reduce his anxiety. Assemble his school supplies, clarify his schedule, find his locker and organize his first week of clothes. Eliminate the unknowns as much as you can.
  • Be a Participating Parent: Nothing helps a child to feel safer and more secure than to have a parent participate in getting the new year started. Remain upbeat during the morning rituals and talk about how great things will be in his new classroom. Walk through the halls to his new classroom, meet his teacher, greet his friends and their parents and assure him that all is well.
  • Resist Helicopter Parenting: Do not over parent. Helicopter parenting is becoming a national epidemic and this parenting style has disastrous effects for our kids. Frequent rescuing prevents the child from learning how to resolve adversity, accept consequences and navigate his failures. Setbacks are a necessary part of life and make us stronger. Please allow your child to experience frustration and the proud accomplishments that comes from self-discipline and persistence.

Recent Posts


Tags


Archive