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Colorado Author Addresses Long-Term Risks of School Bullying

Heading back to school means being bullied for 25 percent of teens in the United States. (iStockphoto/Helder Almeida)
Heading back to school means being bullied for 25 percent of teens in the United States. (iStockphoto/Helder Almeida)
August 16, 2016

DENVER - Heading back to school means being bullied for 25 percent of teens, in the United States. Nine out of ten LGBT students say they've experienced harassment at school and online, and one in five kids admit to doing "some bullying."

Deborah Sandella, a Denver-based psychotherapist and author of "Goodbye Hurt and Pain", said being bullied can produce lasting psychological impacts on children, even as they grow into adults.

"They won't speak up for themselves, so they end up having repeated experiences of feeling bullied throughout their lives," she said. "So it's really very significant both for those who are bullied and those who are the bully."

She said victims are four times more likely to have anxiety problems, and bullies have a greater risk of developing antisocial personality disorders. Sandella added that victims who end up taking their frustrations out by bullying others are more likely to have panic attacks and suicidal thoughts.

Sandella said one simple but effective way kids can disrupt a bully is to have a short phrase at the ready, such as "What was that?" or "That was mean," and then to walk away.

She said since teens typically don't want to talk about being bullied, parents should check in regularly and pay attention if anxiety levels go up suddenly. She added the experience sends stress hormones throughout the body, so other signs could be head or stomach aches. Sandella noted in most cases, immediate intervention can dissolve an incident within ten seconds.

"So it's almost like this spell is broken, of that power over another, by somebody else's presence being there," she explained. "There is a shift, there is a change."

She said if you've been a bully and want to stop, the first thing you should do the next time you get aggressive is to take a deep breath. Sandella said ask yourself what's causing your response. Do you feel angry or invisible? She said at that point you can choose to talk through the issue in a nonthreatening way.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO