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The lifetime burden of bullying

Bullying often has long-term ramifications and can lead to a lifetime of negative effects.

The lifetime burden of bullying

I know a well-educated and outgoing 68-year-old New Zealander who still breaks into a cold sweat and will duck in to any doorway to avoid meeting the person who bullied him at boarding school – more than 50 years ago.

Bullying definitely has very long-term ramifications. As well-known Auckland psychiatrist Dr Jan Reeves says, it can have a lifetime of negative effects.

“Bullying can be very damaging – particularly prolonged and serious bullying, which negatively impacts on kids and can lead to low self esteem, anxiety and depression”.

Sadly in this country now (where we have one of the world’s worst reputations for school bullying) this culture of bullying is also extending into our adult life with workplace bullying a major problem.

A study recently completed by the Director of the New Zealand Work Research Institute Professor Tim Bentley shows it is likely that most working New Zealanders and Australians will, at some time, be exposed to workplace bullying. This is either directly or as observers.

There has been success overseas with anti-bullying programmes taking a holistic approach. This involves not just the bullies and their victims, but also bystanders who witness the bullying and may get traumatised if they don’t react constructively. With this programme bystanders are seen to be part of the solution and encouraged to step-in or report it.

Notably, the Finnish programme called  KiVa™ (from the Finnish words “kiusaamista vastaan,” meaning “against bullying” and based on extensive research) encourages each individual to be responsible for the school’s anti-bullying culture. Reports have been very positive and grades have even improved in participating schools.

For those who suffer ongoing anxiety as a result of bullying, prominent Auckland psychiatrist, Dr Hugh Clarkson, advises: “The first thing is to get over it and stop believing you caused it. Kids inherently believe they cause everything – they’re at the centre of their own world and are responsible for everything that happens. You have to work through the process and get over the humiliation itself and it is a painful process. But, by working through it you established that it wasn’t you who welcomed or brought the bullying on yourself.”

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