As kids, many of us played the simple word game of hangman. Though the game may seem harmless, it is important to realize that the game teaches us something about life; if player one says the wrong thing to player two, it’s game over. Bullies often use words to attack their victims. These words, when used incorrectly, often lead to devastating effects such as depression, anxiety, and other physical and mental problems. Every day, I am forced to sit by and listen to rumors about my closest friends grow. One of my friends, who has been nicknamed Morgan for privacy reasons, has the unfortunate tendency to get bullied. Instead of listening to these rumors, I speak to him about other things, not revolving around the rumors, to cheer him up. I defend him and quite often tell off anyone who shares a rumor about him. Morgan’s story is one of the thousands of stories told today about bullying. People often ask, “How can we stop bullying?” I believe the first things we need to do is learn about what causes it to begin with, what effects it has on our mental health, and what prolonged bullying causes in the long-run. Understanding bullying and its effects will get us one step closer to finding solutions and ending the problem.
To begin, understanding why bullying occurs requires a basic knowledge of what causes it in the first place. Bullying is often caused by family issues, social issues, and personal history among other smaller categories. Family issues include having an abusive parent, a divorce in the house, inconsistent discipline, and living in an unsafe/unclean environment. Social issues are closer to personal, mental reasons for bullying. They include a desire for attention, jealousy, envy, and the lack of personal/social skills. Personal issues are often edged on by other factors such intimidating family issues or a mental illness. Personal history is things that have happened in life because of previous actions, including poor grades, health, or social rejection. I feel like Morgan’s bullies were caused by a mix of all three. I know some of these people on a friend level and know that they get poor grades, or they tend to get jealous. Sometimes, I may offer to help them with these problems, but they are often out of hand.
In addition to personal history, another factor of bullying, its causes, and consequences can be narrowed down to the ever-changing topic of mental health. Bullying is often linked to mental health issues on both the bully side and the victim side. Bullies themselves often have a spurt of low self-esteem and feel the need to relieve their pain on someone else. The victims, however, tend to show signs of depression and anxiety as well as physical problems caused by mental illness, such as absence from school and sickness. Teens who commit suicide, otherwise known as bullycide when caused by a bully, often have depression prior to suicide. Overall, there are 100 attempts at suicide for every fatal attempt. Once, I was shocked to find a note left in my locker by Morgan, who explained how he ‘felt like a slave’ and ‘found no point to life’ One student had even offered payment to Morgan if he killed himself. Even though I knew I needed to report the incident, I didn’t because I feared that I would ruin our friendship.
To elaborate, before humanity can stop bullying, it’s good to know why it should be stopped in the first place. Bullying causes different outcomes from case to case. However, some of the most common effects the victim may receive are lower self-esteem, paranoia, chronic mental illness, and a dislike for school. As mentioned earlier, bullycide is suicide caused by bullying. Victims of bullying are up to nine percent more likely to consider suicide than other students. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in teens and kills 4,400 deaths per year. Continuing Morgan’s story, I must admit that I believe he has had some long-term effects due to the bullying. He shows strong emotion and has dark thoughts, similar to an experience I once had. I sometimes fear for his safety as well as my own. It’s hard to tell if a day will come when a close friend kills themself, or when they will be pushed too far.
Putting it briefly, it is important to know why bullying happens, what mental health has to do with it, and the effects of bullying in the long run so that we understand what a large problem it is. I think that the government needs to set up a better system for mental health screening and a system for bullying reports. Research shows that diagnosing mental disorders early leads to better outcomes (Mental Health Screening). This system shouldn’t just help the victims, but the bullies too! There should be easier, less complicated ways to report bullying that are thought of as top priority. We should also take mental health seriously. The system should be a safer, less intimidating way to test for mental illnesses on everyone. If a person is uncomfortable, they won’t open up about their feelings, their abuse, or their bullying. If a bully knows they will be kicked out of school, they will never go to find help for themselves. On a personal level, a bystander can stand up for those who are bullied around them. Perhaps if everyone invited an outcast to eat lunch with them, play sports, or work on an assignment could save a life from suicide. All in all, bullying isn’t an easy topic to discuss or conclude, but if everyone does their part, we might find a solution for this ever-changing state of mind.