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Health officials ask community to help end bullying epidemic

• Updated May 19, 2017 at 10:24 PM

Bullying is a public health issue gaining attention in Huron County, as well as across the country.

According to the 2014 Huron County Health Assessment, 44 percent of youth said they had been bullied in the past year. This includes verbal, indirect, physical, cyber and sexual bullying.

Huron County Public Health (HCPH) would like to further the community’s conversation about bullying and encourage change in the county.

Community-wide, long-term culture change has been found to be one of the best ways to prevent and address bullying. One of the most important things the community can do is to become aware of how bullying effects those involved, how to recognize when bullying is happening, and respond to bullying when it occurs.

According to a stopbullying.gov, bullying is defined as “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems.”

The “serious lasting problems” that bullying behavior can cause, include:

• Increased risk of depression, anxiety and other mental health problems

• Increased feelings of sadness, loneliness and broken relationships

• Health complaints, changes in sleeping and eating

• Decrease in school performance

• Increased likelihood to skip school, be absent, or drop out.

Children who bully others are also at a high risk of violent and risky behaviors, including:

• Abuse of alcohol or other drugs

• Getting into fights, vandalizing property and dropping out of school

• Engaging in sexual activity

• Having criminal convictions and traffic citations

• Being abusive towards their romantic partners or children later in life.

Though all children are different and situations vary, there may be some common warning signs parents and other adults can look for in a child or teen that is being bullied. According to stopbullying.gov, these signs can include unexplainable injuries, lost or destroyed clothes or belongings, changes in eating habits, difficulty sleeping, avoiding social situations, self-destructive behaviors, decreased self-esteem, and other changes in behavior. Recognizing that bullying is happening is the first step to addressing the issue.

Creating an open atmosphere of support and understanding is important for all kids involved.

For children and teens who are being bullied, parents, teachers and other adults should:

• Listen and show concern for how they were treated.

• Express that the bullying was not their fault.

• Work with them to help resolve the situation and never tell them to ignore the bullying.

• Do not place blame on the person being bullied, even if they did something to make someone mad; no one deserves to be bullied.

For the child or teen who shows the bullying behavior, make sure the behavior is clearly communicated to the child as unacceptable. Work with them to understand some of the reasons he or she bullied another child. Bullying can happen to fit in, to gain in popularity, or due to stress or violence going on in their lives.

Only through a community-wide effort to acknowledge bullying as a problem can progress be made to prevent bullying and promote healthy social relationships in the community.

There are resources available to those affected by bullying and have changes in behavior that include feelings of hopeless, helplessness or thoughts of suicide:

• Local Crisis Hotline: 1-800-826-1306.

• National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text ‘4hope’ to 741-741.

For additional resources, visit www.huroncohealth.com or stopbullying.gov.

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