4 min read

Let’s Talk About Bullying

If you’re experiencing bullying, carya is here for you.

Today is Pink Shirt Day. Every year in February, people across Canada and around the world come together online and offline to talk about bullying and encourage everyone to practice kindness.

Many of us, young, old and everywhere in between, have felt the effects of bullying. But Pink Shirt Day focuses specifically on a time when bullying is especially common – teen and tweenhood. One third of adolescent students in Canada have reported being bullied recently, and 47% of parents report that their child has been a victim of bullying (source).

At carya, bullying is one of the things that we see affecting many of the youth that we work with. Our BOOST program helps young adults deal with traumatic experiences in a healthy way, and bullying is a one that often comes up for them.  “Bullying causes changes to the brain that are as serious as the impacts of child abuse,” describes Angela Blakely-Elliott, one of carya’s BOOST Program Supervisors. “Teenage brain development is as critical as brain development during a child’s earliest years. It’s a critical time for hormones, and the impact of long-term stress from bullying affects how those hormones work, which can impact basic brain functions. Hormone changes from stress can also lead to increased anxiety and depression in young adults.”

Helping youth eliminate this toxic stress is one of the goals of our BOOST program. “The material in BOOST helps youth deal with the impacts of bullying and other crimes,” Blakely-Elliott explains. “It teaches awareness around when we are feeling stressed, depressed or overwhelmed from these negative experiences. It goes over grounding techniques to help regulate our brains. It explains how to recognize triggers and ask for help. The program teaches resiliency so that youth can carry these strategies forward into other areas of their lives.” Bullying can be devastating, but BOOST can go a long way towards eliminating its legacy.

Cyberbullying – the new norm for many teens.

While Pink Shirt Day aims to start a conversation around all types of bullying, the specific focus for this year is cyberbullying. Many of the youth in our programs deal with cyberbullying on a daily basis. “Youth who are cyberbullied really don’t get an escape from it,” states Rio Liepert, one of carya’s Youth Program Facilitators. “In the past, youth were often bullied at school, but at the end of the day they could go home and get a break from the torment. Now they carry their phones everywhere with them and get a notification each time they receive a comment. It’s so pervasive in their lives and they can’t get away from it, which is a huge drain on their mental health.”

Liepert notices the negative effects of bullying on the tormentors, too. “A lot more youth get involved in bullying behaviors online than they do in person because it’s easier to do and it’s easier to be anonymous. I see a lot of regret with youth who have been a part of online bullying – they often get caught up in the meanness that their friends are engaging in and later wish that they hadn’t. This impacts how they see themselves and their well-being.

carya’s youth programs work to reduce bullying, both directly and indirectly. “In Starburst, we help youth resolve conflicts as they arise. Our sessions directly address conflict, making decisions that align with our values and using our voices to stand up for what we feel is right,” Liepert explains. “Throughout the program, we create opportunities to develop empathy for others and increase tolerance for ideas and individuals who may be different from us.”

Help is available.

“If you’re being bullied, remember that the fact that this is happening to you is not ok,” stresses Angela Blakely-Elliott. “Tell someone about what you’re going through, or ask for help until someone listens to you and believes you. Remember that you’re not alone”. If you or someone you know needs more support, remember that carya is here for you. You can find more information about our programs on our website, or you can call us at 403.269.9888. You can also find resources for teens, parents and those affected by cyberbullying on the Pink Shirt Day website.