What does it mean to be healthy? Eating lots of fruits and vegetables is healthy. Exercising for 30 minutes a day is healthy. Getting plenty of sleep each night is healthy. When it comes to the subject of health, people are typically pretty aware of the importance of physical health. They recognize that you have to take good care of your body if you want to be in good health. But people don’t always acknowledge mental health when discussing what it means to be healthy.
Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. In fact, your mental health can affect your physical health, and vice versa. That’s why it’s important to consider the things that affect your mind as well as your body.
Take bullying in schools, for example. In the past, people have viewed bullying as just an ordinary part of growing up. The big kid might push, shove, or tease the little kid and take his lunch money, and that’s just how things are. Sure, it’s unfortunate, but the only impact that exchange has on the child’s health is that he misses lunch that day and maybe suffered a scrape or a bruise, right?
The more that we learn about mental health, the more we recognize about how to address mental health issues. We now realize that bullying can end up having an affect on everyone involved whether it’s the bully, the child being bullied, or anyone witnessing bullying.
Bullying can lead to depression and anxiety in children who are bullied, which can continue into adulthood. Those who bully others are likely to engage in violent, unsafe, and risky behaviors as adults. Even those who simply observe bullying taking place are more likely to have mental health issues such as anxiety or depression.
A recent European study looked at adults who had been bullied, adults who had themselves bullied other children, and a control group of adults who had never been involved in bullying. In the control group, 12% had needed treatment for some mental disorder — compared with 20% of bullies, 23% of those who had been bullied, and 31% of those who had been on both the receiving and the giving end of bullying.
Kids may be resilient, but bullying can have lifelong effects.
For more information on bullying and mental health, visit the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website on the subject.
Don’t ignore mental health issues. If your child is struggling with bullying in school, consider seeking help from a qualified professional.