Bullying has always been a hot-button issue. In the past, it was once largely thought of as a "normal" part of growing up. Times have definitely changed, and the American Medical Association is saying no more; determining that bullying is a serious public health issue. The Highmark Foundation is just as serious about the issue, dedicating over 25% of its annual funding to raise awareness and put an end to bullying. (Read Highmark Foundatio senior program officer, Christina Wilds' IP profile).
In late 2011, the Highmark Foundation awarded a little over $3.4 million in grants to Pennsylvania public schools specifically for "bullying reduction measures." These bullying prevention programs benefit 210,000, or 13% of Pennsylvania public school students — and the measures are working.
Since implementing Highmark's Bullying Prevention Program, participating Pennsylvania public schools compiled student self-reports that indicated that the percentage of students who bullied other students two to three times per month or more decreased by 27% in elementary schools, 35% in middle schools and 31% in high school.
In recent years, the issue of bullying has become more prevalent, especially with school-aged children's close relationships with social media. Social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter allow bullies to hide behind an internet connection and a keyboard instead of face-to-face. This can make it more difficult for school officials and parents to detect and stop the harassment, as many children may be embarrassed or lack the self-esteem to bring the bullying to an adult's attention.
Aside from the obvious physical injuries that can occur from being bullied, there are also serious emotional and social issues that transpire to children terrorized by the mean girls or boys of their school. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) children victimized by bullies are at an increased risk for mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Children who are perpetrating the bullying are also at an increased risk for substance abuse and violent tendencies as they grow into adolescence and adulthood.
In today's schools, bullying is so much more than threatening to take lunch money. Educators need more tools than simply sending a bully down to the principal's office for a stern lecture. With many of our nation's public schools strapped for cash, addressing bullying in the manner in which it needs to be addressed is difficult, if not impossible. Highmark is seeing and answering the need of educators to help schoolchildren who are painfully subjected to bullying in a place where they are supposed to feel safe.