By NATHAN MILLER
Center Director/Cumberland Mental Health-Lebanon, Mt. Juliet
As Wilson County students begin a new school year, returning to the classroom can signify many new challenges and many new opportunities for all students, both young and old.
For the first grader or kindergartner, leaving home for school might be a first time adventure and perhaps one not so welcoming.
For older students the opening of a new school year brings an opportunity for a fresh beginning, a chance to make new friends, study new subjects in the classroom and have new life experiences.
But for many the opening of another school year brings an unwanted opportunity of abuse from bullying, a very real threat to students of all ages.
By definition, bullying represents a pattern of aggressive behavior in which one person or youth, if the term is applied to students, inflicts or threatens to inflict harm against another who is believed to be incapable of defending him or herself. These attacks may be verbal or physical, but in any event they are targeted against one specific individual and may be launched by a single individual or group of individuals.
There are a number of different roles related to bullying. A youth may be the one being bullied. He or she may be the one bullying another or participating with a group that's bullying another. Or one may be a witness to a situation in which bullying is present.
While bullying in the past was considered harmless and just part of what was regarded as the experience of "growing up," the topic in recent years has become one of major concern because of the devastating consequences that can result.
Recent research has unveiled that bullying can have significant short term and long term effects on those who are victimized. The impact of bullying can be reflected in the classroom, as well as in a student's social life outside of regular school activities.
A victim of bullying may find it hard to focus on studies, struggle with sleep, suffer from low self-esteem, be challenged by lingering depression or be in fear of physical abuse. Bullying can also cause a victim to seek self isolation and contemplation of self-inflicted harm or suicide.
Parents should be especially watchful for signs of bullying, sensitive to their child's routines, his or her friends, social activities and change in certain personality traits or attitude.
There are a number of options available to deal with bullying. There are administrative actions that can be taken through the schools. There are laws that prohibit bullying that are enforced by local law enforcement agencies. And there are also counseling services available to help deal with the many issues connected to bullying.
For more information about bullying, how bullying may impact you child or to learn about what counseling services are available regarding this subject call Volunteer Behavioral Health Care System at 1-877-567-6051 or visit www.vbhcs.org.