Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The World Health Organization announces: Bullying is a major health problem

World Health Organization [WHO]in 2010 came out with a bulletin announcing that Bullying is a MAJOR health problem. The Bulletin states that bullying demands, "the concerted and coordinated time and attention of health care providers, policy makers and families. The WHO defines bullying as a multifaceted form of mistreatment, mostly seen in schools and the workplace where repeated exposure of one person to physical and or emotional aggression including, "teasing and taunting, name calling, mockery, hazing social isolation or rumours.

An abundant of research, according to the WHO, documents the prevalence of bullying in schools and the workplace. The WHO has given strict warnings to all those involved in the acts o bullying including, the victim, the bystander and the bully. A host of psychological and physical injuries put many students involved in bullying at risk.  Psychosamatic symptoms, running away from home, alcohol and drug abuse, absenteeism, self inflicted, accidental and perpetrated injuries such as cutting and suicide are just a few of the well documented threats.
The effects of bullying involved behavior does not end in childhood. The WHO's research shows that those who are involved with bullying as a student will show psychiatric morbidity well into adulthood. Depression, aggression, social anxiety, anti social behavior, psychosis, abuse, general anxiety and the list goes on. Adults who experience bullying in the workplace have a propensity to suffer from a variety of health risks: depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Suicidal thoughts, anxiety, joint pain, heart problems, blood pressure, chronic fatigue syndrome and many other diseases..  The WHO does not mention the relation to workplace bullying to domestic violence, however experts in workplace bullying say domestic violence is very similar to workplace bullying where treatment for victims of workplace bullying should seek out therapy from experts in the domestic violence or trauma fields. 

Prevention of bullying-related morbidity and mortality: a call for public health policies

Jorge C Srabstein a & Bennett L Leventhal b

a. Children’s National Medical Center, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, 111 Michigan Avenue, Washington, DC, 20010, United States of America.
b. Nathan S Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research, Orangeburg, USA.
Correspondence to Jorge C Srabstein (jsrabste@cnmc.org).
Bulletin of the World Health Organization 2010;88:403-403. doi: 10.2471/BLT.10.077123
Bullying is a major public health problem that demands the concerted and coordinated time and attention of health-care providers, policy-makers and families. Evolving awareness about the morbidity and mortality associated with bullying has helped give this psychosocial hazard a modest level of worldwide public health attention.15 However, it is not enough.
Bullying is a multifaceted form of mistreatment, mostly seen in schools and the workplace. It is characterized by the repeated exposure of one person to physical and/or emotional aggression including teasing, name calling, mockery, threats, harassment, taunting, hazing, social exclusion or rumours.6,7 A wide range of bullying prevalence has been documented among students and in labour forces worldwide.5,8
A growing body of research is highlighting the range of significant morbidities affecting individuals involved in bullying whether as bystanders, bullies and/or victims.
Multiple reported cases of death associated with bullying have led to legislative initiatives around the world.9 Enacted legislation has placed the responsibility of prevention on the shoulders of organizational (educational or workplace) management with no apparent input expected from the public health sector.10 As we recognize the health and safety hazards linked to bullying across the lifespan, we are challenged with the need to develop health policies for bullying prevention. The school milieu is functionally an occupational environment, where future employees and employers develop their physical, cognitive, social, moral and ethical skills. Moreover, students and workers are exposed to similar physical and psychological hazards. This notion is reflected in the Swedish Work Environment Authority Act which is focused on preventing ill-health and accidents in the workplace. This statute considers students, prison inmates and members of the armed forces as employees.11 Some may argue that the approaches for eradicating school bullying should be different from those addressing bullying at the adult workplace. Although there are differences in the developmental and legal status of students and adult workers, as well as in the socio-ecological aspects of schools and industry, both environments may benefit from the same approach to prevent bullying and its associated health risks.
The scientific literature suggests that preventative interventions should include whole community awareness campaigns about the nature of bullying and its dangers.12 Efforts should also be made to enhance the emotional and organizational environments in school and work settings by promoting sensitivity, mutual respect and tolerance to diversity while prohibiting bullying. Bullying incidents should be reported to organizational leadership which should ensure a consistent and organized response, including support of the victim and counselling for the perpetrator by sensitizing him or her to the harm they have inflicted. Referral to appropriate health services will be required to alleviate the physical and emotional consequences of bullying, as well as to help those who continue bullying behaviour in spite of organizational counselling. The efficacy of this public health approach should be monitored by a periodic assessment of the prevalence of bullying-related morbidity and mortality.
Policy-makers could create advisory groups to provide recommendations and develop guidelines for a whole-community strategy for the prevention, intervention and treatment of bullying-related public health risks.
Bullying prevention strategies can help governments to ensure safe and healthy learning and working conditions, while reducing expenditure on bullying-related injuries and ill health. Furthermore, they can reduce disrupted student achievement and worker ineffectiveness, due to absenteeism; expenses in social welfare/benefits and other costs related to loss of productive workers at a premature stage. Fewer “dropouts” linked to bullying mean a healthier, happier and more productive population.

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