Bullying in schools: a silent epidemic

By December 4, 2009

USA (MNN) — Experts have found that bullying links a rash of suicides by young teens in the United States.   

A 2007 report entitled "Health Behavior in School-Aged Children" said, "Being bullied is also associated with poor academic achievement, low self-esteem, problems making friends, loneliness and higher levels of substance use." The report also said that 11 percent of U.S. students reported being the victims of bullies at least twice in the last two months.

Do the numbers mean that bullying could be considered a silent epidemic? What exactly is it? In today's world, it seems like bullying has become more insidious with the advent of the internet, text messaging and social networking sites.   

A fact-sheet on bullying sponsored by the Center for Disease Control reads that bullying occurs when "person or group repeatedly tries to harm someone who is weaker or more vulnerable."

What does this phenomenon tell us about the bullies and their victims? Perhaps it tells us that there isn't much communication going on. John Richmond heads up the Albany, New York Chapter of Youth For Christ. After four girls committed suicide at a local high school in Schenectady last year, they stepped in to help with Point Break, an anti-bullying program.

Public schools send large groups of students to participate in Point Break. It's an intensive six-hour session, and Richmond explains, "Point Break measures attitude, behavior and values, like bullying, gossiping, self-disclosure, compassion for others, willingness to reach out for help, hopefulness for life," intervening before acts of hatred or violence occur.

As a result, better learning environments are created, relationships are forged and reconciliation begins.

Point Break also helps YFC build relationships outside of the seminar. Richmond says their purposes do actually dovetail in shaping worldview. The difference with YFC is, "Our whole mission is wanting to get to a point where we can introduce Christ to a young person." 

Although Point Break is not overtly evangelistic, Richmond says the results keep the doors open. "The school now perceives Youth For Christ as a really important partner in the community in helping to change culture in their school."

Details about the program can be found here. "There are a lot of great touch points that happen. We're trying to leverage all of it to continue to invite them out to our weekly ministries that we have in that community."

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