Michele Borba Blog: AGAIN! What’s it take to recognize bullying hurts? Proof!

by | Apr 18, 2010 | Uncategorized

This week CNN-HLN emailed me the following story for my comments. “Mom: Bullying Led To Daughter’s Hospitalization Foxborough Woman Says Girl’s Been Bullied For Months” I read the headlines and had that knee-jerk response that I’m getting too often these days.

What’s it going to take folks so we finally get serious about bullying? How many more victims are going to hospitalized from serious emotional distress? How many more kids are going to have to take their own lives?  Can we please get beyond this mentality of “Kids will be kids!” Or this one that drives me nuts: “I was bullied when I was a kid. It toughens a kid up.” Oh really?

Foxborough Middle Schooler Hospitalized for Severe Emotional Stress Due to Bullying

Here’s the latest incident showing the psychological damage of bullying. Read carefully. I’m betting it will have an all-too familiar twinge for you as it did me.

The incident took place this week in Foxborough, Massachusetts. The bullying took place at Ahern Middle School. It involved an eighth grader who was hospitalized for due to severe emotional stress. The cause:  Bullying that has been going on for about a year despite parental complaints to school officials.

The mother of the victim described the bullying as no physical violence, but “constant, constant emotional terrorism.” The bullies were fourteen-year old girls who spoke “demeaning, making her the butt of jokes, talking to her an an infant.”

The alleged victim’s father described the repeated bullying incidents as “emotional and social bullying that goes on is so insidious that if you don’t know what you’re looking for, it appears not to be anything going on,” said Philip Carey.

And the bullying took it’s toil affecting every part of this young girls’ life. Though physically healthy, her daughter stayed home many days to avoid the girls. Her self-esteem plummeted. Stress escalated. School academics suffered. Her grades went from honor roll to D and F.

“She started saying it’s hopeless,” Carla Carey said. “I asked her and she said she couldn’t live.”

The mother admitted that is was Phoebe Prince’s suicide in South Hadley that saved her daughter’s life. The mother learned those bullying warning signs and hospitalized her child. “My message to parents is watch your kids,” Carey said.

I couldn’t agree more.

Warning Signs of Bullying

Here are a warning signs from the Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Your Wildest Worries that a child may be bullied and needs your support. (For specific parenting strategies, research and what to do is bullying escalates turn to the chapters on Bullying, Bullied, and Internet Safety).  Note how many of the signs were ones that affected the victim who was hospitalized for repeated bully abuse. Hint: Chances are if your child is bullied he won’t tell you, so watch for changes in your child’s typical behavior.

  • Unexplained physical marks, cuts, bruises and scrapes, or torn clothing
  • Unexplained loss of toys, school supplies, clothing, lunches, or money
  • Afraid to be left alone: doesn’t want to go to school; afraid of riding the school bus; wants you there at dismissal, suddenly clingy.
  • Suddenly sullen, withdrawn, evasive; remarks about feeling lonely
  • Marked changed in typical behavior or personality
  • Physical complaints; headaches, stomachaches, frequent visits the school nurse’s office
  • Difficulty sleeping, nightmares, cries self to sleep, bed wetting
  • Begins bullying siblings or younger kids
  • Waits to get home to use the bathroom
  • Ravenous when he comes home (lunch money or lunch may be stolen)
  • Sudden and significant drop in grades; difficulty focusing and concentrating

Psychological Bullying Hits Hard: The Scientific Proof

Let’s learn from these recent sad scenarios and finally admit that psychological bullying hits hard and is in some cases deadly. Here are studies that prove that bullying is not a “rite of passage” or a “phase that kids should go through.” They also prove it’s time for adults to get serious.

• University of Minnesota: Studies found that repeated bullying causes severe emotional harm and erodes your child’s fragile self-esteem. Whether the bullying was verbal, physical or relational, the long-term effects are equally harmful. Both boys and girls reported high levels of emotional distress and loneliness as well as lower self-esteem, loneliness, anxiety and depression.

• Yale School of Medicine: A review of 37 studies from 13 countries found a connection between bullying, being bullied and suicide in children. Five of the studies reported by bullying victims were two to nine times more likely to report suicidal thoughts than other children were. “Now that we see there’s a likely association, we can act on it and try to prevent it,” notes review lead author Young-Shin Kim, M.D., assistant professor at Yale School of Medicine’s Child Study Center. “When we see kids who are targets of bullies,” Kim says, “we should ask them if they’re thinking about hurting themselves.”


Research proves bullying has deadly emotional affects. But this young victim and Phoebe Prince’s ordeals should be proof enough. Let’s get serous folks. Bullying is a learned behavior that can be prevented. School bully prevention programs (when implemented using research-based strategies) are effective. Bullying has horrific short and long-term psychological impact on our children. No child should ever experience such cruelty.

Not one more kid!

Are you with me?


Sources for this story:

Mom: Bullying Led To Daughter’s Hospitalization: Foxborough Woman Says Girl’s Been Bullied For Months

Bullied Student Hospitalized Due to Distress

Bullied And Being Bullied Linked to Suicide In Children, Review of Studies Suggests

N. R. Crick, “Relational and Overt Forms of Peer Victimization: A Multiinformant Approach, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol. 66., No.2,” Mar 26, 1998