Bullying in schools must stop

KUCHING: Bullying is an arduous issue to be eliminated from schools. Parents are concerned because it could lead to fights, causing serious injuries or even deaths.

Equally concerned is Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences senior medical lecturer Dr Ang Ai Ling (pic) who said many of those involved in bullying were witness to bullying cases or were victims themselves.
Calling for understanding of the issue, she said to tackle the issue needed efforts on several levels.

According to Ang, bullying is defined as repeated and deliberate use of physical or psychological means to hurt someone, without adequate provocation and in the knowledge that the victim is unlikely to be able to retaliate effectively.

She said most bullying incidents occur in schools but they may go unrecognised by teachers and the victims usually feel unable to report the incidents to teachers or parents.

As such, the Malaysian National Health and Morbidity Survey: Adolescent Health Survey 2017 reported the prevalence of being bullied at least once in the past 30 days among Form 1 to Form 5 students of 15.5 percent in Sarawak.

“Most bullies are boys. Boys’ bullying typically involves physical aggression while girls’ bullying is more likely to involve social exclusion or spreading of rumours in order to damage the victim’s
reputation.

“Aggressive bullies are more likely to have witnessed domestic violence. They are often aggressive not only to their peers but also to their siblings, parents and teachers,” Dr Ang told New Sarawak Tribune yesterday.

Dr Ang, who is also a child and adolescent psychiatrist, stressed that the development of aggressive trait might reflect both temperament and parenting (parents of bullies being more prone to use power-assertive childrearing methods and failing to provide adequate warmth, control and supervision).

She added that primary motivation for bullying in boys was power whereas a minority of bullies might dominate their victims in order to bolster a fragile sense of self-worth. Bullying in girls is usually motivated by affiliation with a group by excluding the victim.

“Victims of bully may become fearful, anxious and sad. They may experience changes in behaviour, become withdrawn or refuse to go to school. Younger children may become more clingy to their parents.

“Adolescents may experience low self-confidence and low self-esteem as a result of bullying,” said Dr Ang, adding that experience of bullying increases a person’s risk of developing depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicidal thinking and suicide.
“Therefore, tackling the issues of bullying requires efforts on several levels,” she stressed.

She noted that parents needed to spend time to talk to their children and find out what was going on in their life and encourage them to speak up if anything happened that made them feel scared, stressed, angry or sad.

“Parents should be perceptive of any changes in their children’s behaviour and activities. Children and young people need to know that they will be supported by the school, their parents and their class if they report bullying.”

In relation to this, every school should have anti-bullying policies and the unacceptability of bullying has to be made clear to all students.

And the policy must be backed up by adequate supervision and by firm but non-hostile sanctions.
“There is a need to raise awareness about bullying, for example, through anti-bullying campaigns in schools.
“If bullying is suspected or reported, the incident should be dealt with immediately by the member of the school staff who was approached,” she added.

Hence, parents should be involved at all points if possible. Whereby, both the bully and the victim needed to be supported; this included psychological support from the school counsellor.

Some of these children might require child and adolescent mental health services input if there are severe or prolonged effects.
Mental Health Association Sarawak chairman Dr Ismail Drahman said the act of bullying was sometimes initiated by the persons themselves having experience this before either through being abused or them having childhood psychiatric disorders such as attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorder.