Taking a stand against bullying: Addressing mental health problems from within



so I thought today I would talk to you about well good ink because this is what I've been focusing on for the past 15 years trying to provide strong evidence that being believed in childhood does contribute to the development of mental health problem at this stage of my career and also given the hero that I have with the ESRC I decided to take my research a step forward and try to make a real change with the government and how we tackle bullying and mental health problems associated with bullying at the school and professional level as well so I'm not going to focus on only specific findings I just want to get you through a thought process that kind of led me to some conclusions based on our findings and the first thing yes okay so and the first thing which is important to to point out is that we now have very strong evidence that being bullied in childhood does contribute to mental health problems and especially emotional problems as opposed to more behavioral problems so there's a strong strong and robust link with emotional problems symptoms of anxiety and depression in childhood and also in adulthood and I illustrate the findings that we have here because it is from a natural experiment study that we have as part of the eeriest study so a study of twins where we extracted monozygotic twins and hundred pairs who were discordant or being bullied and we've observed their different levels of emotional problems and what you can see is that the ones who have been bullied on the Left have higher levels of emotional problems compared to their code twins who haven't been bullied now because these two groups are genetically identical and because the twins grew up in the same environment these factors cannot account for the differences so we are in strong place to be able to say that being bullied does contribute to emotional problems and also we control four prior mental health problems before the kids got bullied so we know that this differences is not accounted for by differences between the twins in terms of their mental health problem so because we cannot do randomized control trial with something like bullying this is as good as it can get I think in terms of providing strong evidence for a contribution of being bullied to mental health problems that paper was submitted in 2018 so ten years ago and since then in the past two years two other cohort studies of twins kind of replicated those findings and what is interesting from those two studies is that they also have long term outcomes so five years and ten years later so they could look at the and the contribution of being bullied in childhood into kind of long term mental health outcomes so the findings are not just based on our study but replicated across different cohorts and based on these we can with confidence say that it is important to support any effort that's trying to stop bullying behaviors in the school at home or in the community so if we reduce bullying behaviors we should see a reduction of mental health problems and young children but maybe this is not enough so maybe we can do better to address mental health problems associated with being bullied in childhood indeed interventions tackling bullying behaviors on average reduce bullying behavior by 20% so it's unlikely that these programs will be able to eradicate completely those kind of behaviors and let me make a parallel with criminal behaviors so no matter what strategy that we try to use punitive strategies there will always be you know crimes and antisocial behaviors so it's possible that behaved bullying behavior which are part of conduct disorders will will be part of of something that we want to reduce in the future and there's also a possibility that even after we stop bullying behaviors mental health problems persists and we found that as part of a studies that we conducted using data from the National Child Development study or otherwise known as the 1958 cohort where we showed that participants who were bullied between the ages of 7 and 11 had a higher risk of meeting diagnostic criteria for anxiety depression they were also had higher rates of suicidality when they reach age 45 and these are even controlling for childhood confounders including parent or social SES childhood mental health problems other forms of adversity including maltreatment and neglect and low IQ as well and these findings have also been replicated by three of the cohorts from different countries so when in New Zealand one in the u.s. one in Finland and we have this one so there is increasingly robust evidence that the effects of being bullied in childhood can be persistent up until midlife furthermore this association is reflected in mental health service use so it does relate to all of you guys and so you can see that those participants who were bullied in childhood at age 16 especially for those who were frequently bullied there had your rates of using mental health services and you can see that it does decrease as they go further in adulthood but overall I don't ah there it is and so you can see that there's a steep decrease here and I like to think that treatment have been effective and they are doing better but still at the age of 50 this is different here this difference here is significant so those who were frequently or occasionally bullied in childhood were still more likely to use mental health services when they reach age 50 and this persistence and mental health service use is explained by two different groups those who kind of started using early in life and carry on for the rest of their life and also new onset of using services at age 33 by age 42 it didn't have new people who started using those services so obviously mental being bullied in childhood have an impact that is lasting that can be lasting for a long time and we knew need to do better in terms of addressing it its impact on mental health so as part of the researcher we conducted we kind of tried to think about what we can do to better address those poor outcomes among those who've been bullied and we decided in collaboration with the Policy Institute at Kings to set up a policy lab and a policy lab basically is a collaborative session that brings together research policy practitioner and service users expertise to assess the evidence understand the obstacle and the constraint to change and this is an Eustis understanding to inform policy options to improve the outcome and the policy lab focus on a particular issue or question and the question that we've put forward in this case was is it valuable feasible and acceptable to strength intervention focusing on victims or potential victims of bullying in order to reduce mental health problems so base heesang so far we've been focusing on stopping winning behavior which is the right thing to do what about we kind of expand the focus of those interventions to focus also on the victims in order to reduce the burden of mental health problems so what we suggest is two ways for doing this either to prevent young children preventing young children from becoming the victim of bullying or building resilience among those who haven't escaped bullying and who have been bullied so this is always keeping in mind that bullying takes place in a contextual setting so that there are some factors that predict young children from being bullied so going in a school where you have lots and lots of kids or going into school which is in deprived area coming from family where parents relationship is not great or parenting is not great or even being maltreated or being the victim of abuse at home as well and then you also have individual factors that predispose young children to being bullied including being young and having early mental health problems so together we address some of the issues about you know related to the fact that we could focus on victims of being of being bullied and kind of discuss whether we could really think about proposing this to the government and we came up with a policy brief we have a nice copy here and which kind of suggest or make several recommendation but one of them suggesting that the government's work more closely together which i think is something very strange but they don't seem to be doing that so the Department for Education kind of working more closely with Department of Health in the initiative that they are putting forward to tackle something like bullying or to tackle mental health problems that we should integrate bullying as part of water well-being and mental health initiatives and the schools and I think that the green paper is one of those initiatives so we should make sure that bullying is part of that we're not suggesting to reinvent the wheel and coming up with new interventions that's not the aim it's just making sure that bullying is really part of any mental health intervention and that mental health problems or health is really part of any kind of bullying policies that they are in the schools I think it's important to address age differences that we shouldn't kind of do the same for any kind of all types of children and all types of different age as well we could also have some universal intervention such as increasing self esteem or providing social skills for all the kids they would all benefit from that but for some kids that are especially vulnerable for being bullied we could have something a bit more targeted we suggest as well evaluating any kind of programs it's important that we have evidence base that those interventions are working and we need to recognize that those intervention may last may take a long time before they show outcomes but it's important to as well kind of have quick fix to be able to return to the government and say that some things are also working and there you go so this is the document that we've we've produced just recently and at the moment we are testing it with young group focus groups with teachers as well and we're working with the National Children's Bureau to be able to open up the door of the government and and see what they think about that thank you

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