On the last Wednesday of February, people across British Columbia will be wearing pink to show solidarity in the effort to end bullying. Bullying can happen anywhere, including the workplace; it’s not just in schoolyards.
The negative impact of bullying is not just in the moment; it can have serious long term psychological impact for those who experience bullying behavior (for children in particular). Studies have shown that kids who have been bullied are at an increased risk later in life for a variety of mental disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder and depression. In severe cases, some of which have been highlighted in the media, kids and teenagers choose suicide over enduring the ongoing bullying they face.
Eliminating bullying requires everyone’s commitment and it is about much more than wearing pink on one day each year. But by doing so you tell the world that you are an ally, and that’s important.
Here are practical tips for kids and adults to promote social inclusion and help end bullying:
1. Think before you speak
Words have power. However positive or funny you intend a comment to be, the important things is the impact of our words and behavior, not their intention. Even if you mean no harm with your words you might make people uncomfortable or upset them.
2. Be more than a bystander
If you witness bullying and it’s safe to do so, inform the bully that their behavior is inappropriate. Encourage the person being bullied to seek help.
3. Lead with empathy
Before casting judgment on someone, seek to appreciate their point of view and what they’re experiencing.
4. Model good behavior
When you treat others with respect and kindness, you are leading by example. Kids are watching the adults in their lives so show them the path to inclusion.
We each have a responsibility to contribute to fostering healthy communities where diversity is not only included but respected. Together, through small individual actions, we can make it harder for bullying to take place in our schools and at work.