School Bullying: Signs to look for in victims, perpetrators

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - One out of five students reports being a victim of bullying.

While acts of bullying may be obvious when it happens, the effects are not as easily recognized.

"Bullies have that need to have power and self esteem," said Pine Grove psychiatrist Patricia Calabrese, "and they get it by putting somebody else down."

Calabrese said that depression is common among victims of bullying but it is not always easy to identify.

"A lot of kids who are bullied don't outwardly look depressed because they're trying so hard to fit in and look like everyone else," said Calabrese.

Calabrese, who works with children and teens as a psychiatric nurse practitioner, says there a few key signs to look for when someone has been bullied.

"If kids are isolating from their social activities, starting to do poorly in school, not wanting to be with their best friends…  that isolation is a real sign that kids might be in trouble," she said.

Parents who have a child who is a victim of bullying may wonder when it is appropriate to seek medical help.

"I think if kids are refusing to go to school, that's a real good point," said Calabrese. "Then they need someone outside of the family to evaluate how bad the situation is."

Around 160,000 students skip school every day to avoid being bullied. While there are policies in place to deal with school bullying, Calabrese says sometimes part of the solution can begin with the victim.

"Bullying is a developing issue," she said. "If a child stands up to a bully right away, the chances are the bully will go find someone else."

Calabrese said that bullying can happen at any age- no matter how young or old- and the effects are long-lasting, too.

"There's a study out now that cites bullying back to third grade for adults who are still suffering depression in their thirties and forties," she said.

Identifying the problem early-on can help with the recovery process, and Calabrese says it is important that parents who have school-aged students work with school administrators to see what actions need to be taken should bullying become a problem.

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