The Park, Centre for Mental Health Research, the Research Hub.
The Park, Centre for Mental Health Research, the Research Hub.

Bullies put under the microscope at The Park

THE Park Centre for Mental Health Research has been known by many names.

The facility has often been associated with negativity and controversy but, today, it's a world renowned research hub and a global leader in mental health treatment and study.

Last week was Queensland Mental Health Week and the health service took the opportunity to highlight some of the ground breaking work being carried out behind the scenes.

Associate Professor and child adolescent psychiatrist James Scott is just one of the researchers at The Park.

His latest field of study focuses on cyber and traditional bullying in schools.

Prof Scott and his colleague Dr Hannah Thomas spent three years creating a questionnaire that will hopefully go on to form the basis of anti-bullying policies in schools across the state.

Throughout the process, the two mental health researchers visited more than 15 schools, a mix of public and private schools across Brisbane, Ipswich and the Gold Coast, and interviewed 1500 kids.

Prof Scott says bullying among adolescents is complicated but some schools manage it more effectively than others.

This research should equip all schools to manage the issue effectively and reduce the mental and physical harm some young people are experiencing in a world where cyber bullying is an increasing problem.

"About 10 years when I was working as a psychiatrist, I was observing all these young people coming through the clinic with high levels of stress and suicidal thoughts from being bullied at school," Prof Scott said.

 

James Scott, Associate Professor, child and adolescent psychiatrist  at The Park, Centre for Mental Health Research.
James Scott, Associate Professor, child and adolescent psychiatrist at The Park, Centre for Mental Health Research.

 

"There seem to be clusters at certain schools, while there are some school that appear to manage the bullying effectively.

"Mental illness is common in young people and we are always looking for things we can modify to reduce the risk of mental illness. Some things are hard to modify such as poverty.

"But seeing all these young people suffering got me thinking about some of the risk factors we can modify. We initially looked at the effects of bullying on young people's mental health.

"That research showed, if you have young people who were bullied at school, that not only increased the risk of depression and self harm (during schooling) but those risks sometimes persisted into adulthood, even after we adjusted to other things in their life that may have an impact such as poverty and parental issues."

He said understanding why bullies bully was difficult but in other nations where similar research had become best practice programming in schools, a 50% reduction in bullying had been recorded.

Prof Scott said that was the aim of his research; to create a program that would reduce bullying in schools and in turn improve the overall mental health of Queensland and Australia's, youth.

"There are a whole lot of reasons why bullies are bullies," Prof Scott said.

"Sometimes young people lack empathy for others. Sometimes it's a way of socially climbing the ladder.

Some young people who are bright will be unkind to some and not to others to climb the social hierarchy of the school.

Sometimes it's a replication of modelling behaviour at home learnt from older siblings or parents. Sometimes it's young people externalising their own internal distress.

Perhaps they feel angry themselves and don't have the skills to deal with those emotions so they 'act out'.

"Females are more likely to get involved in relationship bullying for example exclusion, where males are more likely to engage in name calling.

"People sometimes say 'it's just name calling' well actually name calling and exclusion cause more psychological harm than physical bullying, particularly among adolescents who have that feeling of needing to belong."

The research has been submitted to the Journal of Educational Psychology.



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