by Victoria Brewster, MSW
While reading the Montreal Gazette this morning I came across an article titled: “Bullying leaves its mark on mood gene, study finds.” Naturally, this grabbed my interest, especially considering the events of last Friday in both the U.S. and China.
Isabelle Ouellet-Morin believes bullying can leave a psychological trace that could persist over time, making victims more vulnerable to mental health problems as they age. She is studying cortisol levels in the bodies of twins. “We also found that for the victim, the less they secrete cortisol, the more problems they had in their social interactions,” she explained. “So it seems secreting less cortisol is not a sign of resilience, but of vulnerability.”
Today, because of social media and access to the internet on cell phones the newer version of bullying is cyber bullying. Despite lots of discussions about bullying and new anti-bullying legislation in many provinces, including Quebec, (Bill 56) resources to combat the problem are scarce and bullying remains a huge problem. In Ontario it is Bill 14.
“It shows we need to pay more attention, not only to the short-term consequences, but also to the long-term effects a victim may carry over his life and which may be associated with a higher vulnerability later on for physiological or psychological problems,” said Ouellet-Morin, who is also a professor at the Université de Montréal. “It means we have to make sure we take all of the means necessary to minimize the prevalence of these victimizations, that we need to help them and provide the necessary resources.”
As a parent in Quebec, I am waiting to see how schools put this legislation into place. The schools choose the program and implement it.
I keep coming back to the same notion that EQ or Emotional Intelligence is what needs to be taught in all schools as part of the regular curriculum. EQ focuses on empathy, compassion, acceptance, mediation between students if there are issues at school and this can all be done in any language with any subject. If the teachers and school staff are all taught this and make it part of the everyday school environment-imagine the school environment!
At the same time workshops need to occur for parents so the skills learned in school can be carried over into the home environment.
We, as a western society need to realize that things have changed since the Baby-Boomer generation was born. In most nuclear families both parents work leaving children and youth in day cares, after school programs and the school becomes the place where youth spends much of their time during the school week. What better place to continue the ground work that began within the home environment.