University of Queensland psychologist and researcher Dr Karyn Healy has urged all schools to focus on stopping bullying behaviours and for both parents and teachers to keep a “look out for symptoms” of depression in children who had experienced bullying.
Dr Healy said symptoms could range from persistent sadness and increased irritability to changes in sleep or appetite and loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities.
“Parents also need to be aware that some of their parenting behaviours may increase the risk of depression in these children,” Dr Healy said.
These behaviours include being in conflict with their child, giving too many directions – and not allowing the child to develop independence - as well as aggressively attacking others in defence of the child.
Dr Healy highlighted that parents can play an important role in helping to protect their child from the ongoing risk of depression by maintaining a warm, supportive relationship with them and coaching them in social and emotional skills with their peers.
She will highlight this work, including her paper Antecedents of Treatment Resistant Depression in Children Bullied by Peers at the seventh biennial National Centre Against Bullying (NCAB) Conference at Melbourne’s Crown Conference Centre on July 28 and 29.
The paper focusses on factors which influence ongoing depression in children, aged between 6 and 12, who were bullied at school.
“Previous research tells us that being the victim of bullying places children at increased risk of depression and that children with depressive symptoms are also at increased risk of being bullied,” she said.
“Our research with families of children who had been bullied has found that supportive practices by parents and peers following victimisation can help reduce risks of later depression.”
Dr Healy said it was vital that schools continued to find better ways to reduce bullying.
“Stopping bullying is not enough,” Dr Healy said. “We also need to safeguard children who have been bullied from the risk of ongoing depression.
“It should be the goal of schools to not only stop unkind behaviours of peers to children, but also to help these children develop quality friendships and good relationships with other children at school.”
The conference, an initiative of the Alannah & Madeline Foundation, will be co-hosted by NCAB Chair the Hon Alastair Nicholson AO RFD QC and Dr Michael Carr-Gregg.
The Alannah & Madeline Foundation CEO Lesley Podesta said it was crucial for everyone involved in the life of a child who has been bullied to be aware of all of the effects they may be experiencing.
“Like many of the experts presenting at the Conference, Dr Healy’s work will hopefully resonate with teachers and parents the best way to support a bullying victim,’’ Ms Podesta said.
For further information on presenters and NCAB Conference agenda go to www.ncab.org.au
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