How does bullying within schools affect children in New Zealand?
The Education Review Office revealed that 39% of all schoolchildren in New Zealand reported being bullied at their current schools, the majority occurring in primary schools (46% of primary school children). Despite the many anti-bullying measures currently employed in our schools, however, the shocking statistics of ongoing bullying show that the strategies in place are simply not enough.
The fact of the matter is, over ⅓ of our children currently spend 5 out of 7 days a week afraid of what awaits them in the school halls, and that is not acceptable.
Self-harm and suicide: Two topics any parent fears discussing with their kids
Another difficult topic we must touch on in this discussion of our children’s welfare is that of self-harm.
One of the most shocking statistics of all is the fact that almost half of all high school students will attempt self-harm before graduating.
What we know about self-harm is that those who practice it do so largely to distract or compensate for emotional pain. What we don’t know, however, is how to properly help those of our children that engage in self-harm to seek other methods of self-healing. Part of this lack of knowledge clearly stems from the taboo that self-harm holds within our community – Ross Sinclair, former chairman of the Greater Wellington Secondary Schools Principals Association, describes self-harm as “the elephant in the room in secondary schools”.
Bullying and Self Harm – Our young people are turning to each other for support.
Because of this taboo aspect of the conversation on self-harm, our children are now turning to each other for help. In this age of digital and social media, the Internet is a unique resource allowing us to communicate with others across the world, providing a platform from which our children can connect with other kids who are going through similar struggles.
While it is good that they are seeking help, with the digital world as it is, there is potential for our kids to engage with others in ways that are a detriment to themselves.
What can we do to help our kids cope with bullying, self-harm and suicide?
The questions that stems from this discussion on bullying and self-harm are as follows:
- How do we, as the generations leading our children into the future, help them to love themselves, and consider themselves “enough”?
- How do we teach our children to seek help in the right places, and how do we provide the help they need, without our kids having to resort to taking matters into their own hands?
Mother, company director and advocate for the safety and wellbeing of children in New Zealand, Cathy Mellett, summarises the ongoing worries of a Kiwi mum in her address to all parents with concerns for their children in response to the subject of self-harm and suicide:
“As parents, if we become aware that people are having those discussions [surrounding self-harm and suicide], what do you think we should be doing?
I have two thoughts on this. The first is, if you become aware of a child that is having suicidal thoughts, my suggestion would be to reach out to that person’s parents – but that’s a hard thing to do. On the other side, the second option would be for you to have a no-holds-barred discussion with a school counsellor. Make an appointment in confidence, and go and take your thoughts and care and concerns to that school counsellor. Why?” I believe as adults we have a duty of care – not only to our children, but to the children our children connect with, and the communities that we are a part of. And therefore, I would suggest that we take action.”