Parkland educates parents on signs of abuse

Special to The Dallas Examiner

As school starts, jitters are common among children and teens. But for some, it brings fear and anxiety, especially for those who face bullying and abuse throughout the school year. In a 2016 study, the National Center for Educational Statistics reported more than 1 out of every 5 – or 20.8 percent – students said they were bullied.

Bullying is defined as physical or verbal aggression repeated over time and involves an imbalance of power, according to behavioral health experts at Parkland Health & Hospital System.

Bullying has many forms:

• Verbal bullying is the usage of words to harm others. It may be through insults, name-calling or teasing.

• Physical bullying involves but is not limited to hitting, kicking, pushing or otherwise fighting others.

• Reactive bullying occurs when a person engages in bullying while responding to being a former victim.

• Cyberbullying involves willful and repeated bullying behavior through electronic technology – such as text messages, the internet, social media, apps or gaming devices, etc.

“Bullying is a public health issue. It can often lead to other problems including both psychological and physical health issues,” said Melissa Reilly, director of the Victim Intervention Program/Rape Crisis Center at Parkland. “Most of the time bullying happens out of the sight of adults. Signs of abuse can be difficult to identify. Victims are often silent and can go to great lengths to hide their symptoms.”

Reilly added that the signs may be difficult to recognize but include:

• Visible and unexplainable injuries

• Frequent headaches or stomach aches

• Faking illness or not wanting to go to school

• Anxiety of social situations

• Difficulty sleeping and frequent nightmares

• Loss of interest in schoolwork and declining grades

• Self-destructive behaviors

Young people who engage in bullying are at an increased risk for academic problems, substance use and violent behavior later in adolescence and adulthood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC warns that both targets and perpetrators are at greater risk for mental health and behavior problems.

Parkland’s VIP/Rape Crisis Center provides help to patients ages 4 through adult.

“We offer counseling, resources free of charge to Dallas County residents,” Reilly said. “The most important thing I can tell victims of bullying is that they are not alone. We provide a safe place for them to share their experiences and seek help.”

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