Founder and Executive Director, Dare to Care
Childhood bullying is not always recognized as a significant threat to long-term mental health, but the reality is it impacts many children for a lifetime.
Unfortunately, in my experience, patterns of bullying behaviour are strongly embedded by the time children reach high school. I’d like to tell you about an approach that intervenes early and mobilizes the entire school community with the skills and courage to prevent bullying so all students can thrive in life, learning and play.
The Dare to Care bully prevention and life skills program has been delivered in person throughout Canada since 1999. With schools moving towards more hybrid approaches, the Dare to Care virtual program for K-9 is now available at a greatly reduced cost.
Bullying behaviour’s mental health impacts
According to Public Safety Canada, approximately one-third of our population experiences bullying as a child. Data from PREVNet, a Canadian research and knowledge mobilization hub to help reduce bullying and youth violence, shows bullying behaviour has significant negative and long-term impacts on mental health:
- Children who are bullied suffer more headaches, stomach aches, depression and anxiety.
- Children who bully, and those who are bullied, are more likely to miss school, show little interest in their studies and suffer poor grades. Both groups are at greater risk of suicide.
- Mental health problems associated with bullying tend to last until later in life.
Early, community-wide intervention
To embed a significant and enduring cultural shift towards respect and inclusion, the Dare to Care program is designed to engage everyone in the school community. The program offers three components:
- Innovative, age-appropriate modules for students. We help students recognize the difference between normal conflict and bullying behaviour as well as provide a common language and toolbelt of skills to deflect and diffuse incidents of true bullying.
- Professional Development modules for educators, administrators, coaches, and officials. We provide the entire school staff with a common language and the skills to recognize bullying behaviour and to intervene quickly and effectively.
- Support and education for parents. We help them recognize signs that their child is being bullied or may be exhibiting bullying behaviour. We also give them the tools to coach their children to effectively report incidents of bullying to an adult.
Our experiences as children shape the rest of our lives. One of the most important skills that young people learn is practicing self-care and building up their self-esteem — no small feat given the economic, environmental and financial pressures of today’s world. Therein lies the importance of a program like Dare to Care. We need to know how to deal with inappropriate behaviour before it escalates and creates lasting harm.