Health

Facing down the bullies

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Why parents, schools and children themselves must know the hows and whys

Huafrid Billimoria, who is pursuing a Master’s degree in Social Work, has been bullied for most of his life. As someone with dyslexia, Billimoria went through hell in school and college. “The bullies would tell me to lick their shoes, slap me and make hideous comments. They went to the extent of insulting my parents, just because they knew I wouldn’t fight back. Maybe having dyslexia or me twitching was a reason they picked on me, but now that I am in a better place, I consider my bullies emotionally disabled,” says the 21-year-old.

The recent video of a Class X student being slapped by his peers, originally believed to have been an episode of bullying, kicked several schools into action to put preventive measures in place, especially since the child is said to have lost 25% of his hearing. But why do children turn to this exertion of power over peers in the first place? Dr Pervin Dadachanji, a Mumbai-based psychiatrist with a special interest in child and adolescent psychiatry, says, “It happens because the bully is in a position of power and uses that in a nasty way.”

Fun gone wrong

In college, an icebreaker session can turn into a conflict. Though ragging is banned, and the University Grants Commission of India imposed regulations in 2009 to curb ragging and has established a toll-free anti-ragging helpline, it still continues to be a nightmare for freshers across universities.

Pourushasp Mehta, now 27, who is a communication specialist, recollects, “I remember in the first week of college, when I was sitting with my friends in the cafeteria, we noticed a group of senior students bullying the juniors. I saw them coming towards us. My friends avoided them and moved away,” he remembers. However, Mehta decided to tackle them head-on. When they tried to push and intimidate him, he smiled back in return, he says. “The senior students group was impressed with the way I handled the situation and offered me their friendship.”

Not everyone is lucky. The impact of ragging can have long-lasting effects on kids, says Dr Zirak Marker, child and adolescent psychiatrist, based out of Mumbai. The victims are often irritable, refuse to go to school and have disturbed sleeping and eating patterns. Often, “they turn to social media to gain back their self-worth,” he says.

In extreme cases, victims who undergo severe ragging can have a complete breakdown and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Dr Harish Shetty, a Mumbai-based psychiatrist, says, “Victims might get disturbed with the images of ragging and suffer from psychosis throughout life, which can disrupt their career and future,” he says.

The psyche of the bully

Research says that many bullies have serious psychological conflicts stemming from family issues and have no idea how to deal with it. Bullying thus becomes a personality trait. According to psychologist Seema Hingorrany, many bullies have been through serious negative experiences and have deep psychological scars. “They bully others as that is the only coping method they seem to have,” she says. Dr Dadachanji agrees. “The bullies could have a self-esteem problem; he feels good about himself when he mistreats another. Or he could be undergoing trauma at home — violence from a parent or sibling or any other conflict at home. He may also be a part of a group and will bully to fit in with the gang,” he says. At the end of the day, “There is a need to understand that the bully is also troubled and needs help just as much as the victim does,” says Dr Marker.

All is not lost

The victims must be reassured that their happiness does not depend on another person’s treatment of them and that someone else’s behaviour is not their fault or weakness. Being able to talk about it is important. “Kids who are victims must be encouraged to confide in parents, teachers and even siblings and friends and not suffer alone. Kids also need to be taught in schools, colleges and at home that they should never be a bystander,” says Dr Indu Shahani, President and Chairperson of ISDI, ISME, ISDI-WPP and ex-principal of HR College of Commerce and Economics, Mumbai.

Ragging left a negative impact on Billimoria. “Negativity helped me become the person I am today. Despite that, there are moments when anxiousness wells up in me because of what I have gone through,” he says. He channelised his negativity by working out in the gym and doing things that he loved, like listening to music. “I dealt with the situation by being positive. I started taking care of myself. I lost weight, started looking good, feeling better, took training in mixed martial arts, attended counselling sessions,” he says.

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 1:47:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/facing-down-the-bullies/article19698890.ece

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