Bullying can affect those who witness this behavior and those who are responsible for the bullying in addition to the victim. While bystanders and children who bully others may have increased mental health problems and a higher risk of alcohol and drug abuse in their adult years, its effects are most significant on the child that is bullied. A child that is bullied may experience:
- Health problems
- Decreased academic performance
- Emotional effects such as depression, anxiety, disinterest in previously enjoyed activities and feelings of sadness or loneliness
A small number of children that are bullied may also retaliate through violent measures. For example, in 12 of the 15 school shooting cases of the 1990s, the shooter had a past of being bullied. There is also a link between bullying and suicide. Although bullying alone is not the cause, the effects of bullying, like depression, contribute to this suicide risk.
In 2013, a study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry looked at the long-term effects bullying had on children. Researchers analyzed data from children ranging in age from nine to 13 and followed them into the majority of their adult years. Children who had been victims of bullying had a greater risk for anxiety, panic and depressive disorders, general anxiety and agoraphobia.
Those who were both victims of bullying and bullies themselves suffered more severely than those that were only victims of bullying. Researchers discovered that approximately 38 percent of these adults suffered from a panic disorder and 25 percent reported that they had suicidal thoughts as young adults.
Illinois school bullying laws
In Illinois, it is a requirement by law for schools to attempt to prevent bullying. The Illinois General Assembly states that it is necessary for a safe and civil school environment to be created in order for children to effectively learn. Because of this, bullying is not permitted on school property, transportation to and from school, during any school-sponsored activity or program, or through electronic equipment, like school computers.
The Illinois General Assembly defines bullying as any action that places a student in fear of harm, causes a significant effect on the student’s physical or mental health, interferes with the student’s ability to achieve academically, or prohibits the student from benefitting from the school’s services and activities. In order to promote these statutes, each school in the state is required to devise and maintain a bullying policy and file it with the State Board of Education. An attorney can help a victimized child and their parents understand their rights in regards to their school’s anti-bullying policy and remedies that may be available to control the situation.