International Day against Bullying: Let’s take care of the mental health of students

International Anti-Bullying Day is commemorated on May 2. The aim is to encourage students, parents, members and authorities of educational communities, and various sectors of society, including the technology industry, to participate in the prevention of all types of violence. It also seeks to promote safe learning environments, which are of great importance for the health, well-being and development of children and young people.

Bullying, cyberbullying and school violence in all its forms constitute a violation of the rights to education, health and well-being of children and adolescents.

 

Ending School Violence to Improve Mental Health and Learning

Globally, there is increased concern about the mental health and well-being of students, especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, which had devastating effects on children and adolescents. Schools are expected to provide a safe and nurturing environment for both students and teachers. However, the facts show that this is not always the case. For many people, the school becomes a place where the school community is at the mercy of violence and bullying. 

The profound link between mental health and violent acts perpetrated in schools is undeniable. Experiences such as violence, bullying and discrimination in the school environment can lead to mental disorders and affect learning, while a feeling of safety in school is closely related to better mental health and educational performance.

 

In what context does school violence occur?

Unfortunately, school violence is a widespread phenomenon, which manifests itself through physical, psychological or sexual violence and includes gender-based violence, bullying and cyberbullying.

Every year, one billion children face violence in and around schools worldwide.

According to UNESCO, one in three students between the ages of 11 and 15 experience bullying at least once a month. More than 36% of students are involved in a physical fight with a peer and nearly one in three have been physically assaulted at least once a year. One in ten children experience cyberbullying. Although data collected on sexual violence in and around schools is limited, there is evidence that it significantly affects students of all genders.

 

How can school violence affect mental health and learning?

School violence has serious and lasting consequences for the mental health, well-being and education of children and adolescents.

Experiences at school, such as peer violence and bullying, are associated with anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and actions, and self-harm. Perpetrating violent acts is also associated with poor mental health, and there is evidence that children with emotional and behavioral disorders may engage in aggressive behaviors.

Violence affects children’s ability to learn. Students who experience or witness school violence are more likely to be truant, underachieve and even drop out of school. Children who are bullied are twice as likely to be lonely, sleep deprived and suicidal.

Preventing and responding to school violence has a direct impact on student protection, mental health and learning. Teachers can also experience or witness violence, and many report feeling stress and fear when working in a violent environment.

Therefore, it is an imperative task to end violence and preserve mental health in schools to ensure that students learn and develop in safe and nurturing spaces.

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