Nearly one in three adolescents in the U.S. who are affected by bullying are at risk for developing mental health issues but many middle and high school students face barriers to getting help, says The American Academy of Pediatrics. Youth who are the victims of bullies may develop mental health disorders such as anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, and self-harm. Less than one quarter of teens receive help, however, so researchers sought to understand the barriers youth face when seeking mental health care.
Researchers surveyed 440 middle and high school students in Cumberland County, N.C. The results revealed that 29 percent of the respondents reported they were bullied in the past. Within this group, 54 percent of 11 to 14 year-olds were bullied compared to 46 percent of the respondents who were ages 15 to 18 years old.
The researchers identified obstacles to mental health services and found 11 that related specifically to respondents who had been bullied. “Chief among these was a lack of adequate screening and counseling by medical providers,” said Amira El Sherif, MD, FAAP, a private practitioner with Kidzcare Pediatrics in Fayetteville, N. C. School system barriers were identified such as poor enforcement of investigation procedures, educators’ inaction, inadequate communication with parents, and a lack of school follow-up.
Dr. El Sherif said that schools needed training programs on bullying that require frequent evaluation to ensure that quality standards are met. “Overall, improving communication between medical providers, school officials and parents would allow for a team approach to bullying, which would improve mental health screening and access to services,” she said.