View from the Administrator:
Taking a Stand against Bullying
By Pamela S. Hyde, J.D., SAMHSA Administrator
Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance and that may be repeated over time. Both children who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems. SAMHSA is committed to reducing bullying through enhancing assistance for parents, prevention efforts at schools and in communities, public education, and coordination of prevention activities across federal agencies.
A key element in this effort is SAMHSA's ongoing support of www.StopBullying.gov (see "Bullying: Dispelling Myths, Enhancing Prevention" in this issue), a resource for parents, educators, community members, and children. SAMHSA partners with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Department of Education (DOE), and Department of Justice (DOJ), and others to support the site, which is a repository of information, news, and resources on bullying prevention.
SAMHSA is also an active participant in the Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Steering Committee, an interagency initiative led by DOE that coordinates policy, research, and communications on bullying.
To raise awareness among professionals, SAMHSA collaborated with CDC on a special issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health devoted to bullying and suicide published last June. Adopting the same multifaceted approach as StopBullying.gov, the special supplement synthesizes the latest research on the complex connection between bullying and suicide.
SAMHSA has also reached out to other important groups including journalists and the entertainment industry community. Because certain trends in media coverage, or portrayal, of bullying can do more harm than good, SAMHSA established a Media Coverage of Bullying Task Force which produced the Media Guidelines for Bullying Prevention. This resource offers recommendations and resources to journalists, the entertainment industry, and others who are developing content about bullying.
On a more systemic level, the Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative grant program brings together entire communities to promote safe school environments, healthy child development, and substance use prevention.
Ninety-six percent of school staff reported that the program had improved safety in their schools. Plus, troubled children started getting the help they needed, with a 263 percent increase in students receiving school-based mental health services and 519 percent increase in those receiving community-based services. SAMHSA has taken the valuable lessons learned from this community-level program and has recently awarded state-level grants to expand the reach of this program.
The approach is so successful that President Obama drew on lessons learned from Safe Schools/Healthy Students in a proposal put forth in his Now Is the Time plan and FY2014 budget. Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education), would build on strategies from Safe Schools/Healthy Students proven to decrease violence in schools and increase the number of students receiving mental health services by helping school districts work with law enforcement, mental health agencies, and other local organizations to assure students with mental health or other behavioral health issues are referred to the services they need. Project AWARE also proposes to support training for teachers and other adults who interact with youth to detect and respond to mental illness in children and young adults, including how to encourage them and their families to seek treatment.
By preventing and addressing bullying behavior, we can help create an environment that encourages physical and emotional health and personal growth for all children.