Friday, February 21, 2014

The Role of Guidance Counselors and Mental Health Professionals in Addressing Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is a mental health issue, a lack of Internet literacy and technology skills issue, and a lack of impulse control, coupled with boredom, easy access to technology, and the need for their 15 megabytes of fame. All have to be addressed to prevent cyberbullying.

But once it starts, the most crucial professionals are the guidance counselor and mental health professionals. They are the only ones capable of putting the target humpty-dumpty back together again. They are the only ones able to get peer counselors to step in and help put out the raging cyberbullying fires that were set across the Internet. They can prevent serious emotional scarring and keep students from seeing despair so deep that suicide looks like an option.

Parry’s chiropractor told her that unless you treat whiplash within the first 36 hours, the physical damage can be both painful and permanent. But early treatment can relieve the pain and prevent serious physical damage. The pain of being targeted by others in your class or school, a former best friend, or boyfriend/girlfriend is often too hard to bear alone. Yet, students are fearful or are embarrassed to share their plight. Gentle support and understanding can be perhaps even more valuable than treating whiplash in the first day and a half. If handled right, the target will be able to eventually put this in perspective. If mishandled, there will be scars for life.

Suicides are increasing. We can no longer sit back and tell them that “sticks and stones will break their bones, but words will never hurt them”—they know better. Words do hurt and can wound them deeply and permanently. Cyberbullying doesn’t make them stronger. It hurts.

Unless the guidance counselors and mental health professionals are willing to step forward and lead in framing solutions to the problem as a whole and to each victim of cyberbullying, we are all lost.

We’re counting on you! Don’t let us down.

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