February is Violence Prevention Month and a group of community partners and researchers from education, nursing, sociology and psychology at Memorial University, with the support of the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Applied Health Research, is working to find ways to make our schools and workplaces become safe from bullying and harassment.
Dr. Gerald White, research computing specialist with the Faculty of Education at Memorial, established the Research Exchange Group on Bullying and Health in 2013.
“We started this group to look at the research on bullying and health and to help find solutions that will minimize bullying in our schools and workplaces,” said Dr. White. “This can only happen through collaboration, so it is important that we call on a range of viewpoints to find solutions to bullying behaviours. The group includes researchers from various disciplines, students, parents, teachers, principals, representatives from the province’s school districts and members of the general public who are concerned about this major health issue.”
The Research Exchange Group on Bullying and Health gathers monthly to discuss applied health research related to bullying and health in Newfoundland and Labrador, whether it is focused on the school system, the workplace, the post-secondary experience, health professional bullying or issues of leadership. The group works together to create research links and identify funding opportunities and research gaps, with a view to developing greater overall capacity to conduct research on bullying and health and to promote evidence-informed public policy on bullying and health in Newfoundland and Labrador.
During his doctoral studies, Dr. White decided he wanted to research the problem of bullying in schools. As he read the literature on school bullying, he started to question why some students bully and why others become victims. It is more complicated than many people think, he says.
“My research revealed that the greatest risk factor of being a victim of a given form of bullying is to already be a victim of another type of bullying,” said Dr. White. “This means that if someone is a victim of physical bullying, for example, it is more likely that he or she will also be a victim of another form of bullying, such as cyber bullying. Likewise, the biggest risk factor for becoming a bully is engaging in other types of bullying.”
Dr. White completed his doctoral studies in the Faculty of Medicine and focused on determinants of health, such as child development, education and safe schooling. Students who are bullied are at risk of not achieving these basics. His research indicates that being bullied is associated with a number of negative outcomes, not only being harmed physically, but also experiencing the self-reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, suicidal ideation or suicide. Bullying has long-term consequences for overall health into adulthood, with commonly reported problems such as depression and low self-esteem. Research has shown that both the bully and the bystander are at risk for health-related problems.
Dr. White received his doctor of philosophy degree from Memorial University in May 2014 and was awarded the Governor General’s Academic Medal (Gold) for his achievements in the program.
Please visit www.nlcahr.mun.ca/Research_Exchange/Bullyinghealth.php for additional information on the Research Exchange Group on Bullying and Health and future scheduled meetings.