Being Bullied May Alter The Teen Brain, Increase Risk For Mental Illness

Teens who are often bullied may be left with shrinkage in key parts of their brain, increasing their risk for mental illness, European researchers report. They said such shrinkage eventually appears to create a growing sense of anxiety, even after taking into account the possible onset of other mental health concerns, such as stress and/or depression.

"We don’t know how early in life these brain changes begin," said study author Erin Burke Quinlan. "But the earlier bullying is identified, and the sooner it can be dealt with, the better."

Quinlan suggested parents who suspect bullying is taking place speak with a child’s principal or teacher about it. But, she cautioned, victims are often reluctant to tell anyone what’s happening.

"Sometimes a child may not verbally admit they’re being bullied, so parents can watch out for nonverbal cues or changes in their child’s behavior or their attitudes towards school," Quinlan said. "A mental health professional could be useful to help a child develop tools to deal with being bullied.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Students being bullied and students who are bullying are more at risk for mental health concerns that can develop into their adulthood. The need to intervene and teach tools and skills to navigate and cope with bullying is so important. Bloom recognizes that students often don’t reach out when they experience bullying, even if they’re told so our activities are designed to have students share in a safe, confidential way what they are going through so we can best support and empower them.

Andi Long