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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Tackling the torment of bullying, from the Buddy Bench

More than 75% of mental health issues occur before the age of 25, with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) one of the most severe consequences of bullying.

Recent Australian studies reveal that at the time of bullying 40.5% of girls and 27.6% of boys show PTSD symptoms, torment that can follow them into later life.

On Friday 19th March the Toronto community joined National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence, marking its commitment to stand against such behaviour.

At a presentation event Toronto Private Hospital gifted a Buddy Bench to Toronto Public School to help educate children about the importance of inclusivity and healthy relationships at school. 

The bench is one of 30 that the national health provider, Healthe Care Australia, is donating to schools across the country to help change the narrative. 

Toronto Private Hospital CEO Sue-Ellen Blomfield said the benches were a symbol of inclusiveness.

“As one of Australia’s largest mental health providers, together we are taking action to empower students to rally and unite against bullying and violence,” she said.

“Toronto Private Hospital’s Buddy Bench initiative aims to encourage inclusions and friendship among students in the playground and promote positive mental health and wellbeing in the youth of today.

“We hope the introduction of this mental health initiative improves the students’ feelings of acceptance while eliminating feelings of loneliness and bullying in the schoolyard.

“Over 75% of mental health issues occur before the age of 25, it is our intention that Toronto private Hospital’s Buddy Bench will help students develop fundamental emotional skills they can carry throughout their educational journey and life. 

“The Buddy Bench will furthermore help to foster the early intervention of potential mental illness and reduce the stigma that surrounds mental health in the community.

“One in every five children are reportedly bullied every week,” she said.

“Buddy benches provide students with a safe place to express their need for staff and student support. 

“They also have the benefit of starting important conversations around mental health which can be carried throughout school and into adulthood.”

An East Lakes mental health hospital is joining the stance and saying no to bullying after damning research highlighted a spike in mental health related conditions including PTSD, anxiety and depression, related to bullying and poor youth mental health.

Recent Australian studies revealed PTSD can be triggered by just remembering a bullying incident or by related stimuli, such as visiting their school as adults or by encountering their bully in a different environment. 

Toronto Private Hospital consultant psychiatrist Dr Arvind Kendurkar said there was a strong link between bullying and PTSD but hoped the new addition to school playgrounds would provide safe spaces for children needing support from peers or teachers.

“Without intervention, children who experience long-term bullying are at risk for chronic depression, increased risk of suicidal thoughts, suicide plans, and suicide attempts, anxiety disorders, PTSD, self-destructive behaviour – including self-harm and substance abuse,” he said.

“In a way, COVID-19 has masked the effects because children have been at home more, but negative behaviour has definitely been magnified on social media. 

“The prevalence of bullying and youth mental health issues is a national crisis, but I think buddy benches are a great social education tool and will help promote inclusion, start conversations about healthy relationships and hierarchy in the playground, and provide a place of comfort.”

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