Demi Lovato and the long-term effects of bullying

Demi Lovato, the Disney starlet and singer, is in treatment for emotional and physical issues. By now you’ve probably heard that from your child or seen it on the news. Her representative told the media that the issues Lovato’s being seen for in treatment are some that “she has dealt with for some time. Demi has decided to take responsibility for her actions and seek help.”

Reportedly, those issues stem from bullying and may include past instances of an eating disorder and cutting, a form of self-injury that some people do as a way to alleviate feelings of pain or emotional distress.

Bullying can happen to anyoneLovato has spoken out against bullying in the past and acknowledged that it has happened to her. She left middle school because of verbal harassment and was home schooled after that. She recently made a public service announcement denouncing bullying for National Bullying Prevention Month.

Crista Wetherington, a psychologist at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, says if bullying has been an issue for Lovato, the 18-year-old is not alone.

“While Lovato is not your typical teen, her example points to the fact that bullying can happen to anybody,” Wetherington said. “Additionally, it shows that bullying can have a significant and long-term impact on children and teenagers who are bullied. Bullying can even contribute to eating disorders and self-injury.”

Parents, teachers and other adults involved in the lives of children must commit to creating safe environments where bullying is not tolerated. Parents and teachers should also be aware of changes in the child’s behavior that may suggest he or she is being bullied, Wetherington said, such as refusal to attend school, missing possessions or money, unexplained bruises/cuts/injuries, reluctance to talk about school, anxiety, and seeming withdrawn.

Tips for parents
Wetherington has these suggestions:

  • Keep an open dialogue with your child about their feelings.
  • Ask them about bullying at school. You may have to probe for answers. It may help to ask them first about how other children at school are treated before they are comfortable talking about their own experiences.
  • Tell them they are not alone, that they have a right to be safe, and that it is the responsibility of you as parents and their teachers to ensure that the bullying stops.
  • Work with the school to identify the bully and ensure measures are put into place to stop the bullying. If your child reports bullying of another child, discuss that with the school as well. Bullies may be targeting several kids.
  • Parents and children should be aware of how they treat those around them. Words and actions can be unintentionally harmful. It’s all about character development and how you treat your friends and other people.
  • Work to keep your child in school if they’ve been bullied. It’s up to the school to change the environment to one that is safe for all children.

Wetherington said: “We hope that the publicity around Lovato’s decision to enter treatment helps children and teens who are being bullied or experiencing mental health issues realize that it is important to communicate with adults they trust to get the help they need. We hope she gets the help she needs in treatment for whatever health issues she’s having.”

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