Understanding the complex world of bullying

By Sandra Gray

UMass Medical School Communications

October 18, 2011

Tackling a topic that’s hot on and off the school yard, UMass Medical School presented “Be Mentally Well: Understanding the Complex World of Bulling” on Oct. 12.

“Responding to the nationwide bullying crisis requires knowing how to recognize the signs as well as the social norms that promote a passive acceptance of bullying behavior,” said Laura Myers, MSW, EdD, director of parent and community relations for the Department of Psychiatry, who established the Be Mentally Well series. “Fortunately, there is a range of prevention and intervention strategies that are effective in assisting our youth in building the essential skills needed to curb bullying.”

A large audience, including Commissioner Barbara Leadholm and Assistant Commissioner of Child/Adolescent Services Joan Mikula from the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, heard presentations offering practical information on a range of topics related to bullying. Negar Beheshti, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry and pediatrics, gave an overview focused on how to identify who are targets and who are aggressors. Dr. Beheshti, who directs the Child Psychiatry Consultation/Liaison Service and Child Emergency Mental Health Service at UMass Memorial Medical Center, has recently addressed bullying in local media outlets including the Worcester Telegram and Gazette and CBS-TV3 in Springfield.

Massachusetts Assistant District Attorney M. Julie Lesure spoke about how to use technology respectfully, responsibly and safely to help curb the unprecedented challenge of cyberbullying, laying out the emotional as well as legal consequences. Finally, experts Judith Thompson, coordinator of counseling, psychology and community outreach for the Worcester Public Schools and Sharon Rogan, behavior specialist at a Worcester elementary school, talked about what schools are doing and what families can do to change the culture that accepts bullying as a normal part of child development.

The bullying program was the latest installment of Be Mentally Well, a semiannual series of community education programs launched last year by the Department of Psychiatry to support children and families affected by mental illness. To learn more about the Department of Psychiatry and Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry’s education, research and public service activities, visit http://www.umassmed.edu/psychiatry/index.aspx.