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Keep Children Safe from Bullying

Personal ways parents can fend off effects of mental strain on their children

Article by Judy Goppert

Photography by Provided

The best thing parents can do to help a child being bullied is to let him or her know they have an open door to talk about anything that is going on. Make sure they do not feel ashamed or embarrassed if they are being bullied. Psychologists understand the number one protective factor for children who are struggling is having at least one trusted adult who they can turn to. They recommend parents set aside five to ten minutes each day, just to talk to your kids. It can be about anything! The news, politics, sports, friends, their interests. The point being that it is consistent and child-driven, so if something were to come up, your son or daughter can bring it up during those special conversations when they feel they can open up to you in your safe loving home, porch or car.

Psychologists understand the number one protective factor for children who are struggling is having at least one trusted adult who they can turn to.

A local man, Kaleb Atkins, understands all too well the effect bullying can have on someone, as he was bullied as a child. His personal experience has led him to strive to help others who may be going through what he did. His big heart and strong caring personality make him someone kids can relate with. He is now dedicated to making a difference. 

“When I was born, my umbilical cord got wrapped around my neck causing lack of oxygen to my brain. It messed up my speech and caused me to stutter some,” Kaleb explained. “I took speech therapy in elementary and high school. My speech problem caused me to get bullied in school. My speech teacher that I had in elementary school was very helpful and nice and understood me. The bullying started in elementary school and continued into high school. I had to sit alone during lunch at school because no other kids wanted me to sit at their table. Some of the teachers that I had didn’t understand my problems and that made it harder for me at school.  The bullying also continued in the workplace after school. I was harassed by another co-worker.”  

When asked advice he would give children today if they are being bullied is to talk to an adult they trust, such as a parent or grandparent, and don’t keep it to yourself. Talking with their school counselor, church pastor or youth pastor for guidance is another suggestion. 

He recommends that parents try to learn if their child is struggling with bullying or mental health, by noticing changes in his or her attitude, and if she is suddenly more easily angered, or has failing grades. 

“A bullied child may not want to go to school anymore, or play outside with friends, and may not be able to answer a popular question from today’s parents, which is ‘How was your day at school’?” he continued.

When asked advice he would give children today if they are being bullied is to talk to an adult they trust, such as a parent or grandparent, and don’t keep it to yourself. Talking with their school counselor, church pastor or youth pastor for guidance is another suggestion. 

There are some wonderful resources in Johnson County for parents and children. Visit findchristiancounselor.com, which offers ways to connect with a counselor through virtual or in-person visits.

Johnson County Mental Health Center is another great resource (jocogov.org/department/mental-health). This valuable organization began operation in 1962, providing outpatient services in one location. Today, a full array of mental health services are provided in five separate facilities located throughout the county. Johnson County Mental Health Center operates under the auspices of Johnson County Government and its operations are overseen by the Board of County Commissioners.  

JCMHC operates as a department of Johnson County Government and provides community mental health services as a licensed Community Mental Health Center (CMHC) by the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services. Its day-to-day operations are conducted by a Senior Management Team that reports to the Assistant County Manager and is overseen by an advisory board, appointed by the Board of County Commissioners.

Another valuable resource in our community is Success Health System LLC. (successhealthsystem.com) Dr Moses Tabe Ambilichu, MD, is a board-certified psychiatrist and the medical director and founder of this group. They offer telepsychiatry and luxury psychiatry visits and FIRST Compassionate Psychiatry and Integrated Mental Health Services.

“With our dedicated and hardworking professionals, we provide excellent and compassionate care, as it’s our mission to place our patients at the center of all our priorities. We strive to be First in our service delivery, because being first is always best!” he expressed. “We treat children, adolescents, adults and geriatric populations. With respect to the specific area of child and adolescent psychiatry, the United States Preventive Task Service Force as well as the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry recommend screening for Anxiety and depression in this population”.

Based on their clinical experience, subtle signs in children and adolescents that should be concerning to parents and should engender a referral are as follows:

  • Social withdrawal/Isolation
  • Changes in appetite
  • Sudden decline in school attendance/performance
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Irritability

Signs which require immediate attention/emergent referral:

  • Ideations of self-harm or harm to others
  • ideations/intent/plan to takes one’s life or the life of another
  • Violent behavior, including but not limited to cruelty to animals, destruction of property
  • Disorganized, incoherent and/or confused or perceived psychotic thinking
  • Manifestations of manic behavior such as rapid speech, euphoria, restlessness, reduced need for sleep

Whatever you are going through, take care of yourselves and each other! 

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