How Strengthening Your Inner-Self Can Help Combat Bullying: A Q&A With Thrive Wellness Reno Executive Director Jill Packman, Ph.D., MFT

How Strengthening Your Inner-Self Can Help Combat Bullying: A Q&A With Thrive Wellness Reno Executive Director Jill Packman, Ph.D., MFT

bullying

In this Q&A with Thrive Wellness Reno Executive Director Jill Packman, Ph.D., MFT, Dr. Packman provides an overview of bullying in modern culture, do’s and don’t’s for those seeking to help victims of bullying, as well as ways therapy can empower individuals to overcome bullying. 

What is bullying?

Bullying is any action intended to insult or harm another person. The bully generally conveys contempt or power over the victim. 

Types of bullying include:
  • Relational: A covert type of bullying that seeks to damage a person’s reputation or relationships. 
  • Physical: Such as hitting, tripping, pushing, or damaging property.
  • Verbal: May include insults, mocking, or intimidation.
  • Cyber: Using digital communication to cause intentional harm to a person.

Related: Seven Self-Confidence Boosting Affirmations and Tips for Victims of Bullying

What shape does bullying take in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood? 

For children and adolescents, bullying can occur in schools, camps, clubs, and other social settings. Bullying commonly takes place when adults aren’t able to pay close attention and may happen in school hallways, bathrooms, playgrounds, or lunchrooms. 

Adult bullying can be overt or covert and is often couched as “joking.” It can even be “sanctioned”, especially in workplaces. As with children and adolescents, adults may also bully one another online.

How has bullying evolved with the explosion of social media? 

Social media provides a format for individuals to express themselves online in ways they likely wouldn’t in person. Many have become increasingly comfortable saying hurtful things online and consequently feel emboldened to speak more offensively face-to-face. Social media can also serve as a space for individuals to more easily join forces in bullying another person. 

For children and adolescents, social media has made bullying even more pervasive. Before social media, youths may have had a respite from any bullying after school. Today, however, children and adolescents can be inundated by unkind digital messages from their peers even when they’re at home. 

What are the potential impacts of bullying on mental and behavioral health? 

Bullying impacts mental and behavioral health in very similar ways as other types of aggressive trauma. Individuals who experience bullying may also face anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and panic attacks as a result. 

What should individuals avoid when attempting to help someone who is being bullied? 

The presence of the power differential and the possibility of cyberbullying can make the problem of bullying much more ingrained, extensive, and difficult to overcome. As such, addressing the complex issue of bullying requires a nuanced approach. 

Some things to avoid when supporting a victim of bullying include:
  • Interrogating the victim: Refrain from bombarding the victim with questions, such as, “Where were you?,” “What were you doing?,” and “Can you just stay away from the bully?” Although you may be attempting to gather information, this kind of questioning can make the person feel accused. 
  • Restructuring the victim’s schedule: Switching the victim’s classes or lunchtime unfairly asks them to rearrange their life and may feel like a punishment.
  • Encouraging the victim and the bully to attempt to mediate the issue: Because bullying is a form of contempt, the bully is not likely to offer a genuine apology. 
  • Providing simplistic advice to the victim: Suggestions such as, “Stand up to them,” “Laugh it off,” or “Avoid them,” are often strategies the victim has already tried without success. Instead of being supportive, this kind of advice can be insulting and make the victim feel like a failure. 

How can a person help a victim of bullying? 

To aid an individual being bullied, empathize with the victim by acknowledging their pain, frustration, and feelings of helplessness. Express that no one deserves to be treated the way the victim has been treated. From there, foster the victim’s self-esteem and resilience, which are antidotes to bullying.

How can therapy help a person who is being bullied? 

Therapists are trained to address the problem of bullying with empathy and understanding, knowing that the destructive dynamics of bullying are often complicated. During therapy, the clinician works to develop a trusting relationship with the client, guides them to deeper self-understanding, and helps them integrate healthy coping skills.  

Related: Nine Tips For Finding a Mental or Behavioral Health Professional That’s a Fit

What other professionals can help if a person is being bullied? 

Due to the shame and embarrassment associated with bullying, a person may be hesitant to reveal that they are a victim of bullying. Additionally, children and adolescents often don’t have faith that adults can make bullying stop, so they may neglect to disclose they’re experiencing bullying. 

A medical provider can help identify bullying by asking compassionate, perceptive questions. In addition to referring the patient to a therapist, a medical provider may also prescribe antidepressant or antianxiety medications if the bullying is impacting the patient’s mood.

School counselors, teachers, and principals may also be helpful resources for victims of bullying. 

Related: Back to School, Back to Normal? The Effects of Pandemic-Era Education on Children’s Mental Health and How to Help Them Succeed This School Year

SUPPORT FOR VICTIMS OF BULLYING AT THRIVE WELLNESS

Thrive’s mental and behavioral health specialists treat individuals of all ages that are victims of bullying. Through integrated, empathetic care, our clinicians can foster your resilience by guiding you in processing your experience, helping you gain greater self-insight, and empowering you with skills to face adversity. Reach out to learn more about our outpatient therapy services

While all Thrive Wellness locations offer interdisciplinary clinical teams who collaborate to treat eating disorders, perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs), and additional mental and behavioral health conditions, programs and services may vary by location.

About the Contributor

Thrive Wellness Reno Executive Director Jill Packman, Ph.D., MFT

Before relocating to Reno, Nevada, Dr. Jill Packman earned a bachelor’s degree at Tulane University, a master’s degree in education in counseling at the University of Central Oklahoma, and a Ph.D. in counseling at the University of North Texas, specializing in counselor education and supervision, play therapy, and family therapy.

Upon arrival in “The Biggest Little City” in 2002, Dr. Packman joined the counseling department at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), where she served as coordinator of school counseling, marriage and family therapy, and the overall counseling program. Inspired by the desire to identify and close gaps in communication and care, she transferred to UNR’s school of medicine, where she directed interprofessional education. During her time at UNR, she also taught physician assistant students about behavioral medicine.

Dr. Packman has a passion for supporting underserved and marginalized populations and enjoys working with children, adolescents, adults, and families using a holistic and integrated care approach. As the executive director of Thrive Wellness Reno, she intends to further pursue these passions alongside a multidisciplinary team of clinicians and colleagues who are wholeheartedly committed to serving the Northern Nevada community.

Dr. Packman grew up in Texas and now resides in Minden, Nevada, where she, her husband, and son enjoy skiing, rock climbing, hiking, electric biking, and spending time at Lake Tahoe. Her son is a nationally ranked rock climber who, alongside his father, also develops recreational rock climbing areas for others to enjoy.