Sacking a Bully
In January 2011, a 13-year-old Pennsylvania boy named Nadin Khoury was walking home from school. He was accosted by a group of seven boys who proceeded to viciously and relentlessly attack him for approximately 30 minutes. One of the perpetrators filmed the attack on his phone. Nadin subsequently informed his parents of the attack, they informed the police and the video that was found propelled this incident into the national spotlight.
After the video was released, Nadin appeared on the morning show “The View”. At the end of his interview, he was surprised by his favorite NFL player, DeSean Jackson. He came onto the stage with two of his Philadelphia Eagle teammates and gave Nadin the jersey off of his back. Nadin was so overcome with emotion that he broke into tears.
Since then, Jackson has started a personal crusade against bullying and has worked nationally to raise awareness and to promote anti-bullying causes. This is such a perfect fit for an athlete. As Sports Illustrated’s Mike Rosenberg writes, “In many ways, it is the ideal cause for a pro athlete — exactly the right way to use our country’s sports-idol worship for the greater good…athletes are uniquely suited to fight bullying. From elementary school to pick-up games at the Y, they command respect from their peers. They epitomize cool. And if they say bullying is not cool, that resonates.” I couldn’t have said it any better.
The anti-bullying cause is extremely important. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry reports that half of all children in the United States will be a victim of bullying and 10% of them will be bullied on a regular basis. Bullying can be verbally and physically aggressive. Either way, it often causes significant damage to the victim. Studies show that victims of bullying are at greater risk for declining academic performance, aggressive behavior, somatic complaints, depression and anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. You probably remember at least two cases of “Bullycide” (kids committing suicide directly related to bullying) that have been national stories in the last few years.
Sadly, many children are reluctant to report bullying and therefore it is estimated that adults intervene in only 4% of cases of bullying. The best response a child can have to bullying is to tell an adult. Kids must be encouraged to talk about bullying. Many children do not because they are worried about reprisal, that they will be considered a “wimp” or a “tattle-tale”, that adults won’t help or they are simply ashamed. When they know that a great NFL player like Jackson thinks bullying sucks and is not cool, chances are increased they report an incident. Children should be encouraged that it is strength, not weakness to enlist resources and help for adversity.
Additionally, bullying tends to be decreased when kids are around friends. If a child is struggling socially, work towards finding him or her a benevolent peer mentor or group at school. One study reports that when another child intervenes in a bullying incident, the bullying stops within 10 seconds. We all know that ignoring a bully can help as well but there are times that strategy will not work, such as when a child is being attacked by seven other children.
Adults must intervene and it starts with good communication with your child at home and with the school. School programs that focus on the prevention of bullying work and should be encouraged. If you suspect any form of bullying that your child may be involved in or that is going on in school, make a point of talking with the school that day if possible. The sooner the intervention the better.
I want to personally thank DeSean Jackson for his anti-bully efforts as we child psychiatrists and psychologists are busy enough as it is. We don’t need more work. I hope other professional athletes and other role models jump onto this band wagon as well. Let’s spread the word; the new cool is to be secure enough in yourself that you don’t need to pick on others to feel better and that you can ask for help when needed.
This is also pretty cool: according to Sports Illustrated, Nadin Khoury and DeSean Jackson now have a friendship and continue to keep in touch. I would bet my lucky Bronco’s hat that Nadin is no longer bullied.