Female students have elevated rates of bullying, distress 0
Sugar and spice and every thing nice isn’t exactly what girls are made of these days.
According to a youth survey released Tuesday, female students are showing elevated rates of bullying and psychological distress, along with become violent toward their peers.
The Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS), conducted by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), revealed an increasing negative trend of teen girls committing and/or being victims of bullying, psychological distress and physical violence among their schoolmates.
“It’s an important and concerning trend we’re seeing. The problem behaviors have been decreasing among young males, but not among females,” said Dr. Robert Mann, CAMH senior scientist and lead investigator of the study. “In adolescence, life is full of fun and a lack of stress. But this study shows us that’s not the case for many young females.”
The survey was conducted from November 2010 to June 2011 with 9,288 students in grades 7 to 12 at 181 Ontario schools.
Mann said the number of students reporting psychological distress has remained at 34% since 1999 when CAMH began tracking it.
Distress can come in the form of depression, anxiety, social dysfunction, lack of sleep and poor self-image.
But, this year, that number among females shot up to 43% from 36% in 1999, over the 24% of reports from teen boys.
Along with that stress, the survey showed 14% of teen girls experienced thoughts of suicide and 4% tried to commit suicide at twice the rate of boys.
“We see overall higher rates of suicidal ideation in females. They are twice as likely to report thoughts or attempts of it,” Mann said.
The picture looks similar in the Barrie area, too, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Simcoe branch.
“We provide outreach in the local high schools and my team is in most Barrie schools. In the last couple of years, the demand for our services has increased steadily,” said Angela Munday, CHMA’s program manager for its early prevention program and youth services.
“Demand for our groups — Girl Talk and our self esteem group — have been through the roof. We’ve seen 30 students in one group, which is double what we’d normally see.”
Munday said, in regards to suicide, reports are still steady for that, as well.
“The cutting and the thoughts of suicide among girls is still there,” she said. “It is scary to think about that, really.”
The survey also outlined bullying, and found that males reported a decline in being bullying victims. For the girls, however, reports show they are twice as likely to be bullied or to bully — 28% more likely versus 15% of boys.
CMHA Barrie-Simcoe is finding much of the same.
“In terms of bullying, girls are increasingly being bullied and initiating the bullying more than boys,” Munday said.
“The boys are pretty aggressive, in your face and saying ‘Let’s take this outside’. With the girls, we’re seeing more passive-aggressive cyberbullying — threats made on Facebook or through texts. And the physical violence is also increasing.”
Munday said she believes cyberspace makes it much easier for students to bully or be bullied, because sending a text or Facebook message doesn’t require the bully to face the victim or hear their voice while picking on them.
One positive note Munday did make was the increase she’s seen in young girls seeking help for their behaviors or pressures they feel socially.
“My gut feeling is that the idea that they aren’t alone in how they feel is why,” she said. “There are more and more young students reporting being victims of violence or bullying and they realize other people understand how they feel.
“We offer individual and group counseling and on a wider scale. We need to do more to educate youth to end stigmatization and bullying,” she added.
Bullying, mental stress growing among girls
- According to the OSDUHS survey, 34% of students reported psychological stress in their school lives.
- Adolescent stress, depression, anxiety and sleep loss is higher among female students at 43%, up from 36% in 1999.
- Twenty-four percent of male students reported feeling these stressers.
- Thoughts of suicide were reported by 14% of girls surveyed, and another 4% said they’d attempted suicide.
- Girls reported being twice as likely to be victims of cyberbullying at 28% over the 15% of young males.
- A shocking 31% of teen girls said they’d been victims of bullying at school, over 26% of males.