Bullying and Mental Health - Trigger warning for harm.
My daughter is Gifted with Autism. She also has Pathological Demand Avoidance. And now she is very mentally unwell.
Generally - when balanced - she is a great kid, full of spunk, great sense of humour, a real extrovert and so many love her for her wonderful empathy and loyalty to her friends.
But she has been suffering bullying now for many years. She is 12 years old and has been bullied almost continuously for being different since she was 7. She had her first mental breakdown at 7 years old - with psychotic episodes - violent ones that would sometimes go for up to two hours - and she often couldn't remember them afterward. She got help at the time through CAHMS and was put on medication - but it is what started the bullying at school because other kids saw that side of her. Unfortunately she couldn't live it down even when she was better. She lost a lot of friends, and a lot of popularity.. it was very lonely for her.
After three years of intense bullying (in hindsight we should have left the school much earlier) we changed schools. But the damage was done. My daughter is now very reactive due to triggers - so any kid who teases her ends up with her reacting as if it is massive bullying. She doesn't cope with the smallest of things, and it has been slowly getting worse.
Last week she attempted suicide for he first time and went to a depressed state that she has never had before - complete dissassociation.
Now she is slowly transitioning back to school - but the problem is, despite all the best efforts from the teachers, and us (setting up a safety plan) - some of the antagonisers are still bullying her - they sneak in and say small things that make her feel even worse about herself. This is not helping her mental health, it is making things really hard for her.
How can I stop these kids from being so cruel? She is 12 years old. I want them to stop - I can't work out how I can make them understand that their cruel words could lead to her badly harming herself.. I am so afraid of her.
Before anyone suggests it, I am really spent, suffering a lot of mental health issues myself - so homeschooling is not something I can manage, neither is unschooling - I need respite desperately and that is the time I get it. I also need to work two days a week to keep our income up enough to keep going. The hospital has no room to take my daughter either, so there is nowhere but home and school for her at the moment.
Any help, anyone can give, will be much appreciated.
I had a tear in my eye.
Firstly, what a wonderful mum you are.
I would actually try even another school. In fact ideally, if you live in the countryside the smaller the school the better or consider moving there.
I have no other suggestions. As I was reading I did think of home schooling. I understand you are exhausted.
Hoping others chip in too.
I’m really sorry that your daughter is so unwell and struggling at school.
I know first hand how hard it is. At 13 my daughter fell ill with a mental illness, she was also bullied and became suicidal.
It’s heartbreaking. And I know you’re at the end of your rope.
Part of the problem is the age of the girls. They really struggle to understand the harm they are causing and in our case they didn’t “get” mental illness or chose not to.
Two of my daughter’s tormentors reached out when they were about 17 or 18 to apologise. This helped my daughter heal, a lot.
If it’s possible to change schools then that is something to consider. You could also escalate the matter within your school.
I’d be letting them know the bullying is continuing, the impact is profound and that this is a serious matter. Ask for a review of the safety plan.
For example, where are the bullies “sneaking in” to? How are they doing this? Surely this could be prevented with better monitoring.
Ask if a school counsellor could be present in the meeting. They should be able to help the administrators see the importance of swiftly taking action. If there is no counsellor ask your daughter’s MH practitioner to participate via Skype or phone or in person (assuming your daughter has one).
I often organised my daughter’s psychologist to attend important meetings. It helps because they can offer insights and suggestions that others might not think of. And they will always strongly advocate for their patient.
You can also ask if school could apply for funding for a disability support worker on your daughter’s behalf (this is more to help with the transition back and to help her access her education on a level playing field).
School should also be able to work with the offenders—individually or in a group setting. Is this happening?
At one stage I was so desperate that I contacted the police. I was told it is possible to take out a restraining order but it’s a process and you’d have to have the strength.
You’re not alone Ammee. There’s lots of mums (and dads and carers) like us out there. It’s hard but you can do this. You’re doing an amazing job to care for your girl and provide for her, just hang in there.
Kind thoughts to you
So sorry to read your post I really feel for you and your daughter…
It would be really hard for your daughter to be experiencing mental illness and then to have people bullying her on top of it would be horrible….
How do you get the bullies to stop? They need to be sent to the principals office and have consequences for their behaviour…….suspension ect Their parents should be notified of the bullying , the school needs to be notified of how much damage the bullies are doing to your child….. bullying is totally unacceptable behaviour!
Just another question I had for you….. have you ever thought about putting your child through a anti bullying program? They sometimes run them in gyms…….
it teaches children to be resilient to bullies……
they learn what to do if they are being bullied…… who to tell, what to say ect……
your an amazing Parent, keep up the great work I wish you and your daughter all the best….
I thought of your post when I read the below, I think if teachers taught this from a young age maybe the children could understand……… theirs always HOPE….
A teacher was teaching a class about bullying and gave them the following exercise to perform. She had the children take a piece of paper and told them to crumple it up, stomp on it and really mess it up but be careful not to rip it. Then she had them unfold the paper, smooth it out and look at how scared it was. She told them to tell it they’re sorry. Now even though they said they were sorry and tried to fix the paper , she pointed out all the scars they left behind . And that those scars will never go away no matter how hard they tried to fix it . That’s what happens with a child bullies another child, they may say they are sorry but the scars are there forever . The looks on the faces of the children in the classroom told her the message hit home.
Hope your days are getting better