When the taxpayers of Seneca County voted in a new tax in 2008 for mental health and substance abuse services, the board's campaign promise was to share how levy funds were used from 2009 through 2013. We've given a brief description of crisis intervention training, the Suicide Prevention Coalition, LifeSkills and family intervention, and Care Teams. Now, let's talk about bullying - or, more to the point, anti-bullying.
In 2009, the Seneca County Family and Children First Council asked whether the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board would dedicate a portion of levy funds to bring in Jim Bisenius, who has 16 years' experience as a child/adolescent therapist, in teaching youth how to handle bullying situations. This program was offered to every school system in Seneca County, and almost every system accepted the opportunity to invite Mr. Bisenius into their community.
Mr. Bisenius spoke to three distinct groups at each school: school administration and faculty, the student body and parents.
Messages were very specific to the three groups. School administration and faculty were shown why a no-tolerance policy is required, how to identify a bully and a victim, and how to minimize/eliminate bullying behavior. Parents were advised that as a parent, they are a coach. They are not to step out on the playing field. Rather, they must empower their child to "starve" the bully by taking away what the bully is after.
Bullies feed on fear, attention and things. Students were taught that a bully is a lazy opportunist; they will target someone who gives them a fear reaction. To stop the bullying, stop sending the signal you are vulnerable. When the bully is no longer embarrassing their victim or getting a fear response, the "thrill of the hunt" is gone.
Mr. Bisenius shared that 95 percent to 99 pecent of bullying is actually verbal or social; it is less common for physical behavior to happen. On average, a bullying attitude develops around age 2. Groups operate the same for boys and girls; however, boys are more direct. Girls are more likely to take a divide and conquer approach; i.e., spread a rumor about a girl so the group of girls will push her out of the group.
If you would like more information, please call the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot Counties at (419) 448-0640. The board's office hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.