By Chris Kieffer
TUPELO – Bullying is probably not more prevalent today than it has been in the past, Debbie Woodrick Hall said on Tuesday, but technology does provide more opportunities to anonymously harm others.
Hall, director of community relations for North Mississippi State Hospital, led two forums on Tuesday about caring for children’s mental health. She examined the topics of bullying and suicide.
“The most important things are teaching your child confidence and respect, being involved and knowing what is going on with your child,” Hall said. “Just to know what is going on can make a huge difference.”
Hall’s presentation was organized by Parents for Public Schools. She spoke at lunch and again in the evening in the parish hall at All Saints’ Episcopal Church.
Hall talked about characteristics of bullies and victims and outlined red flags for parents to notice. She told parents it is important for them to pattern respect to their children and also for them to instill confidence.
“Probably everybody feels bullied or left out at some point between the eighth and 12th grades,” she said. “Our egos are so fragile at that point. That is something we as a community need to be mindful of.”
Hall also spoke about cyberbullying and emphasized parents must constantly talk to their children about Internet use and remind them of its dangers.
“As parents, you are going to have to set limits if you want to keep your child safe,” she said.
Speaking of suicide, she cautioned parents to be alert for signs of depression and mood changes. One of the most difficult things, she said, can be asking a child if he or she is considering suicide. However, if the warning signs are there, this can be an important conversation, she said.
“It typically opens the door for something to talk about,” she said. “I’m not asking everyone to be a professional, but you can go to the professional who can help you.”
Lavonda Witherspoon of Verona said it was helpful to hear more about the signs of bullying.
“I feel a lot more prepared than I would have before,” said the mother of three.