Bullying 101

By Tracey Maxfield

Bullying is the use of repeated, aggressive behaviour intended to hurt another individual, physically, mentally, or emotionally.

It is the use of force, coercion, or threat, to abuse, aggressively dominate or intimidate. The behaviour is often repeated and habitual.

One essential prerequisite is the perception (by the bully or by others) of an imbalance of physical or social power.

This imbalance distinguishes bullying from conflict. Bullies do not need to be stronger or bigger than their victims. Bullying is a subcategory of aggressive behaviour characterized by the following three minimum criteria:

  • Hostile intent
  • Imbalance of power
  • Repetition over a period of time
  • In the bully circle there is:
  • The bully
  • The victim
  • The bully victim
  • And possibly
  • The bystander
  • The assistant
  • The upstander

Types of Bullying

Verbal: name calling, insults, teasing, verbal abuse, racist or homophobic remarks which detrimentally affect’s the victim’s confidence, sense of self-worth, way he/she defines self, activities he/she participates in.

Cyberbullying: using digital technology e.g. computers, phones, social media sites, chat rooms to intentionally bully, harass, threaten, intimidate (will be discussed in Blog #17)

Sexual: verbal, emotional and/or physical harassment, threats and intimidation of the victim’s appearance (body), sexual orientation, gender type, sexual activity

Physical: actions such as hitting, tripping, punching, pushing, kicking and/or damaging personal property of victim

Emotional: humiliation, taunting, threats, exposure, ‘outing’

Relational (Social/Covert): spreads rumours/lies/gossip; playing nasty jokes to embarrass and humiliate; mimicking unkindly, negative facial/physical gestures, contemptuous looks, deliberately isolates/ignores/excludes from an activity/group aimed at destroying the victim’s friendships, peer acceptance.

Dangerous Misconceptions About Bullying

  • Kids need to toughen up
  • Adults can’t do anything
  • Bystanders don’t have a role in bullying
  • Popular kids are bullies
  • It’s obvious when a child/teenager is being bullied

Risk Factors Leading to Bullying

  • Less parental involvement and/or parental rejection
  • Have friends who bully
  • Dislikes following rules (see Blog #5: CD/ODD)
  • Views violence in a positive/acceptable way
  • Aggressive and/or easily frustrated
  • Violence issues at home: physical abuse/discipline, spousal abuse

Who is a Bully?

Research indicates that “those who bully everyday are more likely to have experienced something stressful or traumatic."

Other Indicators of becoming a bully:

  • Death of a beloved pet
  • Experienced an accident, illness, serious attack
  • Parental separation/divorce
  • Significant family problems: mental illness, substance abuse, criminal activity, parental abuse
  • Abuse or neglect – sexual, emotional, physical
  • Type A bully is the cool kid who gains strength by harassing vulnerable kids. These bullies reassure themselves that ‘no harm’ is being done as it is all ‘in fun’ or get others to bully the victim
  • Type B bully is aggressive, uncaring, may be from a dysfunctional family, have a conduct disorder OR may be depressed, anxious, easily pressured and isolated

If you are a bully, there is an increased likelihood of:

  • Substance abuse
  • Criminal convictions
  • Worsening of pre-existing mental disorder(s) is left untreated
  • Developing anti-social personality disorder
  • Struggling to maintain personal, romantic, family relationships
  • Engaging in early sexual activity, risky behaviours
  • Growing up to be an unhappy adult with difficulty maintaining a job and/or becoming a workplace bully

What to Do if Your Child/Teenager is a Bully?

If your child/teenager is bulling, it doesn’t mean that you are a bad parent, nor does it mean that he/she is a bad kid. It is important to remember that there is always a reason for behaviour, whether good or bad.

Your child/teenager is relying on bullying behaviour to exert control, show power and get immediate satisfaction at the expense of another child/teenager.

The question you must ask is why?

Is he/she also being bullied or trying to respond to conflict? Is your child/teenager experiencing emotional problems, or unable to deal with a problem appropriately?

Is he/she being threatened or intimidated? Is the behaviour a reaction to a serious problem he/she may be too embarrassed or scared to talk about e.g. sexual abuse.

If you know or suspect your child/teenager is bullying, it is serious and must be dealt with promptly and appropriately.

The key is to be responsive and not reactive, remain calm and objective, listen to the facts, who was involved, what happened, what are the consequences.

Talk with your child/teenager privately, do not accuse, threaten, shame, blame others, dismiss; keep tone neutral, observe eye contact, body language and listen to the responses.

If your child/teenager becomes angry/argumentative, do not shout or argue, do not negotiate, you are the parent and role model, maintain your authority and clearly explain bullying is unacceptable and there are consequences.

Review strategies to help child deal with conflict, anger, anxiety, etc. If necessary, follow up with physician, counsellor. Speak with school, work together to develop plan of care if bullying is related to mental disorder, stress, being bullied, etc.

Be there to support and guide your child/teenager, show love whilst also firmly explaining the ‘rules’ and what is appropriate versus inappropriate behaviour.

Tracey Maxfield is a nurse, speaker, author, peer specialist and mental health/stop bullying advocate and educator. In 2017, she wrote a column for Castanet called Dementia Aware and in 2018, she published her first book Escaping the Rabbit Hole: my journey through depression. You can check out her videos and blog at www.traceymaxfield.com. She can be contacted at [email protected] 


Memories that bite

By Doreen Zyderveld-Hagel 

Something was lurking in the bushes during our daughter’s wedding and turns out that something was a hornet’s nest the size of a soccer ball.  

However, I didn’t find out about the giant nest until 10 days after the nuptials. I was standing on the balcony of our home where the ceremony had taken place when a gardener pointed out the nest and informed me that they wouldn’t trim the bush until pest control dealt with the nest.  

I couldn’t resist coming down to photograph it, and remarked that the nest looked cool and they seemed a bit shocked with my response and boldness. 

One fellow seemed particularly nervous when he suddenly realized that the wasps were actually bald-faced hornets, which are particularly aggressive and will attack anyone or anything that invades their space. Each one can sting multiple times.

My previous experience with those nasty insects was on our former West Side acreage on Upper Glenrosa several years ago now. My husband, Len, and I had just walked into the barn when we were instantly assailed. 

Len got stung under his watch band, while I was bit on the heel. We shrieked, cussed and ran out of the barn. The cat, dog and horse got in on the act and bolted too. 

The cat ran back and forth yowling, but was not stung; he perhaps was just being melodramatic and poking fun at us by mimicking our actions. As for the horse, being a prey mammal, he was in flight mode, scramming with us, away from an unseen danger;.

The dog probably just wanted to get while the gettin’ was good.

It would have been rather comical to have caught that on tape; it was most definitely a You Tube moment.   

Later, I sheepishly asked the neighbour if she heard any yelling or swearing and she said no, but perhaps she was just being polite because we could have awakened the dead with all that commotion. 

In any event, you would think with my previous horrific encounter with those particularly evil insects that I wouldn’t be standing there, less than three metres away, photographing the fiery tempered flying fiends. 

On the other hand, when I was 10 years old, all bravado with no brains, I threw bricks at a yellow jackets’ nest on the fence, in an attempt to destroy it.  Thinking it so hilarious when they would come blasting out, buzzing away angrily, but couldn’t figure out what was behind those clay missiles.   

Alas, after being tormented for several minutes, they did realize the source, and I was busted. In a cloud of biting insects I screamed and ran while swiping them away at them. One got me on the neck. 

Then, I went a bawling to my friend’s mom; she put some vinegar on it, which soothed the sting instantly. I knew better than to go home as my mom would have figured out that I probably had it coming, and wasn’t some innocent victim, and she would have really chewed me out, adding insult to injury. 

It also dawned on me that I was lucky to get off with just one sting; it could have been far worse. 

However no harm no foul on this day, some 40 plus years later. As a somewhat more mature adult, I managed to walk away unscathed, as did our unsuspecting wedding guests more than a week earlier. 

Our bite-covered guardian angels must have been working overtime.

A path in the park

Winfield Creek Habitat Preserve

By Sally Quon

There are days I want to get into the minivan and drive, drive, drive. 

And then there are days I just don’t want to stray too far from my coffeemaker. Know what I mean?

I stumbled upon the Winfield Creek Habitat Preserve one day last summer and promised myself I would return. So many birds!  Given the proximity to my coffee machine, it seemed like a good day to go.

My plan was to take my coffee and my beach blanket, find a spot in the park to set up with my camera and journal, and wait for the birds to come to me. 

I remembered there was a small clearing that seemed perfect. 

But by the time I got to Winfield, I was having second thoughts. I couldn’t remember exactly where the clearing was. 

It occurred to me that by the time I put my camera in my purse with my keys and my journal, hauled out the big lens (in its own case; it’s rather heavy), grabbed the blanket and my coffee – that was a lot of luggage to be hauling around on a trail, especially with my limitations. 

I draped the camera around my neck, threw the big lens over my shoulder, and tucked my keys in a hiding spot. No journal, no blanket, no coffee. Oh, the things we’re willing to sacrifice…

The parking area was occupied by a number of California quail families, all of which scurried off into the undergrowth before I could get my act together. It was a promising sign. There were sure to be a lot of birds.

I made my way slowly down the trail. I could hear a number of different birds, but the leafy canopy prevented me from seeing any of them. 

I wasn’t worried though. I knew once I got to the clearing, I would see plenty. And the trail was lovely, winding its way through the mixed forest. 

Breathing deeply, I let the fragrance of the trees fill me. That scent is like a drug and I’m an addict.

Early signs of autumn were visible — leaves beginning to turn, bushes heavy with rose hips – but for the most part, it was still green. As near as I can tell, there are three separate ponds connected by the creek. 

  • The first pond was empty. 
  • The second pond was covered with bright green algae. 
  • The third pond was full of ducks.

Where the heck was that clearing? My legs and lungs were both feeling the burn. It felt like I’d been walking for a long time. It had to be close.

I wandered through a stand of Ponderosa pine and red cedar, turned a corner and there it was. The tall grass sparkled in the sun. Sparkled. Because it was wet. Nope. I’m not wading my way into tall, wet grass. I probably shouldn’t be disturbing the native plants, anyway. This was a nature preserve, not a park. 

I plopped myself down on the dirt path next to the clearing. I desperately needed to rest. I could probably still see the birds from here. The strange thing was, I couldn’t hear any birds. Well. This didn’t work out at all.

I sat there for a while, resting my legs and wondering where the birds had gone. Birds tend to get quieter as the day gets longer, but surely, I hadn’t been out here that long.  Awkwardly, I got to my feet, thinking about the coffee I’d left in the van. 

That’s when I saw him. No wonder the birds were quiet! 

Just ahead of where I had been sitting on the path, I saw what I thought was a pile of deer droppings.  Drawing closer I realized that the poop was made up of partially digested cherries. That wasn’t deer. 

That was bear. 

I made it back to the minivan in no time. Not because I might be sharing the park with a bear, but because the path is a loop. Had I gone the other direction when I started, I would have arrived at the clearing before my legs had a chance to say anything.  

Live and learn.

Sally Quon is a Kelowna writer and photographer. Her work has appeared in Canadian Geographic Magazine and Nature Alberta's various birding brochures. She has essays coming out in two upcoming releases — Caitlin Press BIG Anthology, and Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Forgiveness Fix.


How to help prevent suicide

Suicide: What you need to know to help your children and teenagers

Sept. 8-14 is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Tuesday is recognized as World Suicide Prevention Day

By Tracey Maxfield

Every 40 seconds a person dies by suicide.

This means that in the next hour, 90 people will have died by suicide, at the end of today, 2,160 will have died and at the end of this week, 15,120 children, teenagers, young adults, adults and older people with have died by suicide.

In fact, among children and teenagers five to 24 years old, suicide is now the second leading cause of death.

Today, in the U.S., 16 teenagers will end their lives by suicide, and 3,041 students in Grades 9-12 will attempt to end their lives by suicide.

Why is this happening? Why are our children and teenagers dying by suicide?

Sadly, there is no one single reason. Whilst genetic make up, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), bullying, substance addiction and mental illnesses/disorders play major roles, kids today are facing stressors and challenges the likes of which we never experienced when we were growing up.

The combination of all these life stressors can throw their perspective off balance triggering overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, of a loss of control and a pervading sense of doom.

The Center for Disease Control, released a statement in response to the suicide epidemic in the U.S. stating:

A combination of individual, relational, community and societal factors contribute to the risk of suicide including a family history of suicide or child abuse, a history of mental disorders (especially depression), or alcohol/substance abuse, feelings of hopelessness, impulsive and aggressive tendencies, isolation, loss, physical illness, local epidemics of suicide and easy access to lethal methods (firearms).


Suicide is the act of ending one’s life. It is usually planned and intentional. Suicide is not a mental disorder/illness, but, more often, the unfortunate outcome of a mental disorder that is often not recognized or is not treated effectively.

There are three components to a suicide plan:

  • Ideation
  • Intent
  • Plan

It is important to note that suicidal thoughts and/or attempts are not a normal and expected response to every-day life stressors.

Most teenagers who attempt, or die by, suicide have communicated their distress or plans to at least one other person.

The presence of suicidal thoughts must be taken seriously, it is a sign that the child/teenager needs help from a trained mental health professional.

These communications are not always direct; therefore, it is very important to know some of the key warning signs of suicide.

Suicide Warning Signs

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) uses the acronym “IS PATH WARM” to identify the warning signs that a person may be suicidal:

I – Ideation about suicide
S – Substance abuse, e.g. alcohol, drugs
P – Purposelessness in life
A – Anxiety or feeling overwhelmed
T – Trapped, feeling there is no way out
H – Hopelessness or helplessness
W – Withdrawn from family, friends and activities
A – Anger or rage
R – Recklessness e.g. engaging in unsafe, risky or harmful behaviours
M - Mood change

Suicide Facts

  • In children/teenagers with a substance use disorder the risk of suicide is 5 to 6 times higher
  • 90% of children/teenagers who died by suicide had an underlying mental illness/disorder
  • In 2017, suicides amongst teenage girls hit a 40-year high
  • Since 2000, suicide in teenagers age 15-19 years old has increased 28%
  • Suicide ideation and self harm is common in teenage girls with Conduct Disorder
  • Suicide risk is 10 times more likely in kids with Asperger’s
  • Death by suicide is seven times higher in kids with Autism (ASD)
  • Children and teenagers with major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, PTSD, schizophrenia are at a significantly higher risk for suicide.
  • After the debut of the TV series 13 Reasons Why, there was a 19% increase in internet searches on “how to commit suicide”
  • Suicide, especially amongst children can be contagious. Five per cent of suicides in kids are influenced by contagion from suicidal peers or cultural depictions of suicide

What is most important to remember, is that when you are trying to end your life by suicide, there is still a part of you that does not want to die. But at that moment, you just cannot continue to live with the never-ending pain and sorrow.

The sense of hopelessness and loneliness is so overwhelming that death by suicide seems to be the only way you can end the pain and heartache.

If you have suicidal thoughts:

  • Remove yourself from your location
  • Call a trusted friend or family member
  • Call a local crisis centre
  • Go to your nearest Emergency Room (ER) or call 911, or local emergency number

If you know someone who is expressing suicidal thoughts:

  • Do not leave the person alone
  • Call a local crisis centre and/or emergency police services
  • Take the person to your nearest ER department
  • If the person has already self-harmed, call 911 (or local emergency number) immediately

​​Post Care

  • Follow up with a physician or psychiatrist
  • Follow the healthcare plan e.g. therapy, medications
  • Consider counselling and/or participation in a support group
  • Contact the local Mental Health Association, or your own local mental health branch.

Tracey Maxfield is a nurse, speaker, author and mental health/stop bullying advocate and educator. In 2017, she wrote a column for Castanet called Dementia Aware and in 2018, published her first book Escaping the Rabbit Hole: my journey through depression. You can check out her videos and blog at www.traceymaxfield.com. She can be contacted at [email protected] 

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