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Ditch the Label’s Annual Bullying Survey 2015 – Report Launched

16/04/2015

ABS2015Today, the anti-bullying charity, Ditch the Label published its annual bullying survey results fro 2015 (ABS 2015). The results, which have been widely cited by news media raise a number of issues for us in modern Society. While the headline that 1 in 2 young people say they have deliberately bullied someone else is eye catching, that is really not the main thrust of the story. I think we can all point to a time when we have said something that maybe hurtful or indeed sent an email that is perhaps unnecessarily harsh or has been interpreted so. For nearly 40 years we have described ‘bullying’ in terms of deliberate and repeated acts against an individual or group who are unable to offer an effective defence. But what about those one off or infrequent incidents that can also impact our lives significantly? Should we always stick to rigid definitions that say there has to be a pattern of behaviours before we act? In the US, there is a gradual move away from this. They recognise that bullying includes behaviours that have the potential to be repeated. In other words, teachers can intervene before any form of aggressive behaviour becomes a regular occurrence. Today I heard one deputy headteacher talk about resilience and more specifically teaching children resilience. I agree that resilience is important and the restorative justice practices he has in his school are remarkable, but in addition to resilience we need to understand why bullying happens – single as well as repeated incidents. We need to ensure that we understand all sides of the bullying conundrum. Often, for me, discussions around resilience can sound like arguments that we need to ‘toughen up’ those kids who are the targets of others’ taunts. But why should we always focus on changing the behaviour of those who are targeted by perpetrators of bullying, surely we should be taking steps to address the reasons why some people bully others?

So what was the real story behind ABS 2015? Well, it was simply this, some young people are bullied because of their appearance – the clothes they wear, their weight, size or body shape, or the colour of their skin. It seems we put a great deal of store by appearance and ridicule those who do not live up to certain expectations. Have we become so shallow that we do not see the value in each and every human being? Have we all become disciples of the religion that is size zero or the ‘V’ shape physique? In this period of austerity, there are many children and young people who do not own nor may ever own the right sort of trainers or the right branded goods. Many of us will never be the ‘right’ shape (whatever that is!) or fit in because we have differing beliefs, heritage, language or accent. Here is what 3,023 young people from UK schools and colleges said:

  • 69% of the total sample had witnessed somebody else being bullied, 43% of whom see it at least once a week.
  • 43% of the total sample had been bullied, 44% of whom are bullied at least once a week.

And appearance?

  • Appearance was cited as the number one reason for  bullying, with 51% of those who were bullied saying they were bullied because of attitudes towards how they look. Of that number: 26% said their weight was targeted, 21% said their bullying related to body shape, 18%  to clothing, 14% to facial features, 9% to the fact that they wore glasses, and 8% because of their hair colour.

In terms of impact:

  • 47% said that they wanted to change their appearance. of that number, 48% wanted teeth whitening, 17% breast implants, 6% liposuction, and 5% botox.

Of those who reported being bullied (just over half the targets of bullying):

  • 92% told a teacher but only 49% of that number were satisfied with the outcome.
  • 86% told a family member and 82% of that number were satisfied with the outcome.
  • 69% to a friend and of that number 72% were satisfied with the outcome.

Of those who did not report being bullied:

  • 32% of which felt it would not be taken seriously.
  • 32% said they were too embarrassed
  • 26% said they were scared of it getting worse.

A copy of the full report can be accessed here.

Ditch The Label has been running anti-bullying surveys for over three years. More so than ever before we understand the reasons why young people are bullied, and this latest report also looks at what young people say about their own aggressive behaviour. Research by anti-bullying charities such as Ditch The Label is incredibly important because, unlike those of us who research it in universities, they work with schools and colleges to improve the life experiences of young people on a daily basis. So the question for me now is, what do I do with this information? There are over three thousand voices in this report, a number I nor any of us can afford to ignore. Yes, methodological purists might argue there are issues with respect to representativeness, but I have found charities are increasingly skilled in undertaking research and much more effective in attracting policy makers. They generate impact and that is something from which we can all learn.

Risk & Resilience in LGBT+ People in England – New Report by PACE

27/03/2015

Pace Report Image

Yesterday at the King’s Fund in London a new report based upon a 5 years study of LGBT+ mental health was launched by PACE. Working collaboratively with the University of Worcester (Elizabeth Peel),  London South Bank (Allan Tyler) and Brunel University London (Ian Rivers), this report offers both qualitative and quantitative insights into the well-being of LGBT+ people living in England. It not only addresses current issues and challenges some previous findings relating to LGBT+ mental health, it also focuses on legacy and the after effects of years of discrimination. Despite recent advances and the possibilities they have brought for many LGBT+ people, this study highlights there are still some of who live with memories of past discrimination and require our support, and some who still face discrimination today. A link to the full report (104 pages; 3MB) can be found here.

Please circulate widely.

Executive Summary

The RaRE Study research project 2010 – 2015 is a 5-year collaboration between PACE, the LGBT+ mental health charity and an academic panel drawn from three UK universities. The study looked at risk and resilience factors for three mental health issues that affect LGBT+ people disproportionally:

  1. Suicide attempts and self-harm for young LGBT+ people under 26
  2. Alcohol misuse in lesbian and bisexual women
  3. Body image issues for gay and bisexual men

Data was collected between 2011 and 2014, through two sets of interviews with 58 people in total and a national survey of 2078 people in England.

Suicide and Self-harm for Young LGB&T People – Key findings

Young LGB and Trans*1 people under 26 are more likely to attempt suicide and to self-harm than their heterosexual and cisgender2 peers.

What Risk Factors did RaRE find?

People who attempted suicide while young reported factors that appear to correlate closely with suicidal thoughts or attempts. These were: negative experiences of coming out; homophobic and transphobic bullying; and struggles about being LGB or Trans* within the family, at school and in peer groups.

In addition, participants reported that a lack of awareness and training means responses from medical or professional staff can feel inadequate. Inclusive resources, which reflect the lives and issues of young LGB&T people, are sparse outside of LGBT+ specialist services.

What Resilience Factors did RaRE find?

Participants reported that support and understanding from family and significant others helped them to develop self-worth. In addition, connection to other LGB&T people and communities create a sense of belonging, which helps build resilience.

Positive interventions and responses from medical and professional staff are crucial, to help young LGB&T people recover more quickly after a suicide attempt.

Alcohol misuse for lesbian and bisexual women – Key findings

No significant differences in dependent alcohol use or hazardous drinking were found when comparing lesbian and bisexual women with heterosexual women. Some minor differences in patterns of drinking were found.

What Risk Factors did RaRE find?

The study found that the risk of problematic drinking amongst lesbian and bisexual women is often associated with prevailing heterosexism. It appears lesbian and bisexual women use alcohol in an attempt to manage feelings of fear, anxiety and guilt about their sexual orientation. Negative reactions from professionals can limit lesbian and bisexual women’s engagement with treatment and support, including causing them to disengage with treatment altogether.

What Resilience Factors did RaRE find?

The study found that recovery from alcohol abuse is helped by good support from partners, family and others. It appears that an important strategy to regain control is creating life structures. Interaction with practitioners who are knowledgeable, aware and inclusive in their approach is key, as are LGBT-specific resources such as support groups.

Body image issues for gay and bisexual men –Key findings

The study found that gay and bisexual men are more dissatisfied with their bodies and their health than heterosexual men.

What Risk Factors did RaRE find?

RaRE found that early experiences of ‘feeling different’ appear to create vulnerability and are a key factor in developing low self-worth for gay and bisexual men. Gay and bisexual men experience significant pressure to conform to the ‘ideal’ body type; they are also more sensitive towards social and media messages about this ideal when compared with heterosexual men. These messages are internalised from peers at school, family, media and other men on the scene.

Please note for following errata:

p. 49 – Figure 3 all comparisons are significant (i.e. all should have an asterisk*)

p. 65 – 1st paragraph (line 13) and 2nd paragraph (line 6) – should read “dissatisfied”

Reference:

Nodin, N., Peel, E., Tyler, A., & Rivers, I. (2015). The RaRE research report: LGB&T mental health – risk and resilience explored. London: PACE. ISBN 978-0-0032385-0-5.

Albert Kennedy Trust Report Published on LGBT Homelessness in UK

18/03/2015

The Albert Kennedy Trust (AKT) has published it’s report on LGBT Homelessness in the UK. The report which was commissioned by AKT and undertaken by Wayne Bateman (with new research) has a number of significant findings and recommendations. The text of the full report can be accessed here (with permission of the Trust).

I was very pleased to advise on the methodology employed in this report and provide what little support I could to Wayne in undertaking this extensive scoping study.

Forthcoming Book: Mental Health in the Digital Age.

17/03/2015

Mental Health in the Digital Age

MENTAL HEALTH IN THE DIGITAL AGE

Sheri Bauman and Ian Rivers

Palgrave Macmillan (release date July, 2015)

An overview of my forthcoming book with Sheri Bauman (University of Arizona) is provided below.

Flyer can be downloaded here

Chapter 1: Introduction

Bauman and Rivers provide a succinct discussion of the possibilities and pitfalls that arise as we increasingly rely upon the Internet and mobile phones for communication and services. Defining mental health and providing a context for this book, the opening chapter offers the reader an opportunity to consider the how our lives are affected by the digital world and the ways in which it now interfaces with our lives offline. Four questions are offered. First, is mental health enhanced or diminished by the digitisation of our world? Are mental health disorders exacerbated or ameliorated in the digital environment? What mental health benefits does the digital world provide? Finally, what mental health difficulties are associated with the advancements in digital technology?

Chapter 2: Mental Health on the Internet: Opportunity or Danger?

The authors examine the quality of mental health information available online. Many users of the Internet seek and locate physical and mental health information on the Internet. The authors discuss the pros and cons of this practice, including that of self-diagnosis using tools available online. They describe how individuals with existing mental health conditions use the Internet and consider the value of Internet support groups (moderated, unmoderated and professionally led). Finally the authors turn to groups that promote certain harmful behaviours (eating disorders, self-harm) and consider what function they serve in society.

Chapter 3: Mental Health Treatments

Here the authors describe a variety of treatments that are available with digital technology. They weigh the benefits and disadvantages of these therapies. Computer-based and mobile phone-delivered treatments are explored. Issues such as substance abuse and eating disorders are considered in terms of the value of digital technology to reduce relapse rates. The authors then explore the use of virtual reality and online games for treatment of mental health disorders and consider professional guidelines for digital forms of therapy.

Chapter 4: Research and Ethics in the Digital Age

Digital technology provides opportunities for research – and research is clearly needed to expand our understanding of the many aspects of cyberspace. The authors consider the issues of conducting research in and on this environment, and discuss the ethical considerations involved. They argue that some forms of research can be accomplished by using meta-data collected by websites (e.g., Facebook or Twitter), but other studies require that the researcher be a participant in the activity. In the offline world, this type of ethnographic study is a respected form of qualitative research, but is the same true of the online environment?  What are the ethical implications of the researcher’s active participation? The potential ethical dilemmas are identified and explored.

Chapter 5: Risks and Resilience in Cyberspace

Here the authors consider the risk factors digital technology presents and discuss how resilience, or the ability to rebound from negative experience, can be developed in the context of cyberspace. They stress that although the media, and to some extent scholarship, have concentrated on risks to children and adolescents, there are risks to all ages, and resilience is important to children and adults alike so that they are able to withstand the inevitable negative experience online. The different risks and opportunities that exist at different stages of life are explored, and the authors examine more closely content-related risks, contact-related risks, and conduct related risks, with a focus on cyberbullying and sexting.

Chapter 6: Social Networking

The phenomenon of social networking is examined in this chapter. Although new social networking sites appear and disappear with relative frequency, two enduring and widely used sites, Twitter and Facebook, are discussed in depth. The authors discuss the presence of trolls, whose behaviour is deliberately shocking and distressing to others, but also focus on positive aspects of social interaction and the opportunities that arise from social networking.

Chapter 7: Being Connected: Friendships and Social Interactions

Many people find that digital technology provides ways to connect to others. Human beings are a social species, and relationships with others are central to mental health. In this chapter Bauman and Rivers explore the ways in which friendships are enacted in cyberspace, and the ways in which online and offline aspects of friendship blur and merge. The qualities of friendship are explored and consideration is given to how those qualities are supported (or not) using digital technology. Attention is paid to the ways in which digital technology influences friendship among special populations, such as LGBT, homeless youth, disabled youth, and the elderly.

Chapter 8: Virtual Worlds

Virtual worlds attract large numbers of people. The authors consider the use of such environments at different life stages, and look closely at two virtual worlds that are exemplars of this genre: World of Warcraft and Second Life. The authors describe the role of these worlds in the lives of special populations, such as LGBT and persons with disabilities. They review the positive impacts these worlds have on the lives of users, and consider the possible harm that can arise from their use.

Chapter 9: Representing ‘the Self’ Online.

There is been much speculation about online portrayal of the self, and Bauman and Rivers consider how the self is represented in the digital world. The discussion begins with an exploration of the distributed self, and the authors consider its application to both the self that is revealed in different platforms, and in the use of avatars. Attention is paid on the fluidity of gender in many online environments, the ways in which offline and online selves merge or diverge, and how the selves we create or express in cyberspace interact with our mental and physical health in the offline world.

Chapter 10: Conclusion

Bauman and Rivers offer their conclusions about mental health and digital technology. They suggest that Mental Health in the Digital Age should be seen as a book that generates further discussion and research, since mental health is essential for overall well-being. They argue that, in a digital age, technology is a feature of life that must be understood as a significant and salient environmental influence on mental health.

Latest TES Article – Use Student Oracles to Gain Delphic Wisdom

05/03/2015

My latest article to appear in the Times Educational Supplement was published on the 20th February,2015 (No 5134, pp. 36-37) and was entitled Behaviour – Use Student Oracles to Gain Delphic Wisdom.

Williams Institute: LGBT Inclusion Promotes Economic Development

11/11/2014

Williams InstituteA report published today by the  Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) together with its partners in the LGBT Global Development Partnership has found that greater inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in emerging economies is positively associated with a country’s economic development.

Highlghts from the study include:

• A positive correlation between per capita GDP and legal rights for LGB and transgender people across countries.
• A steady increase in the level of rights of lesbians and gay men in emerging economies.

A copy of the full report can be retrieved here.

Williams Institute Report: World More Accepting of Homosexuality

11/11/2014

Williams InstituteA new report published by the Williams Institute and the University of Chicago shows that we are generally more accepting of homosexuality and have become so over the past 20 years. The study reviewed 2000 survey questions from various national surveys conducted between 1981 and today.

Key findings outlined in the Williams Institute press release  include:

• Women are on average more than one and a half times more likely to be accepting of lesbian and gay people than men.
• In 98% of the countries reviewed, those under 30 years are more likely to say that same-gender sex is not wrong at all, compared to those who are 65 years  and older. The study also indicated that people remain supportive as they grow older.
• In Latin America, acceptance of homosexuality ranges from 34% in Uruguay to only 2% in Ecuador. In terms of  marriages for same-sex couples, Uruguay had the highest level of support (57%) while Guatemala has the lowest level of support (12%).
• In Africa, acceptance of homosexuality ranges from 38% in South Africa to a 2% in Ghana.
• 91% of European countries have become more accepting over the past 20 years. The most accepting are those in Northern Europe while those in Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States have the lowest levels of acceptance.

A copy of the full report can be downloaded here.

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