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Return-to-School A return-to-bullying for many

For immediate release: 20 January 2004

A return-to-bullying for many Kiwi kids

The What’s Up telephone counselling service has reported an increase in calls from kids who are depressed and anxious about returning to school for fear of schoolyard bullying.

Recent statistics released by the service show bullying, both in and out of the schoolyard, remains one of the biggest concerns for both school-aged boys and girls.

Almost half the calls to What’s Up seek advice and help with peer relationships and bullying - an increase of almost four percent. More than 45 per cent of calls about relationships dealt specifically with peer group relationships. Bullying remained the biggest concern for boys and the second biggest concern for girls, especially between the ages of 5 and 12 years.

What’s Up has been operating since 2001 and has answered over quarter-of a million calls for help and advice. The service receives almost 500 calls a day.

“Our statistics clearly show more calls are received about bullying at the end of school holidays which in turn indicates the anxiety about bullying that many kids face on returning to school,” says Executive Director Grant Taylor.

Mr Taylor said New Zealand-based research showed mounting evidence that children were exhibiting signs of significant problems in their social and psychological development. “We have seen child development studies indicating a quarter of New Zealand children will experience a mental health disorder by age 15.

“A common misconception is that bullying is the concern mainly of boys and that it is normal and basically harmless. Calls to What’s Up show that concern about bullying decreases after age 15, but for both boys and girls in the 5 to 12 year age group, it is a serious problem that leaves its mark.” Mr Taylor says there is good evidence that being repeatedly bullied and having anxiety and depression in primary school years greatly increases the risk of severe mood and conduct disorders in teenage years and later in life.

“In response to the number of calls we were getting specifically about anger, we made a new category in 2003 to record this issue. Already it is accounting for 13% of all calls about emotional problems.

“There is a lot we can do to control childhood bullying, beginning with us all taking the attitude that it is not acceptable to harass and intimidate others”, he says.

Many schools and communities are making great headway in controlling the problem and it is important that bullying among children, either physical or mental, is not tolerated and is seen to be not tolerated. What’s Up’s call data suggest that the lowest proportion of calls about bullying come from the communities doing the most about bullying,” Mr Taylor says.

What’s Up offers a free, confidential, nationwide telephone counselling service for all school-age children in New Zealand. It is available between noon and midnight seven days a week on 0800 WHATSUP (0800 942 87 87).

What’s Up is seeking new sources of funding to continue its work. Those interested in supporting the service can find out more on

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