In December, a National Interfaith Anti-bullying Summit took place in Washington, DC. Organized by American Muslim Health Professionals, Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, Islamic Networks Group, National Baptist Convention, Salaam Shalom, and Sikh Kid to Kid, the conference aimed to facilitate deep conversation into religious bullying and what would be most effective for prevention. Over two days, more than 40 presenters spoke about what children are experiencing, identifying and prioritizing needs, the effectiveness of state and federal policies, related research, and community and school-based solutions. Participants networked, built coalitions and new alliances, and shared stories from different stakeholder perspectives. Some overarching takeaways:
- Cultural literacy training helps – and not just in schools, but with healthcare providers, corporations, and law enforcement. Cultural community differences need to be better understood to effectively communicate and work together.
- School climate and promoting empathy and inclusion in other youth settings can be improved with cultural and religious education and supporting inclusive organizational shifts. This should include encouraging educators and administrators to examine their own preconceived notions about faith groups.
Mental Health Impact
Religious minorities are bullied more frequently than the majority of the student body. According to the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding’s 2017 American Muslim Poll, 42 percent of Muslim children in K-12 school experienced bullying because of their faith. “There has been a significant increase in mental health issues that go along with increased discrimination and bullying incidents,” said Dr. Chaudhry. “If we are going to protect the mental health of children, it has to be ALL children. We’re seeing increases in depression, anxiety, and other disorders.”
Bullying is an adverse childhood experience, or ACE, that can affect health and wellness across the lifespan. It is also recognized as a risk factor for youth suicide. For that reason, prevention and promoting positive school climate is central to mental health, social connectedness, and academic performance.
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