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Spike in childhood mental health conditions prompts the Lake Macquarie community to buddy up against bullying.

Toronto Private Hospital is standing up and saying no to bullying after damning research highlighting a spike in mental health related conditions including PTSD, anxiety and depression, related to bullying and poor youth mental health.

On National Day of Action Against Bullying (Friday, March 19), Toronto Private Hospital is installing a “buddy bench” at Toronto Public School to help educate children about the importance of inclusivity and healthy relationships at school.

Recent Australian studies indicate one of the most severe consequences of bullying is PTSD. Research has shown that 40.5% of girls and 27.6% of boys show PTSD symptoms at the time of being bullied. These individuals’ torment can sometimes follow them into later life. This can be triggered by just remembering the bullying incident or by related stimuli, such as visiting their school as adults or by encountering their bully in a different environment. As a result, national health provider, Healthe Care Australia, is donating dedicated friendship benches to schools across the country to help change the narrative.

Toronto Private Hospital consultant psychiatrist Dr Arvind Kendurkar said there was a strong link between bullying and PTSD but hoped the new addition to school playgrounds would provide safe spaces for children needing support from peers or teachers.

“Without intervention, children who experience long-term bullying are at risk for chronic depression, increased risk of suicidal thoughts, suicide plans, and suicide attempts, anxiety disorders, PTSD, self-destructive behaviour - including self-harm and substance abuse,” he said.

“In a way, COVID-19 has masked the affects because children have been at home more, but negative behaviour has definitely been magnified on social media.

“The prevalence of bullying and youth mental health issues is a national crisis, but I think buddy benches are a great social education tool and will help promote inclusion, start conversations about healthy relationships and hierarchy in the playground, and provide a place of comfort.”

Toronto Private Hospital chief executive officer, Sue-ellen Blomfield, said the hospital along with the wider Healthe Care group was donating 30 benches to schools across Australia on National Day of Action against Bullying.

She said Healthe Care’s portfolio of mental health hospitals, including Toronto Private Hospital were strong advocates of buddy benches as the narrative they established carried with children as they grew into adolescents and adulthood.

“One in every five children are reportedly bullied every week,” she said.

“Buddy benches provide students with a safe place to express their need for staff and student support. They also have the benefit of starting important conversations around mental health which can be carried throughout school and into adulthood.

"We at Toronto Private, along with our wider Healthe Care group, will continue to provide our local schools with buddy benches, working towards the ultimate goal of having a buddy bench in every school.

Image L to R: School Captain Jake Lundy, Assistant Principal Megan Evans, Toronto Private Hospital CEO Sue-ellen Blomfield, and School Captain Peyton Greathead.