Thursday, October 15, 2015

Community Safety "Äfter-Dark" Bullying at School Camps Psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg warns of 'after-dark' bullying at long-term school camps The Age October 11, 2015


Many of my patients have been horrendously bullied on camp primarily because of lack of supervision.
           Psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg


Psychologist warns of 'after-dark' bullying at long-term school camps

Date

Kathy Evans

Long-term camps can be the scene of damaging bullying for some vulnerable children as they are housed with the tormentors they manage to avoid normally at school.
Many schools emphasise the benefits of long-stay camps, but psychologists warn that some students experience bullying on these character-building exercises. Many schools emphasise the benefits of long-stay camps, but psychologists warn that some students experience bullying on these character-building exercises.
A psychologist has warned that some children who go on long-term school camps experience "after-dark" bullying that can leave them traumatised.
Adolescent expert Dr Michael Carr-Gregg says camps are a positive experience for most students, but some vulnerable children suffer emotional damage because they must spend 24 hours a day with their tormentors, for periods as long as a term.
"They are made to sleep, eat and engage in activities with kids they would normally try as hard as they can to avoid."
He said the worst bullying occurred in cabins at night when teachers were not watching.
"Many of my patients have been horrendously bullied on camp, primarily because of lack of supervision."
Dr Carr-Gregg said most students thrived at these retreats, building skills, independence and friendships, "but for a very small proportion of kids, say 2 or 3 per cent, it is not a good thing; it is traumatising".
Almost all independent schools, and a few state schools, have long-term camps, retreats or campuses in group cabins housing up to eight students. Generally, campers have little contact with their families.   
For students anxious about attending school camp, Dr Carr-Gregg recommends getting an expert opinion.
"My advice to parents with any doubts is to consult a psychologist and ask them, 'Do you think this is something my kid can handle'."
He said cautious children could be gently encouraged to go, with the knowledge there would be people who could look after them, "but for a proportion of kids with mental health problems, there has to be adequate safety nets and I'm afraid, in some instances, there isn't".
Read more 

Psychologist warns bullying at school camps traumatises some children

Date

Kathy Evans

Camps and retreats are standard in most schools but there is little discussion of the bullying that goes on away from teachers' eyes or the psychological effect on some students.
In it together: Students at Lauriston Girls School attend a retreat in the mountains at Howqua. In it together: Students at Lauriston Girls School attend a retreat in the mountains at Howqua.
Two students tell of bullying and loneliness 
On school camp it doesn't pay to be different – or a person who needs solitude.
Many of my patients have been horrendously bullied on camp primarily because of lack of supervision.
Psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg
Quirky characteristics, shyness and idiosyncrasies that set some students apart from the clan can be a beacon of light for bullies whose own problematic behaviours may be amplified by being outside their comfort zone.
Day-to-day coping strategies, such as seeking refuge in the library or aligning with another group of peers, become impossible in the 24-hour a day group living of camp and this can leave vulnerable children perilously exposed.
It is the disruption of social groupings that can cause things to go haywire on camp, according to child and adolescent psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg.  A student who has spent their entire school career avoiding their nemesis may find themselves joined at the hip on a weekend orienteering program - or worse on a term-long retreat with no phone or email contact with parents.
"They are made to sleep, eat and engage in activities with kids they would normally try as hard as they can to avoid," he says. "You are trying to create an environment where they can have a little bit of independence yet be relatively safe from physical harm, but you can't do much about the psychological harm."
It is the lack of supervision, particularly at night, when the lights are off and the teachers are absent, where things can go badly awry. "Many of my patients have been horrendously bullied on camp primarily because of lack of supervision," says Carr-Gregg, who, despite this, is still a firm believer in school camps.
For the vast majority of students, it is a wonderful experience, teaching skills that might otherwise go unlearned and forging strong friendships. "But for a very small proportion of kids, say 2 or 3 per cent, it is not a good thing; it is traumatising."
Of particular concern are the compulsory long-term retreats such as Geelong Grammar's Timbertop, MLC's Marshmead, Wesley's Clunes retreat, Caulfield Grammar's Nanjing campus and Lauriston Girls' School Howqua program, where students are away for extended periods of time.
As Carr-Gregg points out: "Many teachers are good at teaching but don't have the training in recognising and dealing with anxiety and mood disorders as well as coping deficits that we see in a lot of kids these days, sadly."
Susan Just, principal at Lauriston, agrees that teachers need additional help in understanding mental health issues and identifying kids that need help. At its High Country retreat on the Howqua River near Mansfield, there is a team of 20 staff involved – including an on-site psychologist – in the pastoral care of students who spend the whole of year 9 there in periods of five-week blocks.
"It is something we have given a lot of attention to in the past few years," Just says. "These days we know more about adolescent wellbeing and all our staff has access to a fairly broad range of professional learning activities around adolescent health and wellbeing."
These include restorative practice – where teachers look at how to mend relationships that have gone off track for all the parties involved, without establishing blame – mindfulness programs and positive education.
Whereas in the past,  some schools had a culture that accepted a little bit of bullying was good for emerging adolescents – what doesn't kill you makes you stronger – those days have long gone.
While the year 9 program is compulsory, Just says that much time is spent preparing the girls, liaising with the parents and teachers beforehand in a bid to resolve any psychological stumbling blocks.
Still, she is the first to admit it's not watertight. In a situation where there are dozens of adolescent girls a long way from home there are bound to be a few problems. "We do have issues," she admits. "The pastoral care program is not going to stop every one that arises. These are normal kids. But having to deal with relationships is something we have to do for the rest of our lives. We really want to help the girls navigate through the dynamics."
Like many schools, Lauriston uses the work of Project Rockit, an anti-bullying organisation that goes into schools and educates students and teachers in the art of respectful combat.   According to co-founder Lucy Thomas, one way to help anxious students prepare for camp is to give them coping strategies.
"If a student is worried about being verbally humiliated they can learn a few come-back lines, which can mask the humiliation and help them to regain social power," she says.
Students are also taught how to identify allies if they are feeling marginalised and urged to examine their own reactions to bullying behaviour. "We encourage them to look at their own body language to see if it supports or condemns the bullies. Do they laugh along, or give the person a greasy look?"
For students who remain hugely anxious about school camp, Carr-Gregg recommends getting an expert opinion: "My advice to parents with any doubts is to consult a psychologist and ask them, 'Do you think this is something my kid can handle'."
He also recommends safety nets be put in place, which include plenty of psychological preparation, flexibility and teachers who are alert to signs of stress and anxiety.
For kids who don't have a diagnosable disorder, and are just feeling cautious, he suggests gentle encouragement.
"I think it's very good for them to go with the assurances that there will be people there who can look after them. But for a proportion of kids with mental health problems there has to be adequate safety nets and I'm afraid in some instances, there isn't. That is a problem."
  

Poll: Are school retreats for up to a term a good idea for secondary students?

Yes
65%
No
35%
Total votes: 251.
Poll closed 14 Oct, 2015
Disclaimer:
These polls are not scientific and reflect the opinion only of visitors who have chosen to participate.

http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/psychologist-warns-of-afterdark-bullying-at-longterm-school-camps-20151009-gk5561.html

No comments:

Post a Comment