Bullying crosses borders

By Tommy Franz
Staff writer 

According to research published in 2009, America trails several other countries in incidents of bullying.  European countries continue to struggle with this epidemic just as much, if not more than Americans.Research conducted in Germany provided evidence that more than 18% of students between the ages of six and 19 are affected by bullying, with an additional 5% being impacted by cyberbullying.  Recent news reports coming out of Germany also discuss the vicious nature of some bullying attacks in schools.

Tolgahan Dilgin, a Ph.D student in political science at Michigan State who is originally from Turkey, recalled how he witnessed bullying in Germany as a youth.

“As a teenager, you know, they aren’t always the happiest of people, so I was questioning life and the world and everything.  I was asking myself, has humanity died, what’s going on,” Dilgin said.  “The summer when I was 14 or 15 I went to Germany for a youth camp, and then I found the answer to my question.  Yes humanity has died.”

Dilgin said that the kind of bullying he encountered in Germany was beyond his imagination.

“I hadn’t seen anything like that, and I just felt ashamed witnessing it.  There was one kid specifically picked on, they only called him a word that basically meant ugly,” Dilgin said.  “That wasn’t even the worst part.  When that kid was outside of the camp they would pee and masturbate on his bed.”

Dilgin said that he usually tried to be as inclusive as possible as a child growing up, but while he was abroad in Germany when he was 14 years old, he was unable to step in and prevent bullying.

“I realized you can only stop these things when you are in your own country and your own culture.  You can’t step in when you are in a foreign culture and you’re and outsider,” Dilgin said.  “We were too busy protecting ourselves because we were getting made fun of also.  In comparison to that kid though, ours was just like OK, this is their culture and they’re rough.”

A 2005 articledescribed in great detail the bullying epidemic occurring in Germany.  That article also cited a report that provided evidence that a substantial number of students students were either the victims or targets of bullying.

Dr. Leonhard Thun-Hohenstein, head of child psychiatry at the Christian Doppler Hospital on the border between Germany and Austria, was cited in the story as saying that children need much more thorough care as opposed to traditional counseling when they are victims of bullying.

“In some cases we are having to admit pupils for in-house psychiatric care, not just out-patient counseling.  We handle up to a dozen young people a year on an in-patient basis, which is extraordinary in itself,” Thun-Hohenstein said in the article.

“These are children and young adults suffering from acute depression and in some cases suicidal tendencies,” he said. “They just can’t face going back to school.”

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