By Tony Briscoe and J.T. Bohland
Michigan was the 48th state to pass anti-bullying legislation, but it may be one of the first to develop clinical treatment for those affected by bullying.
William Beaumont Hospital, of Royal Oak, is expected to open a clinic to help victims of bullying, bullies, bystanders and families on May 4.
Kevin Epling, a major proponent of Michigan’s anti-bullying law, said the concept is on the cutting-edge of bullying therapy.
“I’ve not heard of anything like this taking place in a hospital,” said Epling. “Most of these are providers that parents would have to find such as counselors or someone at the general community health office.”
Dr. Marlene Seltzer, director of the No Bullying Live Empowered (NoBLE) Center, stumbled upon the idea while practicing gynecology through the years.
“I’ve always been interested in the psycho-socio issues of medicine like domestic violence, and gynecology has a lot of those type of issues in that field,” said Seltzer, who’s been an OB/GYN for nearly 16 years. “It wasn’t so far to go from domestic violence to bullying as an area of interest.”
Depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, stomach-aches, headaches, insomnia, bedwetting and suicide are all potential consequences of bullying, according to Seltzer.
After hearing of a Florida teen being videotaped as she was bullied by several of her classmates, Seltzer said she knew she had to get involved.
“For some reason, that really struck a chord with me that we’ve gotten to a point in our society where kids beat each other up and post it on YouTube, and we are all just OK with that,” she said. “That put me on the path toward trying to do something about this issue.”
She contacted Alonzo Lewis, Beaumont Children’s Hospital’s vice president of women’s and children’s services, to discuss a solution.
“Wow, wouldn’t this be a neat project for us to launch,” recalled Lewis on his initial meeting with Seltzer. “(NoBLE) would bring some new patient volume to Beaumont and service a need that doesn’t have enough support in the community.”
Originally, Seltzer planned to combat bullying through a hotline, but she quickly realized that wasn’t enough. She said the NoBLE Center’s main goal will be to provide mental health services to youth (K-12) impacted by bullying through individual and group therapy. However, Seltzer said it will not directly prescribe medication.
Community outreach will be another vital area if the center is to meet its full potential.
“Beaumont already has relationships with schools in the area and so we’ll use those already established relationships to go face-to-face and meet with superintendents, principals, counselors and teachers to really explain the program and answer any questions they have,” said Seltzer. “So when they refer students, they’re referring them to something they’re familiar with.”
Lewis said that after hearing Seltzer propose the concept for the center, funding became the biggest concern. But thanks to the hospital’s support and several donations, NoBLE has secured about $350,000 as of March 30.
“So far, we’ve been very lucky to receive funds from the Children’s Miracle Network and also from Beaumont Children’s hospital,” said Seltzer. “We’ve had a private family foundation donate some money and we’re about to embark on a fundraising campaign. What we’re hoping is that this issue has unfortunately touched so many people’s lives but that people will want to do something and support us.”
The NoBLE Center, which will be on campus in the medical office building, is starting small, with four mental health providers plus Seltzer, and she hopes to expand depending on the need for treatment.
Although the project is in the early stages of development, Lewis said he’s confident about its potential.
“Beaumont Hospital is a leader in cardiovascular medicine, robotic surgery, transplant surgery… So, we’re a leader in all these sophisticated medical programs, and this type of program (NoBLE) positions us to be a leader, as well. I have no doubt that as soon as our program grows we’re going to get calls from all over the country in terms of ‘How did you make this happen?’ and ‘Can we use your model to develop a program or service in our state?’”