HIBBING — Vicki Othon is all too familiar with bullying and its impact.
“Bullying is one of the major issues the impact children’s success at school as well as their mental health,” said the licensed clinical psychologist. “Many of the children I work with report issues with bullying having a serious impact on depression and suicidal ideation.”
As outpatient supervisor at Range Mental Health Center (RMHC) in Hibbing, Othon noted that many of the kids she works with will often be bullied to the point of hospitalization or suicidal ideation or attempt.
“Bullying is truly a community problem, as most of us have recognized that how we treat others often starts at home and we repeat what we learn,” she said. “Teasing, joking, hazing, bullying — these are all behaviors that can have the same end result of shame and humiliation for the person on the receiving end.”
And it doesn’t occur only in children.
“I have had many adults that I work with have difficulty in the workplace for being different as well,” she said.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month, a nationwide campaign founded in 2006 by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center.
“October is a time when educators, students, parents and community members can unite to share their support for the important issue of bullying prevention,” said Center Director Julie Hertzog in a release. “Together, we can make our schools and communities safer.”
National Unity Day will be on Oct. 19. United by kindness, acceptance and inclusion, individuals in schools, at work and in the community are encouraged to wear orange or place ribbons or other orange objects out as a show of support for those who have experienced bullying.
“The slogan is ‘Make it orange, and make it end,’” said Othon.
To build awareness in the community, RMHC is hosting a poster contest for children and adults to design an anti-bullying message.
“The contest is open to the public and includes people of all ages,” said Othon. “In the past we coordinated this contest with a discussion at the Lincoln school and it was very successful in bringing awareness to a large problem for adults and children in the area.”
Poster designs should incorporate one’s experience or understanding of bullying or anti-bullying. If needed, paper is available in the waiting room at RMHC’s office as well as in the clubhouse at the Perpich Building.
Entries must be original artwork and be submitted to RMHC by Oct. 19. Hand in to front desk staff. Be sure to include your name, age (if a child or teen) and phone number on the back of the poster.
“The goal of the contest is to bring a greater awareness as well as start a discussion on what each of us can do to reduce or hopefully eliminate bullying,” said Othon.
Prizes will be awarded for the top three posters in each category. All of the poster entries will be displayed in the hallways at RMHC.
“The number of prizes will largely be determined by the number of participants, but we would typically choose several posters from each age category — children, adolescents and adults,” said Othon.
Past prizes have included T-shirts, candy and other small gift package items. But the real reward will be acknowledging what bullying does to individuals and the community as a whole.
“We hope to make this activity successful by bringing greater awareness and rewarding unique creative ideas for addressing this difficult problem,” said Othon.
RMHC is located in the Gov. Rudy Perpich Building (former Cobb Cook School) located at 3203 W. Third Ave. in Hibbing.