SANTIAGO – Bullying and its effects are a national concern. In a recent youth survey, 21.1% of the respondents said they had suffered cyberbullying within the last year and 1.7% said they had constant suicidal thoughts. To address the problem of cyberbullying, the government approved a new law in March that criminalizes it.
The Youth Institute (INJUV) recently published the latest version of its National Youth Survey (No. IX). Of the Chilean youth responding, 21.1% claimed that they had been victims of cyberbullying within the last year.
More than 25% also claimed to have suffered physical or psychological violence at school at least some point in their lives.
Hardest hit: females and those age 15 to 19
In addition, 6.7% of the female respondents, and 4.5% of the male respondents said that they sometimes felt like ending their lives.
The 21.1% figure above likewise had distinct gender variations, 24.4% for females and 17.9% for males; and age bracket variations, with the highest percentage in the 15-to-19-year-old age bracket, 23.5%.
The INJUV survey also asked about mental health treatment of young people, and 43.7% responded that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to pay for mental health treatment and consultations, while 5.8% were already receiving treatment for mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.
Among the most worrisome statistics for parents and professionals are those related to suicide: 1.7% of the survey respondents said that they almost always or always felt like committing suicide, and another 5.5% said they had these thoughts at least sometimes.
Breaking down the myths and stereotypes
INJUV’s national director, Mirko Salfate, stressed that “mental health is a priority axis of INJUV.” He added that they believe that by making the problem visible and supporting those who address it, they “are helping to break down a lot of myths and stereotypes that [Chilean] society has linked to mental health.”
A more effective Law
On March 5, a bill that seeks to prevent and punish cyberbullying was approved in the Chamber of Deputies. This bill modifies the General Education Law (LGE) with the objective of making it more effective in the protection and prevention of bullying behaviors.
According to the Chamber of Deputies website, the bill adds to the current regulatory framework the concept of school cyberbullying and seeks to facilitate a “harmonic coexistence” at school and foster “a climate that favors the integral development of the students.”
School cyberbullying is defined as “any type of aggression or harassment, defamation or threat, through the sending of messages, publication of videos or photographs on any social network, technological media and the Internet, carried out by one or more students against another student.”
The Minister of Education, Marcela Cubillos, called “the approval of this law is an important step,” and added, “We know that the quality of education cannot be improved if there are children who are suffering.”
The law is slated to come into effect next year.
— Chile Today News (@ChileTodayNews) March 1, 2019
Nelson Quiroz is Chile Today´s photographer. He also writes about youth culture and fashion, and often contributes with photo series during marches and protests.