“I believe that mental health plays a major role in bullying prevention, especially sense bullying can cause adverse psychological effects to both the one being bullied and the bully as well.”Alan Conley
There is little debate as to the negative impact bullying can have on the mental health of youth. However, the complete solution to bullying, if there is one, is an ongoing and important discussion. Thankfully, there are thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people across the world collaborating together to reduce bullying.
The IBPA is interviewing four conference speakers who will be joining us November 7-9 to discuss this year’s topic, “Kindness & Compassion: Building Healthy Communities.” The International Bullying Prevention Association (IBPA) Conference will engage hundreds of schools, teachers, students, nonprofit organizations, and others in workshops, activities, keynote addresses, and networking opportunities. We reached out to speaker Alan Conley to get his thoughts on spreading kindness, stopping bullying, and more.
Alan Conley will be speaking at the 2019 IBPA Conference on Friday, November 8 in the 9:30 breakout session (6a), giving a talk on “The Power of the Village.” Alan’s workshop will cover the three essential ingredients that every healthy village have: access to resources, all are safe from danger, and all are represented at the table.
When asked if mental health should be a more significant focus in the education of youth and how schools should tackle this challenge, Alan acknowledges that teachers need help in the fight against bullying and in order to increase and spread kindness.
“Our teachers, as wonderful as they are, can only do so much to impact the lives of our young people. Our schools and students need to be supported by faith based institutions and other organizations that can provide social service support needs like trauma support and training, clothing drives, food drives, and other supports that can impact the mental health of a student.”
Schools around the country are working to prevent bullying and spread kindness. Asked how schools can facilitate a culture of compassion, Alan says, “Schools can work with those faith based institutions that can be consistent in the lives of the students by providing mentorship, leadership development, and even financial support when needed.” Alan continues, saying, “All of these acts of kindness communicate to the student that they are valued.”
When students feel valued, they are more likely to treat peers with respect, and bullying is likely to decrease. If a school is able to stop or decrease bullying among students, Alan expects the following changes to occur:
● Decrease in truancy
● Increase in student enrollment
● Increase in parent participation
These are changes worth fighting for. Asked what Alan would like to tell his fellow IBPA Conference speakers, Alan says, “I would like to encourage my fellow presenters and attendees to remember that bullying comes in various forms, and what bullying looks like to one may not have the same appearance to someone else.”
Read below for the full transcript of our interview with Alan Conley. To attend Alan’s workshop on “The Power of the Village,” join us in Chicago this November. View the full event agenda here and register for the 2019 IBPA Conference here.
Question: Why did you choose to present at the 2019 IBPA Conference in Chicago?
Alan Conley: I am looking forward to presenting at the 2019 IBPA Conference in Chicago because, this is the city that I was born and raised in, and I believe in the people that make up this great city. Although I grew up playing sports and for the most part, was a pretty popular kid, I was not exempt from being bullied. As a youngster, I was often teased because of my skin color, not by those of another ethnicity or different backgrounds, but by those who were from the same neighborhood that I lived in. This tells me that bullying is not a cruel act of disrespect that is exercised by those who are different than you, but bullying is often perpetrated by those who look like us as well.
Question: At the event, what are you most looking forward to?
AC: I am looking forward to learning from other’s stories and experiences to help inform me in the work that I do. One of the greatest tools to overcome challenges like bullying is to hear how others overcame it.
Question: What will you be speaking about and what do you hope attendees will take
away from your talk?
AC: I will be speaking about the importance of valuing the faiths of others. Usually, we teach people to tolerate others who subscribe to a different faith than ours. Tolerance is a great attitude to have, but tolerance void of value has the potential to breed disrespect. It’s hard for one to disrespect that which they value. One principal that is somewhat universal or transferable across all faiths is that of treating others the way you would want them to treat you. I tend to say, respect the faiths of others the way you would like others to respect yours.
Question: What role does mental health play in bullying prevention?
AC: I believe that mental health plays a major role in bullying prevention, especially sense bullying can cause adverse psychological effects to both the one being bullied and the bully as well. According to recent research by the Molecular Psychiatry, “bullying causes long-term impacts on mental health.” I believe this to be true as many counselors and therapists are dealing with trauma support and training, more and more.
Question: What is the most significant issue schools and students face in terms of
AC: The most significant issues that schools and students are facing in terms of preventing bullying, is that not all bullying is perpetrated by a human being. Here in Chicago, there are violent crimes taking place everyday. Many students have to commute through gang territory and land where someone may have been shot the day before. Some refer to this as Environmental Bullying. It’s hard to prevent this type of bullying because some students actually live in dangerous and hostile environments that their teachers are not able to impact. Some students are actually safer at school than at home.
Question: Should mental health be a more significant focus in the education of youth,
and if so, how would you recommend schools tackle this challenging subject?
AC: I believe that mental health should be a more significant focus in the education of youth. As an advocate for youth and community serving in the 3rd largest school district in the nation, I know the importance of connecting schools with community based organizations like churches, masques, synagogues, etc. Our teachers, as wonderful as they are, can only do so much to impact the lives of our young people. Our schools and students need to be supported by faith based institutions and other organizations that can provide social service support needs like trauma support and training, clothing drives, food drives, and other supports that can impact the mental health of a student.
Question: What are you seeing on the ground level in terms of the mental health of youth and school’s efforts to shape them positively?
AC: On the ground level, I have had the pleasure of working with faith based organizations that are partnering with schools that are in the community where they serve. By providing after school programming to CPS students, students are being protected from the violence that is often taking place in the communities where they live. These faith based partners are called Safe Haven sites. Every child deserves to have access to a Safe Haven.
Question: What positive changes would you expect to happen in a school that is able to
decrease bullying and increase mental health awareness while supporting the mental health of students?
AC: The positive changes I would expect to happen in a school that is able to decrease bullying and increase mental health awareness while supporting the mental health of students are; a decrease in truancy, an increase in student enrollment, and an increase in parent participation.
Question: What is the importance of compassion in schools? How can schools facilitate a compassionate culture?
AC: Compassion in schools is important because, there are so many inconsistencies in the lives in so many of our students. To help facilitate a culture of compassion, schools can work with those faith based institutions that can be consistent in the lives of the students by providing mentorship, leadership development, and even financial support when needed. All of these acts of kindness communicates to the student that they are valued.
Question: What tips do you have for schools working to create a positive school climate/culture?
AC: I would encourage schools to explore the possibility of establishing a partnership with a
faith based institution that cares about community. If one truly cares about community, they understand that it takes a healthy village to raise a healthy child. There are several factors that play a role in creating sustainable communities with a positive climate/culture; faith based institutions, quality schools, affordable housing, access to jobs, etc. Faith based institutions are often able to teach the moral character that a child needs in order to affect the climate at their schools. Additionally, schools that cultivate partnerships with faith based institutions and other community based organizations that care about students tend to create a welcoming atmosphere for students and their families. In other words, they impact the entire village.
Question: Any final thoughts for fellow presenters and attendees who will join you at the 2019 IBPA Conference?
AC: I would like to encourage my fellow presenters and attendees to remember that bullying comes in various forms and what bullying looks like to one may not have the same appearance to someone else. The key to cultivating a healthy village is, respect. More often than not, people tend to value what they respect. If we do not value one another’s faith, race, socioeconomic status, and backgrounds, it will be hard to respect them for who they are and what they offer to society. The late Mayo Angelou once said, “people may forget what you said and even what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” Perhaps, the mental health of a student in the future is dependent upon the respect they are given now.