Naperville parent series to explore effects of cyberbullying on mental health
Somewhere in the story of every teen who's been cyberbullied is a negative effect on the mind, a mental health consequence such as anxiety or depression that comes from a barrage of negativity in the online realm or deepens when the bullying persists.
Bullying always has been a bad thing, but now, with teens flocking to a new social media network seemingly every week, it's practically unavoidable, says Amit Thaker, director of marketing and business development for Linden Oaks at Edward behavioral health hospital in Naperville.
"So many adolescents deal with bullying in general, but with the advent of technology ... now you can almost never get away from the bullying," Thaker said. "More and more of our adolescents who are dealing with anxiety and depression often have been victims of some form of bullying."
Concerned with social problems such as cyberbullying, Linden Oaks is launching a new parent education series, and it's starting with an event Tuesday focused on overcoming online trash-talking and threats.
Cyberbullying survivor Jillian Jensen, a musician who's been a contestant on "American Idol" and "X Factor," will headline the event by playing an acoustic performance, answering questions, meeting fans and sharing her story of surviving online torment.
"She's really become an inspirational speaker because she talks about her battles with cyberbullying and all the trials and tribulations she went through while growing up," Thaker said. "She's become an inspiration."
Called "My Journey to Overcome Cyberbullying: A Night with Musician Jillian Jensen," the free event is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Pfeiffer Hall on the North Central College Campus in Naperville, 310 E. Benton Ave.
The evening is the first of five parent series events Linden Oaks is planning this year to help start the conversation about important mental health topics.
Thaker said parents often don't have the opportunity to learn about mental illnesses without facing a stigma because people simply don't talk about the workings of the brain and how different conditions can lead people to become depressed, abuse dangerous substances, feel overwhelming stress and anxiety, or develop unreasonable fears and phobias.
As mental struggles of celebrities and others come up in national and international news, Thaker said it's time to start more discussions locally about the effects of mental illnesses and ways to promote mental health.
Naperville 14-year-old Trisha Prabhu agrees and takes it a step further. She says it's not only time to talk about mental health issues caused by behaviors such as cyberbullying, but to prevent the bullying from occurring in the first place.
Trisha is in the final stages of developing an add-on program for the Internet browser Google Chrome that will display a pop-up window whenever it detects a social media post might contain harmful or offensive content. Internet users who download the program, called Rethink, will be given a chance to reconsider before posting messages that could be seen as cyberbullying.
In Trisha's research, conducted before she appeared in the 2014 Google Science Fair and the 2015 White House Science Fair to discuss her project, she found teens decided not to submit offensive messages 93 percent of the time when prompted to pause before posting.
Trisha, who was cyberbullied when she was younger, says she's deeply interested in the brain and how experiences such as being bullied online can affect a person's thoughts.
"At the end of the day, it wears on your mental health," Trisha said. "In many ways, it's almost like another mental illness."
Trisha will join Jensen in presenting during the first Linden Oaks parent series event, which is open to parents and people of all ages.
For details or to register, visit edward.org/classes and search for "cyberbullying," call (630) 527-6363 or email email@example.com.
If You GoWhat: My Journey to Overcome Cyberbullying: A Night With Musician Jillian Jensen
When: 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 21
Where: Pfeiffer Hall on the North Central College Campus at 310 E. Benton Ave in Naperville
Who: The first event in a new parent series sponsored by Linden Oaks at Edward behavioral health hospital
Info: edward.org/classes, (630) 527-6363 or firstname.lastname@example.org