By: Noor Fawzy
Our thoughts play a powerful role in our lives, so much that they are behind our “good” days and our “bad” days. Our thoughts can influence our personal relationships, our work performance, and our overall behavior. A thought precedes every action we take, and depending on the nature of those thoughts, those thoughts can lead to healthy actions or harmful actions directed at ourselves or others.
Bullying is a harmful action and stems from unhealthy thoughts that are not appropriately addressed and accumulate and increase in intensity over time. Parents and teachers are concerned about the rise of aggression in our schools.
One major factor behind society’s inadequate response to aggression among our youth, whether that aggression takes the form of bullying or otherwise, is the lack of targeted mental health policy that recognizes the role that thoughts play in influencing aggressive behavior and that legislates in response to the types of thoughts that lead to violence against oneself or others.
Regrettably, our youth’s mental health has not been given the priority that I believe it deserves.
The good news is that bullying, like other forms of aggression, is preventable. In large measure, I believe that prevention may be based on evidence-based psychotherapy known as cognitive-behavioral therapy.
In short, cognitive behavioral therapy teaches one how to reorient their thoughts and think positively about themselves and their situations, and in doing so, adopt healthy responses to harmful or negative thought patterns.
Since thoughts are known to play a role in influencing behavior, I believe that cognitive-behavioral therapy can be implemented not just to target thoughts that lead to bullying, but also thoughts that lead to criminal activity, eating disorders, substance abuse, and even suicide and mass shootings.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is also known to effectively treat anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and stress. In doing so, I believe that cognitive-behavioral therapy can help lead to violence prevention in all of its forms.
Considering how important our youth’s mental health is, now is the time to engage our school board and state legislature on this issue and push to have cognitive behavioral therapy programs implemented in our schools and make it a required part of the K through 12 school curriculum.
I believe it is necessary that we also engage our mental health professionals to help make policy in this area by providing the necessary advice and opinions regarding how cognitive behavioral therapy programs can be appropriately structured in our schools, and what level of intensity of therapy is appropriate, among other issues, to ensure that these programs have their intended effect on our youth.
There is an often-cited quote that I believe applies here: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”We can create a generation of people that chooses peace over violence in dealing with the challenges that life brings, and it all starts with our youth. However, it will take enough elected officials who will prioritize our youth’s mental health and the right policies to make this goal a reality.
Noor Fawzy is a civil litigation attorney at a statewide law firm, a proud J.P. Taravella alumna, and a candidate for the Coral Springs City Commission.
Coral Springs Talk welcomes all opinions. Submit yours here.