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October 21, 2016

National Bullying Prevention Month

By Ali Skahan

Many of us can look back at our memories of grade school or high school and remember that one kid that made it their job to torment us. It may have seemed like a rite of passage in the past, but bullies today are more relentless and have more outlets than ever to bully their peers. If left untreated, bullying can lead to consequences like depression, a decline in academic performance or worst. In honor of National Bullying Prevention Month, make sure to check in on your child’s well-being.

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Tags: About Kids & Teens, Mental Health, Uncategorized

Thanks for sharing this event — this forum is about quality of life, under difficult circumstances, ones that affect our health and wellbeing, and, in turn, the future of our loved ones — emotionally, financially– in many ways. For staff, this is a long post — please edit at will.

Bullying Prevention is important — we all need to know more about the signs and symptoms of bullying. The media can help us identify bullying, and not just by publicizing Bullying Prevention Month. We all need to help our children identify bullying and to know what to do when they are bullied. And, because it is almost November, election season, I would like to ask those who read and write for this forum, to please help elect candidates who do not bully, and who do not tolerate bullying. Even low level bullying, or bullying humor is not acceptable, whether it is child to child, in private, or by anyone in public contact with others.

To be relevant to this forum, bullying is particularly unacceptable when imposed by a health care provider on a client or patient, particularly one who is unable to advocate for themselves. And because it is almost November, it is important to understand that voter intimidation is bullying.

More —

Bullying is present in everyday life. Recently, I was targeted by a bully, my assigned flight attendant on a 7 hour international, overseas flight. When I spoke up to the bursar, she defended his behavior towards me by citing his 20 year career . Bingo! My eyes widened, for she knew that this person had bullied before, while she was also trying to dissuade me from filing a complaint. After all, she had a hard job, and she had not witnessed the bullying, nor had he bullied her. Regretfully, I felt unsafe on this flight because the flight attendant assigned to my seat had accused me of intentionally trying to trip him, and then had said quietly to , me, alone, “I’ve got my eye on you.”

In hindsight, I had been targeted as I boarded the plane; our second and third, and finally fourth interaction became increasingly private and increasingly hostile and were all initiated by him. He will regret that he chose me as a target, a professional who had studied bullying as a behavior and personality characteristic, in consultation with behavioral science professionals including psychologists and psychiatrists. Why? Well, I became interested after I realized that I had tolerated low level bullying at work for more than a decade. I retired early, with a chronic illness, directly connected to this experience. As a public cost, I have received over $500,000 in disability insurance benefits, when I would have preferred to be contributing to the welfare of others, and the financial wellbeing of my family, as a state licensed professional. I am now fully retired, continue to volunteer routinely in my field to promote voting, and to counter voter intimidation. I hope that this post will help someone else who reads this forum — provider or client — and I welcome the opportunity to encourage those who have, or whose family members have been bullied to seek licensed professionals with experience in identifying bully behavior and want to help their clients in building skill sets to respond appropriately to bullying behavior.

Back to my flight — my learned response to bullying is to label it, and to discuss the incidents with a supervisor. To do this, in a health care setting, particularly with an independent provider – may be difficult, but there are medical boards who will accept these complaints. On my flight, the flight attendant’s supervisor is called a flight bursar. After about an hour, the bursar introduced herself to me, and listened while I explained my concerns regarding these three interactions — I have since added a fourth, when I boarded the plane. To the bursar, I identified myself as a student of bullying behavior, and spoke calmly, repeating his bullying words. Her response was that he had been a solid employee for twenty years. This defense of his behavior, asking me to place his behavior in a context that was far too broad — was inappropriate. The flight attendant was responsible for me as a first responder should I have a medical emergency or should there be a flight emergency. In the context of his attitude towards me that day — would he trip me, as he had accused me of trying to trip him, or fail to respond to my request for assistance if needed? Before we finished our ten minute conversation, she offered to assign a different attendant to my seat, but for some reason, he continued to be assigned to my seat throughout the flight. Her first and initially unapologetic and defensive response, suggested to me, a student of bullying, and a recovering target of bullying, that my observations were not the first time that she had heard a complaint of this nature regarding this attendant. Perhaps this was her training — to avoid apology, to praise the airline employee — and that I will discuss with her employer as well. Her second response, reassignment of my in flight needs, if any, was appropriate — however, she also refused my own request to be reassigned to a different seat because the flight was full, and even though I had reserved a desirable aisle location.

I will pursue my complaint, first with his employer, and hers, the airline, and next with anyone else in authority. Flying is a luxury, I admit, and I do have a choice on which airline, but I also enjoy additional customer loyalty benefits from this airline, valued at more than $50 per flight, that also save me additional costs at the airport when I fly. Health care is different from flying — it should not be a luxury, at least it should not be — and if we must chose paying the costs of health care over flying we will. Nevertheless, there is a parallel here in that the airline is entrusted with my health care and safety on an emergency basis, and for a long period of time — no way to turn back at some point in an overseas, international flight.

More about voting intimidation as bullying —

Whether luxury or necessity, whether providers/vendors or clients/customers in health care, or settings in which I might require emergency health care, we must identify bullying – and call it what it is — unacceptable.

Voter intimidation is a form of bullying. Please vote in November. Voting is an appropriate response to those who would discourage voting by bullying, whether inside or outside the polls. Voting is a Constitutional right, and being able to vote safely, and independently for candidates of your choice, and for or against other ballot issues, is a part of that right.

Because this post is about bullying, please choose wisely and please avoid voting for candidates who are bullies, who would delegate power to bullies (including power over our health care and our health care choices), and/or who bully their staffs.

If you are not allowed to vote, or need help in voting for any reason, please ask for assistance — speak up, if you can speak, and if not, there are paid election board staff who are required to assist you, and volunteers (poll watchers) like me who are also available to help if you wish to designate someone other than a paid staff as your assistant. You can designate the next person in line, if you wish, to help you vote.

Once, the year my daughter voted for the first time, I witnessed the Election Board precinct chief bully an elderly woman who had lost her ability to speak after a stroke. I knew her because she lived in the same place as my relative, who had recently passed away. I rose from my seat behind the desk — a poll watcher right that was being contested that year, and is now a protected behavior of poll watchers — to assist this voter who was now seated, and uncontrollably crying, quietly. I knew her, as she remembered my relative; I introduced myself as family member, not a poll watcher. Did I become her assistant — no — but I did make clear that she needed assistance, and that someone was responsible for seeing that she received the assistance she needed in order to vote.

As much as I encourage those who need assistance, or who care for people who may need their care all during Election Day, to vote in person, absentee, before election day — voting on election day is an outing for which the elderly will not pay additional fees to their caretakers — many grew infirm in body and/or mind without knowing about absentee voting, and do not believe their absentee votes will be counted. I count my younger, disabled sibling his category — who passed away three years ago. But I am always pleasantly pleased to have a rational, political discussion about a national election with an older or infirm relative who may or may not always live in the present, but will know for whom they are voting in the next election — and why. Voting provides an opportunity for memories to surface, and to build an oral history of patriotism, a connection between the generations in your family. Please assist your immobile family members in voting absentee.

On Election Day, if there is some reason why you are advised your vote may not count, you are entitled to an explanation in a language you understand, and also to be able to understand how your provisional ballot can be counted. For this explanation, you should be speaking with the person in charge of that voting location. Polling places are noisy, and if you cannot hear, please speak up. Or ask to read the explanation in writing that will be available in English, and sometimes other languages. You may bring a translator to these discussions, or someone who hears or understands more easily.

You may also be given a choice of going to a different location on election day, or filing a provisional ballot. If you file a provisional ballot, you may be required to go to your local government offices the day after the election to provide additional information in order to have your vote counted. This can be difficult if you are unwell, or handicapped. This year, the Friday after election day is a Federal Holiday when government offices will be closed, even the offices of the Election Boards. In my State, we will have until the following Monday after the Tuesday Election Day.

When you go to vote, especially if you have mobility, communication or other health issues that make voting difficult, you should be able to vote outside the polling place with a portable voting machine. Be persistent. Be patient. Try to go at a time when lines will be short — mid- morning or early afternoon.

And also, it’s often necessary, and always a good idea to take your photo identification and something from a third party — such as utility or other government office — showing that you live at your address — just in case, especially if it has been a few years since you voted, or you are voting in a new to you state or polling place. Before election day, check your voter registration on line — and be sure your voting location has not changed. Cure any voter identification issues (name, address, etc.) and if you change something, keep a record of what you changed. More on computer access later.

Whatever you do, please stand up for your right to vote — don’t let election board staff, or anyone else outside the polls discourage you from voting — seek the help of others if you feel unsafe. Voter fraud is so rare, yet just one vote per precinct can change an election – you may have read of the many checks and balances to avoid human error. If results are close, a recount is paid for by the Election Boards, who have budgeted for these rare occurrences. If the result is not close, a candidate may pay for a recount — there are human errors that are corrected in time with scrutiny by many layers of responsible paid and volunteer staff representing partisan political interests and candidates, both party and independent. I’ve been there done that — and even though I promote the vote, I never know how a voter is voting.

If you are in line when the polls close, you have a right to vote. If standing in line is difficult for you, at any time, or if you need to leave the line for any purpose, ask for assistance as a voter needing special assistance — and yes, you or your child/elderly dependent in your company, should be permitted to use the rest room inside the polling place and return to your place outside in line, or even to stay inside if possible. Bring an umbrella, a warm coat and a positive attitude. There will be volunteers, I hope, with whatever you need to keep you in line — yes, they will lend you their cell phone to call the sitter. Maybe even take a picture to show your supervisor why you are late or had good reason to leave early.

In my state, voters can register at the motor vehicle licensing office, and do not need to prove their citizenship when they vote as required in certain states whose voter laws have risen to voter intimidation under review by federal courts. However, as a volunteer who observes voting, in a state that was under scrutiny by the US Federal government, I am aware that one in 20 of these DMV registrations has resulted in an error. Hopefully this year will be different. Similarly, if you changed your name for whatever reason, or your name is commonly misspelled, or you are moving in and out of the country for your job (military, government), or you are a new voter, or a naturalized citizen, it’s a good idea to verify your registration in advance of voting in person. It’s a lot easier and will save you time to fix these common voter registration issues in advance of election day, rather than after, when you may have to make a second trip further from your home.

If you do not have access to the internet, you can go to a voting location for early, in person absentee voting, and a paid staff member will check your voting registration for you, and you may be allowed to vote at that time if you qualify. You can call your election board to verify your registration, but it may take a while until you can speak with a person to verify your registration.

Vote regularly, and early, absentee if you can to avoid standing in line or to vote on a Saturday, and your registration issues will be minimized!

Don’t be bullied by those who would reduce the numbers of qualified voters voting — vote!

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