MONTEVIDEO – In Uruguay, three of every 10 children and teenagers suffer from being bullied, a phenomenon that is spreading in the South American country, which is looking to incorporate Finland’s “Kiva” model, focusing on preventing and fighting harassment at early ages through proper social training.
“There’s an international alert that says that for 2025, if preventive measures are not undertaken ... 850,000 children and teens will commit suicide due to bullying,” Silvana Giachero, a psychologist specializing in this type of harassment and the author of “Bullying & Mobbing: Making the Invisible Visible” (2017), told EFE.
According to UNICEF figures and a survey conducted by a group specializing in the issue at the University of Montevideo, 30 percent of Uruguayan kids and teens endure bullying, placing the country in third place in Latin America, Giachero said.
In mid-2016, the psychologist, along with her team, presented through National Party lawmaker Lourdes Rapalin a bill in Parliament to deal with the issue by focusing on preventing the behavior using the Kiva method.
The program, which was developed in 2007 in Finland, focuses on training teachers and students to detect bullying and learn how to act each time they encounter this type of behavior, which occurs in all schools at all levels.
As Giachero said, just two of every 10 kids and teens actually speak up when they become victims of bullying, something that – she says – is associated with the way of acting in Uruguayan schools.
“They (the victims) see that in (schools) ... the culture is to legitimize the harasser and, while that is being done, kids see that they can run a risk if they complain,” she said.
Giachero, who has worked on the issue for 11 years, said that the country must make a “leap” and recognize that this is a “very serious problem” that affects “everyone.”
She added that it is necessary to change the “school culture” because learning institutions currently “close ranks, legitimize the harasser and set the victims apart.”