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Artesia nonprofits address bullying

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Whether people bully others, are bullied or witness frequent incidents, they are likely to suffer.

People who experience intense bullying often experience depression, anxiety, health complaints and lower academic performances and school participation, according to an anti-bullying website of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Meanwhile, those who do the bullying are more likely to have alcohol and drug abuse issues, criminal incidents, school difficulties and relationship problems. Bystanders to frequent incidents also report mental health problems, increased alcohol and tobacco use, and problems with school or work attendance.
A group of Artesia nonprofits have decided to hold a community event Friday at the Ocotillo Performing Arts Center about bullying, with the primary purpose of aiding adults who work to help youth involved in bullying.
Bullying is defined as repeated physical, verbal, written or visual acts intended to hurt, embarrass, threaten, intimidate, isolate or disempower people. Typically, bullying involves a real or perceived imbalance of power, according to the stopbullying.gov website.
The event begins with a 4:30 p.m. workshop meant for people working with area nonprofits or organizations serving youth. Reservations for that event are required.
Then a fictional movie “Cyber Bullying” will be shown starting at 5:30 p.m., with local youth workers participating in a question-and-answer panel discussion following the movie. The movie is suitable for people 14 and older. The public can attend both the movie and panel discussion.
“If I had my wish, the Ocotillo would be filled,” said Stacy Heacox, regional match supervisor and Artesia director for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeastern New Mexico.
Heacox said that the event came about in discussions with some volunteers with her organization who said they thought people could use additional training and support in helping youth deal with bullying.

“Then I had someone approach me and say, ‘I’m interested in that topic. I was bullied at work and I quit my job because of it,’ so it grew from there,” she said.
Sponsored by the Artesia National Bank, the event is a joint effort of several Artesia groups, including the Artesia Art Council, which coordinates art and arts education programs and manages the Ocotillo Performing Arts Center; Grammy’s House, a domestic violence support organization; 702 4 U, a youth outreach group; Faith Baptist Church; and a school representative with the Artesia chapter of Altrusa, a leadership and community improvement group.
“I hope people get a better understanding of how to help people handle these situations, whether they are the bully or the one doing the bullying,” said Lauren Austin, the education director for the Artesia Arts Council, which is making its first foray into the anti-bullying effort.
Heacox said the panel discussion will include people who have years of experience dealing with youth on the issue.
“If you teach a kid how to handle these problems, then it doesn’t necessarily become something that is overwhelming for them,” she said.
Heacox said that New Mexico has made strides in recent years to develop laws aimed at preventing and punishing school bullying and cyberbullying, which occurs online or through social media. But, she adds, even as society becomes more adept at dealing with problem behaviors, bullying evolves, too.
“When I was a kid, it wasn’t as invasive,” she said. “It was something that happened at school with maybe a single person involved and that was it. But now, because technology has changed, it can be very invasive. It can mean receiving a group text message or being harassed on social media.”
Heacox said the “Cyber Bully” movie teaches a powerful message about how sensitive some youth can be to comments made on social media, affected much more profoundly and harmed more severely than those making the comments might think.
Reservations for the event can be made on the Artesia Art Council’s website or by calling 746-4212. The Ocotillo Performing Arts Center is at 310 W. Main St. in Artesia.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.