EP 23: Bullying and Mental Health with Rissa Hughes, LPC

Being bullied can be a traumatic event and may potentially lead to mental health struggles. Joining us today is to talk about this issue is Merrissa Hughes, a Licensed Professional Counselor, a Licensed School Counselor, and a former teacher. Combining her classroom experience with her counseling training, Rissa has a deep understanding of the impacts of bullying. This in this episode, we define bullying and explore the different forms it can take. Rather than being a once-off occurrence, bullying is unwanted aggressive behavior with a real or perceived power imbalance. We also hear about some of the effects that being bullied can have. From depression to anxiety to withdrawal, Rissa alerts us to signs to look out for if we suspect a child is being bullied. As parents or teachers, it’s natural to want to intervene in these situations, but in most instances, this is not recommended. A child or teenager who is being bullied has been disempowered, so they must be re-empowered, once again, through gaining their own coping mechanisms. Rather than being told how to deal with the bully, Rissa suggests that parents and counselors help children find ways that resonate with them. Along with this, we also cover other ways parents can be there for their bullied children, the importance of stepping back at the right time, and Rissa’s own story of hope. Be sure to tune in today!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Hear more about Rissa’s background and her journey to becoming an LPC.
  • The incredible story of how Rissa met Brené Brown at a nail salon.
  • Differentiating between meanness, rudeness, and bullying.
  • Types of bullying including verbal, social, and physical and their characteristic features.
  • Common mental health effects Rissa sees in children who have been bullied.
  • The importance of being proactive with children’s mental health rather than dismissing it.
  • How EMDR can be used to work through the trauma of being bullied.
  • If you suspect a child is being bullied, connect with them and let them know you are there.
  • Rissa’s approach to reframing the cognitive distortions that occur as a result of bullying.
  • How Rissa empowers her clients to find coping mechanisms that resonate with them.
  • Even though it’s difficult, parents must give their children room to figure things out.
  • Signs parents should look out for to know when to bring in professional help
  • When parents or counselors should intervene and contact the school.
  • The role parents play in their children’s healing journey.
  • Rissa’s tips for when a parent is the one instigating the bullying.
  • How to deal with bullying in a church setting, which is supposed to be a safe space.
  • More tips from Rissa on how parents can be there for their children who are being bullied.
  • A final story of hope from where Rissa shares her own story of being bullied.


“Bullying, which we define as, it’s going to be over and over again. There’s going to be a power struggle. The person who is being the bully is the person who has the power.” — Merrissa Hughes [0:06:11]

“That school situation is most likely not going to change. What we want to change is how we think about it in our perceptions of ourselves in that situation.” — Merrissa Hughes [0:16:29]

“The stakes are lesser for our kids making mistakes now than if they get out and we didn’t equip them.” — Merrissa Hughes [0:24:40]

“We need to understand our children. We need to seek to understand them and know that they’re changing and evolving, so we need to keep that door open.” — Merrissa Hughes [0:33:34]

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Merrissa Hughes

Brené Brown

Dare to Lead

Texas A&M University

The Call to Courage

Is It Rude, Is It Mean, Or Is It Bullying?

EMDR Institute

The Gottman Method

Mosaics of Mercy

© 2020 Hope


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