Bystander Training to Prevent Bullying Improves Student Mental Health

Sadie Cathcart, Mad in America
Publication Date: Nov 17, 2020

Bystander Training to Prevent Bullying Improves Student Mental Health

November 16, 2020 - Both victims and bystanders of bullying face social and emotional consequences that impact mental health. A study led by Aida Midgett, published in the Journal of Prevention and Health Promotion, evaluated middle school students who had undergone bystander training. The results indicate that students who were trained to engage bullying incidents as “defenders” had a reduction in depression symptoms and passive suicidal ideation.


Past research has indicated that bystanders who defend victims of bullying report higher levels of depression than students who do not intervene. This could be partially explained by failed attempts to end bullying. Midgett and colleagues hypothesized that students empowered with skills and resources to intervene more effectively might experience more desirable mental health outcomes.


Midgett and colleagues’ sample of students from a public middle school were sorted into two groups. One group acted as a control while the other group participated in a bystander training program. When effects were evaluated, the intervention group revealed a significant decrease in self-reported depressive symptoms and passive suicidal ideation while the control group revealed slight increases in both.


“The majority of students witness bullying at school, and witnessing bullying is associated with symptoms of depression and suicidal ideation. Furthermore, using maladaptive defending behaviors when intervening in bullying situations is associated with depression. Thus, teaching bystanders appropriate ‘defender’ skills is an important goal for school mental health professionals.”

Read the full article.

View our school-based mental health resources.