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March 01, 2016

Pennsylvania promoting prevention helpline to tackle bullying

State says students, parents and schools can call for advice, guidance

Pennsylvania officials are reminding students, families and schools that when bullying occurs they can use the state's helpline for assistance.

The Department of Education announced Monday a partnership with the Highmark Foundation and the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention to help operate their prevention hotline, which the department says is a resource to help address and resolve bullying situations.

The Highmark Foundation has already donated $30,000 to promote and improve the line. Now, the department is trying to make sure school communities are aware the resource is available.

The helpline has been around since April 2015, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports, and the department plans on advertising it more often in the future.

The line is monitored by a licensed social worker who offers guidance and advice on how to handle a situation, according to the newspaper.

The adverse impacts of bullying are well-documented. Recent research shows the mental health issues suffered by victims, such as depression and anxiety, were still prevalent at the age of 50.

Bullying can even impact those who simply witness it. A 2011 Penn State study found those who are exposed often to others being bullied suffer more physical and mental trauma than those who see it less often.

State officials have taken steps recently to try to crack down on the issue, specifically online. Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill in July which makes cyberbullying a third-degree misdemeanor.

Students, families and schools can call the state's bullying helpline at 1-866-716-0424. Messages can be left 24 hours a day, seven days a week and will be returned during normal business hours Monday through Friday.