Exclusive Interview: Dr. Letamendi - Psychologist & Consultant


At Ninja-Con, we had a panel hosting the “Nerd Civil War” campaign. At the panel Dr. Letamendi had a discussion about bullying and violence amongst the cosplay community. She describes in detail how bullying affects our adolescence and the impact it could have on their lives.

What is a bully? Aren’t we all victims of some problem at one point in our lives?

Bullying is the act of someone using their power to emotionally or physically hurt someone on purpose.It’s important to distinguish bullying as an act or behavior, rather than label a person as a bully. “Power” refers to any kind of imbalance created by differences in height, strength, weight, age, gender, sexual orientation, income, race/ethnicity, religion, or other cultural experience. 

About 28 percent of students ages 12–18 reported being bullied at school during the school year, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) and National Center for Education Statistics Institute of Education Sciences (IES). According to the CDC, more than 7% of students admit to not going to school due to personal safety concerns. Many dread the physical and verbal aggression of their peers, and many more attend school in a chronic state of anxiety and depression. While bullying can result in reluctance to go to school and truancy, headaches and stomach pains, reduced appetite, shame, anxiety, irritability, aggression and depression are also frequent effects.

What is your experience with bullying?

I have experienced bullying as well as been a bystander of bullying throughout my adolescence and teen years. I’ve also experienced cyber-bullying as an adult, which has become fairly pervasive over the last couple of years. I’ve also seen bullying as a result of mental health issues — for instance, many youth and young adults who seek services for mental health conditions experience harassment and isolation due to their peers learning that they receive treatment for emotional, behavioral, or academic problems.

What are common traits of victims of bullying?

Victims of bullying experience anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, difficulty concentrating, headaches and stomach pain as a result of being bullied. Being classified as a bully is predictive of future substance abuse, depression, and anxiety. Bystanders can experience anxiety simply by watching others be excluded or ostracized. 

Social pain hurts, and being bullied leads affects brain chemistry. Neuroimaging studies have shown that parts of the cortical pain network are activated when a person is socially excluded.

How can we help this problem? Do we do this alone or ask for help?

One way we can respond immediately is to foster empathy among our peers. Empathy refers to a person’s ability to understand others. It is the ability to experience what the other person is feeling and understand what they are going through. Empathy is when you can visualize a situation and know how it feels to be in that state without judgment. By increasing self-awareness and empathy, we can all build better skills around identifying bullying, understanding when others are hurting, and responding if possible.When we are in the “moment” of being taunted or teased, it helps to gain a feeling of control over the situation. There are a number of different strategies, but none will work if we don’t first cognitively reframe the perspective; we have to realize that we are often being bullied because someone else is deciding to be cruel, not because of something that is wrong with us. Therefore, it is not our fault and we do not deserve it. Reject the CRUELTY but accept who we are. And if we are ever threatened and feel unsafe, the best course of action is to ask for help from peers or professionals.