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Rural Health Information Hub

Together We Can Be Bully Free

  • Need: Union Parish, a rural county in Louisiana, was experiencing higher than average suicide rates among youth.
  • Intervention: Union General Hospital, a Critical Access Hospital, started a program to educate students grade 4 through 12 on the negative effects of bullying and how to model positive social behavior.
  • Results: The 3,000+ students trained have learned how to recognize, report, and react to bullying.


Suicide is the eleventh leading cause of death in Louisiana, and the second leading cause of death for Louisianans ages 10 to 24. Suicide was responsible for 642 deaths in 2020. For 15- to 24-year-olds, there are an estimated 100 to 200 suicide attempts for each death by suicide, according to the Louisiana Department of Health.

Union General Hospital logo

In 2014, 12 youth suicide cases were reported in Union Parish, Louisiana. Increasing bullying and suicide rates were a growing concern noted in Community Health Needs Assessments. Union General Hospital, a Critical Access Hospital (CAH) in Union Parish, Louisiana, was averaging 9 teen suicide attempts per month. It was the suicide of a local fifth grade bully victim that drove hospital administration to take action.

Don't Bully icon

Together We Can Be Bully Free is a part of Union General Hospital's Drug and Suicide Prevention Program. Because bullying often starts in elementary school, the program was originally created for younger students and has since expanded to high schoolers. In 3 sessions a year, parents, teachers, and students learn the dangers of bullying and how to help students who are at risk of committing suicide. Because research indicates a strong link between the suicide and bullying, it became the goal of the program to educate, identify, and overcome physical, mental, and cyber bullying.

This program is a partnership of the Union General Hospital, the Union Parish Sheriff's Office, Crime Stoppers, and the Union Parish School District.

Participating schools that host the anti-bullying sessions include D'Arbonne Woods Charter School, Farmerville Elementary School, and Downsville Community Charter School.

D'Arbonne Woods Charter School bully free session
Students from D'Arbonne Woods Charter School attend a Together We Can Be Bully Free session at the Union Parish Sheriff's Office.

This program was also featured in RHIhub's Rural Monitor article, Together We Can Be Bully Free: CAH and Law Enforcement Address Peer Victimization through School-Based Program.

Services offered

Together We Can Be Bully Free holds 3 sessions per year at participating schools. The planning team formulates session content around issues students are facing expressed by parents and teachers at school board meetings. Topics covered by a mental health and psychiatric nurse from Union General Hospital and a detective from Crime Stoppers of Union Parish include:

  • Different types of bullying and their physical, mental, and emotional effects
  • Reasons why someone might engage in bullying
  • Identifying the roles that bystanders and those who participate in bullying
  • Modeling positive social behavior
  • How social media spreads bullying and escalates conflict
  • Brainstorming student-initiated solutions to reduce bullying
  • Creating concrete action plans in the classroom
  • Constructing social rules for behavior based upon identified challenges
  • Personal testimonies from children who have addressed personal bully attacks

In addition to the sessions, the program also offers referrals to local mental health providers for students who need extra help.


Over 3,000 students have participated in the anti-bullying program: 500 students the first year, 600 the second year, and over 1,900 the following years. Students have learned how to recognize, report, and react to bullying. As a result, reports of bullying incidents to the Union Parish Sheriff's Office has decreased. The number of suicide attempts has also decreased. Four resource officers have also been assigned to partnering schools to prevent and mediate bullying incidents.


Together We Can Be Bully Free received the 2014 Outstanding Rural Health Program of the Year Award from the Louisiana Rural Health Association, for its contribution to the healthcare system in Union Parish and for its efforts in improving the quality of rural healthcare through educational outreach efforts.

In 2015, the program was recognized as a "Program of Promise" by Jackson Healthcare's National Hospital Charitable Services Awards. It was selected from a pool of 101 nominees as a high-impact community health program and a model for replication.

Farmerville Elementary School bully free session
A Together We Can Be Bully Free session held at Farmerville Elementary School in Farmerville, L.A.


One of the biggest challenges when first approaching schools was hesitancy or denial that bullying was an ongoing occurrence. Once the program explained their intention, there was more receptivity. Educating administrators and school staff on the reality of bullying and its long-term effects has remained an ongoing mission of the program.

When approached by school administrators about some of the information presented (for example, stories about suicide or effects of bullying), the program organizers explain the importance of talking honestly with the kids in order to prevent bullying and suicides.


To replicate this program, organizers suggest inviting partners who have a stake in anti-bullying efforts. Cultural diversity among the project's team has helped build culturally relevant messages in order to reach all demographics of children.

Provide age-appropriate material for the youth. Speak to them at their level without sugar-coating the information. Because students respond better to other students teaching, engage the audience in demonstrations and show videos that feature students.

When speaking of bullying, encourage the students to keep their eyes forward and not embarrass the bullies in the room by pointing to them. Include education about why someone might be a bully (for example difficult circumstances at home). Provide time for public confession, a gesture that is the start of emotional healing for many bullies.

After the presentation, allow time for students to approach the leaders one-on-one, perpetrators and victims alike. Invite the school counselor to be present as well.

The Together We Can Be Bully Free brochure has more information about bullying and classroom resources.

Contact Information

Claudia Wade, Program Director
Together We Can Be Bully Free

Abuse and violence
Children and youth
Mental health
Suicide and suicide prevention

States served

Date added
April 17, 2017

Date updated or reviewed
February 24, 2023

Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub, 2023. Together We Can Be Bully Free [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at: [Accessed 25 May 2024]

Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.