How to Talk to Teens and pre-Teens About Bullying Using Stories and Images

Mrs Toula Gordillo, Clinical Psychologist Talk to Teens presented at the 2015 No 2 Bullying Conference and today shares an update on her presentation ‘Is Your Child AWOL or ANOL?  How to Talk to Teens and pre-Teens About Bullying Using Stories and Images’.

Metaphorical stories and symbolic images is how humanity has always sought to make sense of the world.  It is what separates us from the animal kingdom and I believe it is what we need to ‘tap into’ if we are to raise awareness of our own behaviour – or to understand and potentially change the behaviour of others.

Not surprisingly, key themes to emerge from the qualitative results of my PhD research involve the use of stories and images.  In particular, stories and images create distress (negative stress) for youth but stories and images also create eustress (positive stress).  Another key theme was that youth regularly use stories and images (online and offline) as a way of coping with issues, such as bullying behaviour, leading to mental health concerns (

In my capacity as a Clinical Psychologist and Jungian Analyst I presented my experience and research at the No 2 Bullying Conference in 2015.  During the presentation I used the acronyms AWOL and ANOL to describe ‘bully perpetrator’ and ‘bully victim’ behaviour respectively (  I presented on a similar topic around the same time during an ABC Interview discussing ways in which I use the ancient Frog and Scorpion fable to help teens struggling with drug addiction (  These days I have shortened my therapy to Story Image Therapy (SIT)® and I use ‘Fearful Frog’ and ‘Stinging Scorpion’ metaphors, rather than the AWOL and ANOL acronyms (see attached image) to make the information a bit simpler for teens and preteens.

I am now earnestly researching ways of delivering mental health information through ancient myths, legends, fables and folktales as part of a Doctor of Creative Arts – details recently published in Youth Voice Journal (

I sincerely believe bullying behaviour can be reduced, even potentially eliminated, and that stories and images hold the key.  And as a professional and concerned parent of three teenagers who have all experienced bullying, I am on a mission to explain how.





One Comment:

  1. Mental fitness is as important as physical fitness, but usually we do not focus on our mental health . I visited many sites but the information about teen’s mental health that you have mentioned in the site is very helpful and easy to do. I must say your ideas to improve mental health are very unique and I think everyone who is suffering from mental sickness, should try these ideas for better and healthy life.

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