LA CROSSE, WI (WKBT) -

Bullying is a problem most people identify with kids in school or on the playground - but a new study details how bullying can have a lasting effect on people years after it happens. 

The study by Pediatrics Journal shows us something we already knew - that bullying causes problems for children. What is unique about this research is that it follows kids over a period of time, and it highlights how persistent the problem can be over years of bullying.

According to the study, bullying is associated with long-term poor mental health, especially in kids who were bullied continuously throughout grades. Jeff Reiland, a child and family therapist with Gundersen Health System, said the consequences can be significant.

"Children who experienced bullying were more likely to have higher levels of depression, or they would experience lower self-worth,’ he said.

The study by Pediatrics suggests one way to fight a bullying issue is for parents to get more involved in their kids' lives. School counselors at La Crosse School District suggest communication is key.

According to counselor Melani Fay, picking the right words can make all the difference.

"I believe the antidote for bullying is for us to express our feelings,” she said.

Fay uses giraffes to get this message across to her students.

"The long neck, the eyes and ears are way up high, so it hears and sees really well, and it makes careful choices,” she explained. “I think attaching a peaceful kind creature to this program has made all the difference.”

Fay asks her students to engage in “giraffe talk,” a specific way to communicate feelings in a kinder manner. The animal is helping to get her message across, and helping to avoid the consequences of long-term bullying in her school.