According to the 2016 national bullying statistics by Ditch the Label, a staggering 1.5 million young people in the UK were bullied within the last year alone. Of these, 145,800 (19%) were bullied every day.
Bullying isn’t something that happens to a certain type of person or at a certain age. Bullying can happen to anyone at any time. It can be about anything or happen within any setting – whether at school, online, in the workplace or within the home.
What is bullying?
People often think of bullying as being physically violent towards another person, but bullying can take many forms – it can be physical, verbal, social or psychological. Bullying is repeated aggressive behaviour by a person or a group that is directed at another person or group, and is intended to cause harm, distress or fear. Bullying could include making threats to someone, spreading rumours about them, attacking someone physically or verbally, or deliberately excluding someone from a group. Bullying doesn’t just affect the person who is being bullied – it also has an impact on those who are witness to the bullying, as well as on those who bully.
Whatever form bullying takes, being bullied can have a huge impact on a young person’s life, impacting on their self-esteem and mental health. Sometimes someone may try to justify their behaviour by finding something different about the person they are bullying – this might include what they look like, how they express themselves or what they do. But this does not mean that the person being bullied is to blame. There is never any justification for bullying.
How does bullying affect people?
Bullying affects young people in many different ways. It can impact on their self-esteem, emotional wellbeing, education and life outside of school. Young people experiencing bullying may feel that they aren’t worth help or that nobody likes them. They may feel self-conscious or embarrassed lots of the time. They may also feel scared, sad or overwhelmed, and find it difficult to sleep or eat. Many young people who have been bullied find it really hard to ever feel safe or confident in anything they do, leading them to isolate ourselves from others and to give up the things they enjoy doing.
From calls to our helpline service PAPYRUS HOPELineUK, we know that bullying can cause many young people to feel isolated, worthless, and experience thoughts of suicide. A national bullying survey by Bullying UK found that 40% of young people who reported being bullied experienced thoughts of suicide and 39% had self-harmed. It also found that 42% of young people had had to take time off school after they had experienced bullying.
Online bullying is a contributing factor for many young people having thoughts of suicide. Over 200 schoolchildren die by suicide every year in the UK. We need everyone to be aware of the impact that online bullying can have on children and young people’s mental health.
Find out more about the campaign to raise awareness of the impact on online bullying and to create greater online safety for children and young people.
What can you do if you’re being bullied
Don’t keep it to yourself: Nobody deserves to be bullied and everyone deserves help. You might feel that telling someone will make things worse, or make you look stupid or weak but this is NOT the case and it’s important to tell someone as soon as you can. You don’t have to try and cope with this alone and there are people who can support you. Think about who you know and trust it could be a friend, teacher, colleague, family member, a parent or carer. They won’t be able to promise that they can keep the bullying a secret, but they will be able to help. Don’t try to ignore it or keep it to yourself.
Ask for help: If you have told someone and nothing is being done about the bullying then ask for help. Find out what support people can offer you and be open with them about what you think might help. You have a right to get help. If you’re being bullied online, you can also report bullying to the site where the bullying is taking place.
Remember the bullying is NOT your fault: No-one deserves to be bullied, whatever anyone might say you have the right to feel safe and respected at your school, in your workplace, amongst your friends, online and at home.
Self-care: Being bullied can have a massive impact on all aspects of a young person’s life. This means that it is extremely important to ensure you continue to do things to look after yourself. This can include keeping up with doing things you enjoy, having time where you can relax, doing some exercise, or having a break from social media if you’re being bullied online. Try to stay connected to people who treat you well and use them for support too. Being bullied is overwhelming and all-consuming at times so it’s important to try and make time for things that are not linked to it.
Counselling or therapy: It’s important to be able to talk about how things are affecting you in a safe space, without judgement. There are many places where you can access therapy or counselling to give you the opportunity to do this through your school, college, your GP, privately, or through local charities. There are also places where you can access online and telephone counselling if this is something that would be helpful for you. Have a look around and see what options you have as there is always somewhere you can go to get this support.
Self-help: Self-help resources can help, both while you’re waiting to get help for the bullying, and to help you manage the impact the bullying may have had on your self-esteem or emotional wellbeing. Books and websites that encourage you to look at the ways in which you feel and what you do to cope. They can show you how you to make positive changes or find new ways to look at things. An example of this is the use of the resources and information on the website Get Self Help.
If you’re experiencing thoughts of suicide as a result of bullying or for any other reason, PAPYRUS can help. PAPYRUS is the national charity dedicated to preventing young suicide and believes many young suicides can be prevented. We offer suicide awareness and prevention training sessions, campaign to influence national policy, raise awareness and work with volunteers to help create suicide-safer communities. PAPYRUS also has a national helpline called HOPELineUK.
PAPYRUS HOPELineUK is a confidential support and advice service for young people under the age of 35 experiencing thoughts of suicide, or anyone who is concerned about a young person feeling this way. HOPELineUK is open every day of the year and is staffed by experienced professionals who are trained in suicide intervention skills.