Bullying can have a massive impact on mental health, both now and in the future. In fact, research has shown that if you’re bullied as a child, you might be twice as likely to use mental health services as an adult. If your child is being bullied, it can mess with their thoughts and feelings.
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Spotting the signs in your child
It can be very worrying if you suspect that bullying has affected your child’s mental health. If they have not opened up to you about this, but you have a gut feeling, you may be on the lookout for some signs, such as:
- Your child may be feeling anxious and worried all the time
- They may be feeling depressed, sad, low and tearful
- Low self-worth and negative self-talk
- Feeling nausea and have stomach pains
- Feeling angry and stressed
- They could be feeling helpless and hopeless, like things will never get better
The impact of their mental health may mean that your child is struggling with day to day tasks such as:
- Finding it hard to concentrate at school
- Not wanting to be around your friends and family
- Not enjoying the things they used to enjoy
- Changes in their appetite
- Issues with their sleep patterns
Our advice on helping children cope with traumatic events may be helpful for you to help you support your child.
Supporting your child
If your child is struggling, it can be hard for them to look after themselves. Encouraging them to do so can help them feel stronger and more able to cope. Let your child know you are there for them when they want to talk to you about how they are feeling. It may be a big decision for them to open up about their worries and anxieties so ensure you give them the space, time and attention.
It may help for your child to write how they are feeling in a journal. Encourage your child to reflect on what they would say to a friend who is struggling with something similar, as this provides the opportunity to practise more positive self-talk.
Nature can be a great boost for our mental wellbeing and helps us feel grounded. Spending time together in parks, forests or near water has lots of positive benefits. Read our advice on wellbeing strategies for children and teens for more tips.
Ways to get the conversation started
Encouraging your child to talk about how they are feeling can be overwhelming or scary. Let them know they don’t have to cope on their own. Here are some ways to get the conversation started.
What do they want to happen?
Let them know they may need to talk to someone to help them understand how they are feeling, or someone to give them some practical help. Encourage them to think about this and who would be the best person to speak to.
Choose someone they feel safe and comfortable with
This might be a parent, or another adult they trust, such as another relative, a teacher, or a friend’s parents. If they are not sure who to reach out to, you can always chat to us on 0808 800 2222 and we can talk it through with you.
Pick the right time and place
Try to find the right time to talk about how they are feeling. It may be when you are both having a meal or when you are out walking. Keeping it light and allowing them to set the pace is important and can help them open up.
It may help to make an appointment with your GP to help your child discuss how they are feeling. The GP may be able to explore ways in which they can help and make necessary referrals. It might be tough for your child to find the words to explain how they are feeling. Check out the DocReady website, which can help you both make a checklist of what your child want to talk about and advice on preparing for your appointment.
If you need urgent help for your child
If your child has expressed feelings of suicidal thoughts, it’s important to get help straightaway. If there’s nobody nearby to talk to, you can call 999 and ask for an ambulance, or go to the nearest A&E for crisis support. You can also call your local NHS mental health helpline (England only) or 111 for urgent advice. Young Minds have some advice that is helpful if you are worried.
It may help to chat to other parents on our forums to find out how they are dealing with this issue within their family life. You can also talk to us online via our live chat service, email us at email@example.com or call us on our helpline on 0808 800 2222 to speak to trained family support worker.