Bullying can involve physical or verbal attacks, or persistent social exclusion, all of which can have devastating impacts on the person being bullied.
Often bullies will pick on an aspect of a person that cannot be changed: race, height, image, sexuality and so on. In this sense, bullying is often a form of aggressive prejudice.
The Impact of Bullying
Damaged Sense of Self: Here, the person being bullied can start to feel as if there's something wrong with them as a person.
Damaged Self-Worth: The person being bullied can start to feel as if they are worthless.
Damaged Sense of Safety: The person being bullied can start to feel as if they are always under threat or in danger, even when there are no bullies around.
All of these impacts can lead the person being bullied to withdraw socially, to self-harm, or even to contemplate suicide. It is not uncommon for depression or anxiety issues to develop as a result.
We are deeply social animals. To feel socially excluded can seriously undermine anyone's mental wellbeing. There is research available to indicate that bullying and social exclusion can have the same impact on mental health as other forms of abuse, causing trauma and PTSD.
What You Can Do
- Seek support: Bullies often thrive on making the person feel isolated. So, talk to someone you trust. This could be a family member, or friend. If you find it hard to trust anyone, perhaps a counsellor or psychotherapist would be a good place to start. Tell this person you trust how you feel.
- Remember, it's not your fault: Bullies often pick on things about you that you can't change or control, such as race, image, sexuality, and so on. This is not your fault.
- Don't believe the bullies. Bullies are often trying to make you feel how they feel: powerless, less than. Don't believe them. Bullies are not looking after your best interests.
- Don't retaliate. Don't sink to the level of bullies.
- Keep an event diary: Record every incident that makes you feel scared or small. Include details about what happened, what exactly was said, and the names of people around you who witnessed the bullying.
- Keep a journal: Write how you feel in this journal. This journal is just for you. A safe place to let out your feelings without feeling threatened or judged.
- Communicate with the Bully: Speak to the bully. You could say: "I'm not sure you are aware of this, but when you ____[give details of the bullying behaviour]____ I feel bullied. I'd like you to stop doing that. If you don't stop I will report it to the line-manager/head-teacher." You could ask a supportive friend or colleague to accompany you when do this.
- Challenge the environment: Again, being bullied is not your fault. Both in school and at work, you have a right not to be bullied. Using your event diary, report the details of the incidents to whoever is responsible, such as a teacher or line-manager. Let them know that the bully's behaviour is not acceptable.
- Find a better environment: Try and find a social group in which you can feel safe. Maybe join a sports club or special interest community. Any place where you can enjoy being around others without being judged, and maybe even do something you enjoy. You might think about changing jobs.
How to Help Someone Being Bullied.
- Offer support: If you see someone being bullied, support them. Listen to their feelings. Offer to accompany them in reporting the bullying. If in a school, this might include going together to a head teacher. In work, this might be going with them to the line manager, or higher up if need be.
- Make it clear that bullying is unacceptable: You and your friends or colleagues can do this individually or together. You could accompany the person being bullied in requesting the bully stop their damaging behaviour. The more people who can communicate this to the bully the better.
- Keep a record: Record all bullying behaviour that you see, including witnesses involved, to present to the manager, teacher, or whoever is responsible.
Seeking Counselling Support
If you live in Bristol, I run a counselling / psychotherapy service in the Bristol area. If you think you'd like an consultation session with me, please feel free to check out my website, Your Voice Counselling, Bristol for further information about counselling and psychotherapy, or go to my contact me page for ways to get in touch.