The impact of bullying can be devastating: low self-esteem, learning problems and even suicide.
Bullying is almost universal. We see it in schools, within families, at the workplace, and even among animals. It may have its roots in survival of the fittest, where the most vulnerable individuals or those lowest in the pecking order are intimidated, left out, or in the animal kingdom, killed.
The forms bullying take are physical violence, gossip, and ostracism – or being excluded. Among humans, the reasons for bullying are vast and varied. Most commonly, they include victimising someone who is “different” in any way and to allow the bully to feel better about him/herself by putting someone who seems vulnerable down. The bully may also feel threatened by the victim if they are doing particularly well at something, “the tall poppy syndrome”.
The impact of bullying can be devastating. We have all heard of the tragic suicides that have resulted from cyberbullying – in which someone is victimised in full public view, with often humiliating and inaccurate facts being posted about them.
The extent to which bullying affects an individual varies. It can be more severe if it began earlier, occurred in more than one environment, or if the person did not have any other supports. However, even one episode of being bullied in a person’s life can have repercussions that dramatically lower their quality of life.
The low self-esteem that can result from bullying can be life-long, and permeate every area of the victim’s life. The person thinks: if this is happening to me, there must be something wrong with me. There is a sense of being essentially flawed in some way.e
Being left out is one form of bullying, and can result in children feeling depressed and feeling there is something wrong with them
At school, learning can be interrupted. It is particularly important in a person’s formative years that they are accepted – children spend more time at school than anywhere else, and they are forming a self-concept and self-identity: who they are, and their place in the world. If children are unhappy, it is hard for them to take an interest in their schoolwork.
Resulting from this can be a social anxiety that begins from a fear of interacting with others. This is because it might result in rejection. The person may avoid all scenarios where this may occur – making new friends, or applying for a job which involves a lot of interaction with others.
This can cause a dramatically lowered quality of life where the person limits any action which may ultimately risk rejection from others.
The risks of mental illness also increase, particularly depression as they begin to see themselves as helpless in preventing what is happening, and the deepening conviction there is something really wrong with them.
It is therefore vital that bullying be stopped, NOW.
The most important thing is for the victim to realise it is not their fault
At school, the teacher needs to make efforts to provide extra support for the child. An adult can role-play what happened in front of the child, and how they might respond if it happens again.
Parents need to be involved to provide extra support to make sure the child’s self-esteem remains intact. It is absolutely important that the child experiences another avenue where they can receive acceptance, whether this be in the family unit, or from friends from other hobbies and interests, such as sporting teams.
There should be ongoing communication between the teacher, the parents, the child, the bully and parents of the bully.
If the school is not taking this seriously, a meeting can be held with the teacher where the parents can talk about the impact the bullying is having upon the child, and how it might be dealt with
Support should not be once-off when bullying it occurs, but a continual eye should be kept upon the dynamics between the one being bullied and the perpetrators.
The school needs to adopt a philosophy of tolerance, respect and acceptance. Open discussions about the importance of respecting and accepting differences should take place
It helps to build empathy if the bully learns the impact they have had upon the child. The bully and the child being victimised can be talked to openly about what happened under supervision of an adult
the child needs to be encouraged by a trusted adult that no matter what, it is important that they talk about the bullying when it happens.
In the workplace, the same steps can work.
Bullying can be just as damaging in the workplace
However, the adult needs to be their own advocate, and firstly again, the most important thing is not to blame themselves
The person being victimised in the workplace, needs to have emotional support as well, whether this be from a friend, a spouse or partner or a psychologist
the boss can be approached to discuss what happened. If it is happening to one person, chances are somebody else is also being bullied. In the workplace, teamwork is important and the boss has an interest in making sure things run smoothly. Hopefully a discussion with the boss can help to find a solution to the bullying so that everyone can work more effectively.
Bullying is not something that just should be put up with..the impacts, as those who have suffered from it know can be lifelong and devastating.
I'm glad you've addressed this. It's a shame though that sometimes even the teachers ignore what is happening or don't go far enough to eradicate it completely. Nice to see though that in recent years this is starting to change.