Most of the young people we spoke with had experienced bullying. For many, the bullying had gone on for years and taken many forms; verbal, physical, emotional, mental, and for some, had been very violent. Almost without exception young people said the ongoing bullying, in whatever form, had had a deep and lasting effect on them. The bullying was often the main trigger if not the cause of their mental health problems.
Erika-Maye was pushed down the stairs, spat at and poked with compasses.
The experience of bullying
For some, the bullying had started in primary school, as young as at 5 or 6. Others had enjoyed their primary school years but then the bullying started when they moved up to secondary school or when they moved to a new area and had been ‘the new kid in school’.
Sarah was bullied in the new school as she was smarter than others and stood out.
Many said they had been bullied because they were ‘different’ and ‘didn’t fit in’. Many had felt they didn’t ‘blend in’ with the cliques that were forming in school and found it hard to make any friends who would stand by them. Being very smart or having learning difficulties had also given an excuse for the bullies to take it out on them for standing out from the crowd.
Lisa was bullied because she had some learning difficulties and dyslexia. She came home in tears…
Cat says that if you dont have the right brands and wear the right clothes, youre a sitting…
Mandy was bullied because she didn’t ‘fit in’ and she developed earlier than most other girls.
A few people had been bullied because of their appearance. One young man suffered bad side effects from his epilepsy medication; shaking, acne and boils on his face, which he was teased about. A couple of young girls had been bullied because of their weight, which led to them to stop eating, and at worst, to develop anorexia or bulimia.
As a result of the bullying, Ruby started to believe that she was ugly and had a hideous…
Several said they’d been a target for bullies because they were shy and lacked confidence. A couple said they just wanted to do well in school and to enjoy learning.
Loz was shy and didnt want to stand out. He just wanted to get on with his school work.
School’s response to bullying
Most people described their school’s response to bullying as non-existent or ineffective. One woman said her school was very aware of the bullying but never intervened as the school’s official line was that ‘there is no bullying in this school’. A couple of people had attempted to report the bullying for years, but no intervention had followed. Some also said they never bothered to report the bullying because they lacked any faith in the school to improve the situation. A few had got into trouble for reporting the bullying and ended up being blamed for bad behaviour themselves. One woman was told she was just ‘overreacting’ and another one was accused of ‘making it all up’.
Finding support for bullying
Quite a few people had told their parents about bullying, who tried to support them and intervene the best they could. A couple of people said their parents had been to school every other week trying to sort it out, often with no outcome.
People had also hoped to be able to rely on a trusted friend or friends to ‘stick up for them’ and to defend them. Many had no trusted friends or alternatively their friends were too quiet and shy to feel able to step in. A couple said their only friends were in fact the bullies who would be friends with them outside of school but who switched to bullies in school time. Few people never told at home about the bullying because, as one young woman put it, ‘I didn’t want to cause any more trouble really’.
A couple of people had ended up having to change schools or be home schooled as the only way to stop the bullying.
Long-term effects of bullying
To avoid the bullying, people often started missing lessons or not going to school at all. Their schoolwork suffered and many described slipping to the bottom of the class:
‘I just stopped talking and telling people it. I just stopped even bothering like, I didn’t see the point, I stopped doing work, I just stopped like bothering in lessons, whereas when I went there, I was top of the class for everything, now I was just sinking further and further down. And I just wasn’t doing well.’
Many said their already low self-esteem plummeted further and they’d lost all self-confidence. They’d started to believe the bullies and thought they really were ‘ugly’, ‘fat’ and ‘a freak’. A couple said they’d tried to ‘conform’ to please the bullies and if this failed, they felt even worse about themselves.
Several people said the bullying was the major factor in them developing mental health problems; anxiety, depression, and phobias a few had developed agoraphobia and were not able to leave the house and a couple developed a social phobia of being around people.
The lack of intervention and support led to some people self-harming; often by cutting themselves. One person said she’d stopped caring about herself as nobody else seemed to care about her wellbeing either. For some, cutting made the bullying even worse as their classmates would bully them and make hurtful jokes about the visible cuts and scars.
After years of being bullied herself, Jo became a bully.
Helena developed agoraphobia as a result of bullying at home and in school.
Bullying mentally and physically scars you for life, says Lisa. She confronted one of her…
Constant bullying led Sarah to start self harming. She was bullied even more because of the…
Cyberbullying is when a person, or a group of people, uses the internet, mobile phones, or other digital technologies to threaten, tease or abuse someone. (Childline, June 2017)
Cyberbullying can happen 24 hours a day, seven days a week if you use the internet or a mobile phone and can leave you feeling scared and unsafe even when you are at home.