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What to do if you or someone else is being bullied

If you're being bullied, talk to someone you trust

Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in life

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Bullying is repeated verbal, physical, social or psychological aggressive behaviour by a person or group directed towards another person or group that is intended to cause harm, distress or fear. Bullying almost always takes an emotional toll upon the person being bullied.

I'm being bullied, what can I do?

  • Admit to yourself that you are being bullied and that the behaviour being aimed at you is unfair and unjustified. Try to look at your situation - and the bully - objectively. Ask yourself: would I accept this behaviour in someone I did not know?
  • Tell someone else. If you feel threatened or you think you might be in danger, don’t keep it to yourself. There are loads of people who can help. A teacher, counsellor, parent, or other trusted adult can help you deal with your bully. 

  • Believe in yourself. Don't believe what the bully says of you. You know that it is not true.
  • If the bullying is affecting you physically, go to see your doctor
  • Try to stand up for yourself. If you need to, take assertiveness training or seek advice from a counsellor to figure out the best way to do this.
  • Try not to show that the bully has upset you - they may become bored with getting no reaction from you and then stop.

Tips for seeking help about bullying

It is very difficult for anyone who is being bullied to talk about it, but it is important to tell someone else, like a parent, a teacher, a principal, your boss, or a youth/sports group leader. 

  • If you find it too difficult or you’re too frightened to tell an adult or authority figure, ask a friend to support you and to be with you when you talk about the bullying.
  • Don’t try to deal with the bullying alone, the more support you have the better.
  • Keep a record of every bullying episode that happens: note the time, place, what happened and if anyone else was a witness. This will help you explain clearly what's been happening.

If you see someone else being bullied, what can you do?

  • You can ask the person to stop the bullying but this is never easy to do because of the fear that you might become the next victim.
  • You can quietly approach the victim and let them know that you saw the bullying episode and advise them to tell someone.
  • You can report the incident to an appropriate person yourself.
  • If the victim begins to discuss the bullying, act as a listening ear and be supportive. 
  • Don't overreact, victims need rational advice and help, not emotional overload.
  • Believe the victim and not anyone who may dismiss the claims of bullying simply as 'part' of growing up.' No one should have to put up with bullying.
  • Ask victims if they have any suggestions about changing the situation.
  • Seek advice from an individual or a support group with experience in this area.
  • Keep an eye on the victim. If they threaten suicide, take this very seriously and get professional help immediately.

What to look for if you suspect that a friend or family member is being bullied

  • A change in behaviour, such as a lack of concentration and / or becoming withdrawn, excessively clingy, depressed, fearful, or emotionally up and down.
  • Appearing to have no close friends, not being part of groups, not discussing positive events from their experience.
  • Happy at the weekend but not during the week. A drop in performance in school or at work.
  • Physical signs: stomach aches, headaches, sleep difficulties.
  • Making negative remarks about themselves including phrases such as "Nobody else thinks I'm any good".
  • Having many unexplained cuts and bruises.
  • Binging on food, cigarettes and/or alcohol.

What should I do if I suspect someone is being bullied?

  • Don't question victims intently or ask them anything that might make them feel that they have done something wrong.
  • Broach the subject indirectly, giving them the option to talk about it or not.
  • Let them know that you are willing to listen at any time.
  • When they start to talk, listen carefully to what they have to say.

Remember: you don’t have to put up with bullying. Don’t suffer in silence. 

See the help section for supportive information and contacts details of support organisations, such as Childline, Teenline, or Samaritans


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Published December 12th, 2012
Last updated March 20th, 2018
Tags bullying help mental health wellbeing
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