What can I do if I see bullying?
If you or someone you know is being bullied, talk to someone you trust
Written by spunout
Fact checked by experts and reviewed by young people.
Bullying can happen to anyone, and anywhere. It can happen in school, college, work, online and even at home. Bullying can have a devastating effect on a person’s mental health and self-esteem, and can make life miserable for the person who is being bullied. If you are witness to someone else being bullied, it can be difficult to know what to do, but there are ways that you can try to deal with bullies.
What are the signs that someone 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A change in behaviour, such as a lack of concentration and/ or becoming withdrawn, excessively clingy, depressed, fearful, or emotionally up and down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
Happy at the weekend but not during the week
A drop in performance in school or at work
Physical signs like stomach aches, headaches, or sleep difficulties
Making negative remarks about themselves including phrases such as “Nobody else thinks I’m any good”
Having cuts and bruises
Unexplained damage to their belongings or clothing
What should I do if I see someone being bullied?
If you see someone being bullied, it can be difficult to step in for fear that the bully might begin bullying you. However, standing by and watching bullying happen is not the answer either. The more people who stand up to a bully, the less likely they are to continue.
Talk to them
If you think your friend or someone you know is being bullied, talk to them about it. Avoid questioning them too intently or asking them anything that might make them feel that they have done something wrong. Bring up the subject indirectly, giving them the option to talk about it or not. When they start to talk, listen carefully to what they have to say. If you are very concerned for their wellbeing, you should talk to a trusted teacher or family member who can do something more about it.
Show your support
If you see or know someone being bullied, let them know that you are there for them. Show them that they don’t have to deal with the bullying alone. Simply knowing that they have support around them will make them feel more confident.
Encourage them to talk
If you witness someone being bullied, suggest that they go talk to someone who can help stop it. If they find it too difficult, you could offer to go along with them for support. Sometimes the person might be afraid of reporting the bullying, perhaps out of fear or because they think it won’t make a difference. If this is the case and you are still concerned, you should report it to the appropriate person yourself. If the bullying is taking place online, this should also be reported using the report function.
Encourage them to look after their mental health
Bullying can have a significant impact on a person’s mental health. If you are worried about your friend’s mental health, encourage them to talk to someone about it, go for counselling or to contact a helpline such as 50808 listed below.
Direct them to support services
There are plenty of free and confidential support services available for those who are experiencing bullying. If your friend needs further support, ask them to consider contacting one of the services below.
Feeling overwhelmed and want to talk to someone?
- Get anonymous support 24/7 with our text message support service
- Connect with a trained volunteer who will listen to you, and help you to move forward feeling better
- Free-text SPUNOUT to 50808 to begin
- Find out more about our text message support service
If you are a customer of the 48 or An Post network or cannot get through using the ‘50808’ short code please text HELLO to 086 1800 280 (standard message rates may apply). Some smaller networks do not support short codes like ‘50808’.