I’m sure that, at this point, most people have been made aware of the consequences of bullying another person and how it can affect a person. I don’t think it’s necessary to go into it too much as it’s been highlighted many times before. There have been plenty of media stories about bullying and the lasting impact it has on people and their families. Also, due to the gradual destigmatization of mental health issues, survivors of bullying (such as myself) are now unashamedly coming forward to share their experiences with bullying, and how it has impacted them psychologically.
There is now also education in schools which promotes the acceptance of difference among individuals. Pupils of both primary schools and secondary schools are taught to accept others regardless of their ethnicities, religious beliefs, gender identities, sexualities and even differences in personalities and interests. The aim is for an atmosphere of tolerance and inclusion to be created. Students are mostly aware that bullying is neither something that is taken lightly, nor tolerated.
However, I believe that the general population have a skewed idea of what bullying is. It seems as though, when asked “what is bullying” most people will say it’s “beating someone up” or “name-calling” or “being nasty towards someone”. In short, yes – this is bullying. These are all examples of direct bullying which are obvious and can be easier to see. There is, however, a much more hidden form of indirect bullying which is often not discussed. I would like to point out that though it is hidden, it is no less hurtful or damaging to the person being bullied. This kind of bullying is far more difficult to see then the obvious forms of bullying. This is because it is done more subtly.
Here are some examples of indirect bullying:
- Making rude gestures at someone
- Making faces at someone.
- Purposefully excluding someone from a conversation or activity.
- Malicious gossip intended to pit a group of people against a specific person.
- Spreading rumours about a person
- Laughing at person (perhaps for expressing themselves in a slightly different manner)
How might this kind of bullying (or any kind) be stopped? Well, there is no magic solution.
I would encourage all readers to make an effort to include everyone. Don’t leave a person sitting on their own at lunchtime. Invite them to sit with you and your friends. People who bully People who bully will often prey on people who are isolated from their peer group. When it comes to bullying, the saying “safety in numbers” definitely holds true. People who are seen to be part of a group are less likely to be bullied. This is because people who bully are afraid of having someone stand up to them as it takes their power away.
Another way of preventing bullying is to be accepting of other people; say positive things about other people. Don’t make negative judgements about a person’s personality, attire, interests, etc. Don’t engage in negative gossip. This sets a good example to your fellow peers. If you witness bullying taking place, report it to a responsible adult. Lastly, try standing up to people who bully (alone or with a group of people) Though it’s not easy, it is an extremely brave thing to do and it will certainly help the person being bullied. It is harder to deal with bullying that is being executed by a group of people rather than by an individual. Also, a group of people targeting one person creates an imbalance of power, leaving the person feeling outnumbered, vulnerable and isolated.
Fortunately, there is plenty of help available for people dealing with bullying. Make an arrangement to speak with your school’s guidance counsellor or principal about what is happening. The guidance counsellor will offer you advice and support. Consider engaging with the Mental Health Services. If bullying has had a negative impact on your mental health, seek help. Counselling or psychology may be of benefit to you.
Be open with your family and friends about what is happening. Having the support of others is crucial so as not to feel alone and vulnerable. Educate yourself about bullying. You may find some useful information on websites such as “antibullyingcentre.ie”, “sticksandstones.ie”. Know that people who bully do it for their own reasons, perhaps to make themselves feel better. It has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. Take good care of yourself; eat well, exercise, engage in activities, set goals for yourself. All of this will improve your mood and sense of well-being.
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