2nd Nov 2017
Mental Health is a topical subject right now with conversations taking place both on and offline. One question that keeps cropping up is ‘can bullying affect our mental health’? Of course it can!
Imagine being bullied every day, whether it’s for 6 months or 6 years or anywhere in-between, that drip, drip of abuse being hurled at you constantly. That is not something you can just ‘forget’ or ‘get over’. For many people, it stays with them for a lifetime, causing many other issues; low self-esteem, low confidence, anxiety, depression. It can lead to self-harm, some may develop an eating disorder and it has an increased risk of suicide.
We simply cannot under-estimate the damage that bullying does to a person’s academic, social, physical and emotional health and well-being. The impact is huge but the media usually concentrate on the immediate after effects of bullying but the truth is the effects reach further than we can imagine.
As someone who was bullied right the way through secondary school, I can still hear the voice of my bully calling me a ‘loner’ ‘weird’, making fun of my family background and the clothes I wore (we weren’t as affluent as her family!). I can still feel her punches and kicks.
I was around 35 years of age before I managed to ‘control’ my anorexia – something I’d had since the age of 14. I now live with the effects of an eating disorder and high impact sport and still have a poor ‘relationship’ with food. I’ve just covered one area in which my bullying affected me. There are more! This is not an ‘oh woe is me’ tale. This is just one example of how bullying can and does affect a person’s mental health and how those effects can stay for a very long time.
There are over 10 million children and young people in the UK and over half report being bullied. Research in 2015 showed that 29% of those who were bullied self-harmed and 27% truanted from school and other research showed that 44% of young suicides are as a result of bullying. Yet despite the scale of suffering today, one in three adults still view bullying as a ‘routine rite of passage’ and 16 per cent describe it as ‘character-building’. How many more young people have to tragically lose their lives before these outdated perceptions change?
Of course, it’s not just the bullied that are affected. What about the bully? ‘Who cares’ – I hear many of you cry. ‘Why should they get help?’ I never knew what happened to my bully after we left school all those years ago. Did she carry on bullying others? Did she become a workplace bully? Quite possibly she did. This is why a bully needs help too. They need to understand what they are doing is wrong and how much damage they are causing to the person they are bullying. If they are not given the help they need to change and manage their behaviour, the bullying will continue.
So yes, bullying can and does affect a person’s mental health and can do so for many, many years. If you’re being bullied, stay strong and please tell someone. If you’re bullying someone, please tell someone and stop.
Research by Ditch The Label 2015 & Beat Bullying 2014
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