One in four people experience a mental health problem. Whilst not all are down to bullying behaviour, simply having a mental health problem can lead to a person being bullied.
As we come to better understand bullying, the more concerned health professionals are becoming over the potentially damaging and long-lasting impact that bullying has on the mental health of those who experience it.
Bullying can devastate a person’s life. They can lose all faith in their ability, feel ill and depressed and find it hard to feel motivated to work or learn.
Those who are bullied are at risk for a variety of mental health concerns. Some of them are at risk for experiencing an acute stress or trauma reaction, or depending on the form of bullying, they could have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Young people who are bullied are more likely to experience: depression, anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy*. Bullying also causes long-term damage to a person’s self-esteem.
There is some research that indicates that some young people who are bullies, are at increased risk for substance use, academic problems and violence to others later in life. The research also indicates that those who are bullied who then go onto bully, are at greater risk for mental health problems.
Bullying which is not responded to effectively, can cause children and young people to develop other coping strategies such as self-isolation or self-harm and cause significant disruption to their ability to engage with school, learning and their wider relationships. Anxiety problems are thought to affect up to 1 in 6 young people and include social phobias, generalised anxiety problems, panic attacks and obsessive compulsive disorder.
Mental health problems are not always apparent and can often be overlooked in schools. In addition, problems can be complex, with many of those experiencing mental health problems having difficulties in more than one area (e.g. conduct problems and depression). As such, professionals working with young people who have obvious behavioural difficulties should also consider whether they are masking additional emotional problems.
Young people are much more likely to have symptoms of depression and anxiety if they have either been bullied or engaged in bullying others when compared to young people who have not been involved in bullying. It is well recognised in research that young people who have been bullied are more likely to have lower self-esteem and self-confidence. In particular, sustained, prolonged bullying focusing on a particular aspect of someone’s identity, which goes unrecognised or unchallenged, may have significant effects on the mental health of young people and may lead them to develop a negative self-identity.
If a person is being bullied at work, it can be difficult for them to know what to do. Sometimes bullying may be obvious, but sometimes it can be very covert and harder to identify. Being bullied at work can make a person’s life miserable. They can lose all faith in their ability, feel ill, anxious, stressed and be unable to motivate themselves to go to work. With 1 in 3 adults bullied at work and stress being the biggest reason for sickness absenteeism in the workplace, we must never underestimate the damage bullying does to a person’s mental health.
We need to be more aware of the damage bullying causes. We need to speak out more when we see it happening. We need to do this because it saves lives.
Nobody should face a mental health problem alone. If you’re feeling alone, reach out to us and access support for yourself or reach out to someone who needs it.