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Mental Health and Bullying

Bullying behaviour is a significant issue that can have profound effects on mental health. The relationship between bullying behaviour and mental health is complex and multifaceted, impacting both those affected by it and those displaying the behaviour.

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 behaviour, the more concerned health professionals are becoming over the potentially damaging and long-lasting impact that it has on the mental health of those who experience it. Bullying behaviour 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.

Impact on Those Affected by Bullying Behaviour

  1. Anxiety and Depression:

    Those who are affected by bullying behaviour often experience increased levels of anxiety and depression. The persistent nature of bullying can lead to a constant state of fear and apprehension, which can evolve into chronic anxiety disorders. Depression is also common, with feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and helplessness becoming prevalent.

  2. Low Self-Esteem and Self-Worth:

    When a peron is bullied, it can severely damage their self-esteem. Constant negative feedback and harassment can lead individuals to internalise these negative views, believing them to be true. This erosion of self-worth can have long-lasting effects on personal and professional relationships.

  3. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):

    Severe cases of bullying behaviour can lead to PTSD. Symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts about the experience.

  4. Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors:

    The link between bullying behaviour and suicidal ideation is well-documented. When a person is bullied, they may feel so overwhelmed and isolated that they see no way out – other than ending their life. Studies have shown that being bullied is associated with an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

  5. Academic and Social Withdrawal:

    A person who is being bullied can often struggle with academic performance due to the stress and distraction caused by their experiences. Socially, they may withdraw from peers and family, leading to increased feelings of isolation and loneliness.


There is some research that indicates that some young people who display bullying behaviour, 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 display bullying behaviour towards others, are at greater risk for mental health problems.

Bullying behaviour which is not responded to effectively, can cause children and young people to develop other coping strategies such as self-isolation or self-harm or they may develop an addiction 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 displayed bullying behaviour towards others when compared to young people who have not been involved in any incidents of 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.

Impact on Those who Display Bullying Behaviour

  1. Aggression and Antisocial Behavior:

    Individuals who display bullying behaviour towards others often exhibit aggressive behaviors and may engage in other forms of antisocial behavior. This can lead to difficulties in forming healthy relationships and can persist into adulthood, potentially resulting in criminal activity.

  2. Risk of Substance Abuse:

    A person who displays bullying behaviour is at a higher risk of engaging in substance abuse as a way to cope with underlying issues or to maintain a sense of power and control.

  3. Mental Health Issues:

    Bullying behavior can be a sign of underlying mental health issues, such as conduct disorder or personality disorders. Those who display the behaviour may also experience guilt, shame, or anxiety related to their actions, particularly if they face consequences or social rejection as a result.

We need to be more aware of the damage bullying behaviour causes. We need to speak out more when we see it happening. We need to do this because it saves lives.

Broader Community Impact

  1. School and Workplace Environment:

    Bullying can create a toxic environment in schools and workplaces, affecting not just those directly affected by the behaviour, but also bystanders who witness the behaviour.This can lead to a general atmosphere of fear and mistrust, reducing overall well-being and productivity. If a person is being bullied at work, it can be difficult for them to know what to do. Sometimes bullying behaviour 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 behaviour does to a person’s mental health.

  2. Family Dynamics:

    Families of both those who are bullied and those who display bullying behaviour can be deeply affected. Parents may feel helpless, anxious, or guilty about their child’s experiences, leading to stress and familial conflict.

The impact of bullying behaviour on mental health is significant and far-reaching. Addressing this issue requires a comprehensive approach involving education, support, and intervention to create a safer and healthier environment for everyone involved.

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.










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Need to talk?

If you are being bullied or are concerned about someone who is, you can receive help and support from one of our trained Mentors through our e-mentoring service.

If you would like a Mentor to email you, please contact: mentorsonline@bulliesout.com

If you would rather speak to someone over the telephone, you can call Childline on: 0800 1111

For any community-related issues, such as anti-social behaviour, we would suggest contacting your landlord, the local police or your local environmental health department (where applicable), as we are unable to deal with these types of complaints.