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Help & Information

Be The Upstander

Bullying usually happens in front of an audience. This could be in front of a large crowd gathered in the school playground or just a couple of friends in a group chat. These onlookers – or ‘bystanders’ – can have a huge impact on how things turn out for the person being bullied.

As a bystander, you can choose to take a few different paths:

  1. You can be a Sidekick – someone who joins in with the bullying behaviour and makes it worse
  2. You can become a Reinforcer – someone who encourages the bullying by watching it or laughing along at what is happening
  3. You can be the Outsider – someone who ignores the bullying but doesn’t do anything at all to stop it from happening


      4. You can become an Upstander – someone who tries to help and support the person being bullied. 

An Upstander is someone who takes action against bullying behaviour. When an Upstander sees someone being bullied, they do something about it. They help to stop the bullying from happening, or they support the person who’s being bullied.

This is why option 4 is so important, every time. Here are some ways in which you can be an Upstander:

1. Be a friend to the person who is being bullied

Let the person who is being bullied know that you’re there for them. They’re probably feeling really hurt and frightened, so it will help them to know they have some support. Have a chat to them or send them a DM. The important thing is to let them know that you’ve noticed they are being bullied and you want to help.

2. Try and shift the focus away from the bullying situation

If you’re friends with the person who is displaying the bullying behaviour, try to divert their attention from the person they’re bullying. You don’t have to be too creative – just ask if they can help out with a problem, or pull up a funny meme or message on your phone to show them. This will hopefully distract them and enable the other person toleave the situation.

3. Speak to them about their behaviour

Standing up to bullying behaviour is so important and can make a big difference and research shows that when someone steps in and stands up to bullying behaviour, it is more likely to stop straight away. As the majority of people agree that bullying behaviour is wrong, it is likely that your friends feel just as uncomfortable about the bullying as you do. If you’re worried about being the first one to step in, you could talk to a trusted friend and make sure you have their support. By taking the lead, you’ll be setting an excellent example and making it much easier for everyone else to be an Upstander as well.

4. Walk away from the situation – and then ACT

While standing up to bullying behaviour is the right thing to do, of course, you must always  feel safe and able to do so. No-one should step in and put themselves in danger. What you can do, is walk away and seek help. Bullying nearly always lasts longer if there is an audience, so by removing yourself from the situation, others may do the same. The same rule applies online. Sharing or ‘liking’ posts that are displaying hurtful, bullying behaviour towards someone can make things so much worse for the person being bullied. Instead, remove yourself from the ‘conversation’ and don’t like or share anything that is hurtful or unkind towards another.

5. Ask for help

Support the person who is being bullied to ask for help. You could offer to go with them to ask for help, or point them towards some useful information (there is lots on this website). If the bullying is happening online, help them to block and report the person who is displaying the hurtful behaviour towards them. If the bullying is getting out of hand and you’re worried about the person’s safety, it might be time to take things further. You may need to report the bullying to a trusted adult such as a teacher, school counsellor or parent.

Bullying has many serious effects on a person

Being bullied can have devastating effects on a person and can cause feelings of isolation, fear, confusion, stress and embarrassment. Bullying can also cause anxiety and depression and may lead to a person feeling disconnected from school/work, losing their confidence and self-esteem, becoming socially withdrawn. In extreme cases, those who are bullied have a higher risk of self-harm and/or suicide.

If you’re afraid, imagine how the person being bullied must feel

It’s normal to feel worried and scared about stepping in to stop an incident of bullying. No one wants to get hurt or have the person displaying bullying behaviour turn on them. But try to imagine what it’s like to be the person who’s being bullied. If you feel too worried to step in and stop the bullying while it’s happening, walking away and thinking about what you can do to help will be a huge support.

Stepping in will help keep your friendship group aware

A solid friendship group will always have each others’ backs. That means being an Upstander when one of your friends is being bullied, but it also means pulling them up if they’re bullying someone else. This might not be a nice thing to have to do, but just because someone is your friend, it doesn’t make it okay for them to bully someone.

It’s normal to be concerned about a friend who is bullying someone else. Their behaviour could be a sign that they’re not in a good place. If you’re not comfortable speaking to them about it face-to-face, send a message to let them know you’re worried about them. Bullying always last longer if there’s an audience, even if no one is joining in directly. The same rule applies online. Don’t ‘share’ or ‘like’ posts that are displaying bullying behaviour towards another person. Instead, remove yourself from the situation and say something to the person who’s doing the bullying later on. You can do this via text message or DM, if you don’t want to speak to them face to face.

Upstanders are courageous and compassionate and believe in doing something about the issue of bullying behaviour. They lead by example and help others to recognise ways to get along and be supportive and kind to each other. Putting an end to bullying is everyone’s responsibility. When we work together and speak out against bullying behaviour, we are creating communities that are stronger, safer and more supportive – places where every person is valued for who they are.

Every bullying situation is different, so think about which Upstander option will work best for you. The important thing is that you do something to help. It’ll make a massive difference to the person being bullied.

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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.