Updated: Dec 16, 2020
Imagine being bullied every day, whether it’s for 6 months or 6 years or anywhere in-between. Constant. Relentless. Suffocating. Not something you can just ‘forget’ or ‘get over’. For many people, it stays with them for a lifetime, and can be the root cause of many other issues; low self-esteem, low confidence, anxiety, depression. It can lead to self-harm, eating disorders and victims have an increased risk of suicide.
As someone who was bullied throughout secondary school, I can still hear the voice of my bully calling me a ‘loner’ and ‘weird’. It haunts me still. She made fun of my family, my background even the clothes I wore. I can still feel her punches and kicks.
The result. At age 14 I developed anorexia. By the age of 16, I had attempted suicide.
I was around 35 years of age before I managed to ‘control’ my eating disorder. I now live with the effects of an eating disorder and high impact sport and still have a poor ‘relationship’ with food. Just one example of how bullying can and does affect a person’s mental health and how those effects remain for a very long time.
Over half of the UK’s children and young people report being bullied. Research in 2015 showed that 29% of those who were bullied self-harmed and 27% truanted from school. Other research shows 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 How many more young people have to tragically lose their lives before these outdated perceptions change?
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. And this is why we need to help bullies too. They need to understand their behaviour is unacceptable 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.
And so my message: If you’re being bullied, stay strong and please tell someone. If you’re bullying someone, please tell someone and stop.
By Linda James, CEO and Founder at BulliesOut