Last week in the UK, 14 year old Hannah Smith hanged herself after receiving abusive messages on the ask-and-answer social networking forum, Ask.fm. Although this tragedy attracted a lot of media and government attention (which is good), Hannah Smith’s death is not the only young suicide to have been caused by bullying.
I think it is important for everyone – children, teenagers, and adults, whether they have experienced, witnessed, been affected by, or have only heard of bullying – to understand that bullying, whether virtual or face-to-face, whether intentional or as a ‘joke’, can have serious consequences and cannot be brushed under the carpet as being a normal part of growing up. People take their lives because of it. It is everybody’s responsibility to counteract bullying. No child, or adult, should have to face such torment in their everyday lives. So if you are being bullied, have a friend who is being bullied, or you are the one bullying, here is some information and advice for those dealing with bullying. Please share these with others and take them onboard yourself, because every person, including you, deserves to feel safe and happy.
To clarify, bullying is…
… generally repeated behaviour which is used to deliberately hurt someone emotionally or physically through the misuse of power, for example making that person feel worthless, feel bad about themselves, feel scared to go to school etc.
… behaviour that can be verbal (use of words; insults, teasing etc.), physical (hitting, kicking, spitting etc.), social (ignoring, excluding someone etc.), psychological (emotional manipulation, spreading rumours etc.), or cyberbullying (use of technology; sending abusive messages via internet, SMS etc.) – all these are valid and as bad as one another; no type of bullying is ok
… something that can no longer be avoided at home, especially due to cyberbullying
… never justifiable
… not only limited to school and children. Adults can experience bullying in the workplace, in friendship groups, and within the family
What to always remember if you are being bullied…
… you are beautiful, strong, and special. You are whoever you want to be, do not let others tell you otherwise. You do not deserve to be bullied, to feel scared or bad about yourself. The end to bullying is not death, but to stand up for yourself because you deserve to feel safe and happy, and to be whoever you want to be. Everyone has their faults and differences, they are what make us unique and special; it does not mean you deserve to be bullied
… it is not your fault. A lot of the time, bullying is to do with the bully themselves; they have their own insecurities and may be jealous of something you have (for example they can see you are smart or confident or have nice clothes etc.), so they project their feelings onto you in order to make them feel better about themselves. They need to create a sense power of you and make you feel inferior to feel less threatened and less insecure themselves
… you are the bigger and better person. That bully will not get far in life because people value friendship, teamwork, positivity, looking out for others etc. Do not let that bully change you
… there are people who love you. Do not tell yourself that nobody appreciates you or sees the good parts of you because you are being bullied. There are people in your life who value your friendship, and care about you. Even if it feels like nobody is on your side, there is always someone to listen or help you. Stick with positive people, even if its just a couple; you don’t have to be the most popular or have loads of friends to feel loved.
What to do if you are being bullied…
… tell someone – ignoring the bully can be effective because if the bully sees that you are not reacting or retaliating, they will eventually get bored. It is not worth bringing yourself down to their level. But at the same time, you must stand up for yourself. If the bullying is overwhelming and making you feel scared or depressed, if ignoring the bully is not helping, or if you feel brave enough to stop this behaviour to help others too, tell someone you trust or you know will help – a friend to be an ally and to get your feelings off your chest, a parent, a teacher, a national helpline (easily found on the internet), anybody. Do not suffer in silence, do not wait for someone to notice, do not think that this is normal or justified, do not put up with it because your afraid it will make you more unpopular or a snitch, do not bottle up all the feelings, and do not deal with it alone. You deserve better than this torment.
… do not retaliate violently, because this only puts you to their level and could get you into trouble – a response like this shows the bully that he has power over you. I think it is ok to speak up and stand up for yourself, but remain calm and positive
… do not ally with or give into the bully – remain kind and friendly because nobody can use that against you. Do not begin bullying others to avoid being bullied yourself, or start gossiping and backstabbing others because that will make you as bad as the bully and could make someone hurt as much as you
… stay true to yourself – don’t hide yourself or let the bully’s words or violence stop you from being who you are and doing the things you love. Use those mean comments and your anger to fuel your desires and dreams. Success is the best revenge, and it can be as simple as trying your best to achieve at school; happiness and success is the way of showing the bullying that they do not have power over you and their actions do not define who you are
… find a hobby or activity that you can pursue outside the home and school, where you can meet some new people – this will take you away from the situation and your own thoughts about it, which will alleviate stress and give you more perspective and confidence. There are good people and life is worth enjoying
… stay clear of negative people, stay positive, be around positive people, and focus on the positives in your life – your family, your friends, your dreams, your grades etc. Not everything has to be perfect. Make a habit of complimenting others, which will make you and the other person feel good. If you are being physically bullied, try to avoid being alone
… if you are being cyberbullied, in addition to the above, do not give personal information to anyone except friends and those who are trustworthy, block any users who are sending abusive messages, but do not delete any of the abusive messages because they can be used as evidence
If you are the bully…
… Think about what you are saying. One way to do this is by putting yourself in their shoes. Would you want someone to say that about you? Everybody is equal, nobody is better or worse than someone else if they try to do what is right. Bullying someone can make them feel fearful, have low self-esteem, create health problems such as anorexia, anxiety, or depression. It can even lead to suicide. Bullying is not a joke and is not justifiable; bullying is always wrong. Sincerely apologise to the people you have bullied, so that you can move on
… you are not only harming the person you are bullying but yourself too. You will never have real friends or true respect if you bully people. You will suffer in work life and relationships because you haven’t learnt to empathise with others, you cannot work in a team etc. To help yourself, as well as other people, stop bullying. If you feel the urge to bully, talk to someone about it and let them help you turn those emotions into positive ones. Surround yourself with positive people, and do not entertain or breed negativity
If you witness bullying…
… do not go along with it just because you are afraid of being bullied too, even if its gossiping about someone or laughing at a bully’s comments. Although you may not be initiating it, watching it happen or involving yourself in bullying makes you responsible too. Don’t let the bully’s actions define how you see that person who is being bullied. Tell someone about the bullying and ask of anonymity. You could even stand up to the bully yourself, because the chances are that others around you will follow