Bullying: How does it really affect young people?
21st November 2019
Bullying. A word that follows the lives of many people. A word that triggers them. A word that can bring back so much sadness. But why should we let this word define who we are? That’s right. We shouldn’t. Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as that. Because bullying is something that causes so much pain and hurt, so much loneliness and so much time wasted constantly thinking ‘If I’m not good enough then what’s the point!’
Bullying is something that can happen to anyone and everyone. However, I feel as though it effects young people the most. If a child is being bullied in primary school, or secondary school or any form of education where you are at an influential age, then it’s going to affect them so much more.
“When you're young, you're fairly insecure about yourself anyway. It's because of the amount of hormones you have got rattling around your system. You don't really know much about yourself at this age, so it's quite easy to get your confidence knocked.”—Ian Benson
As it was National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month in October, there is no better time to spread awareness of it happening and give people a deeper insight into how it does affect this age group, but also how it effects the people around the victims, such as their parents and teachers at schools who witness it happening on a day to day basis.
Of course, bullying happens to a lot of many different people but my focus is the impact it has on young children aged 10-18.
Young Minds is a charity that helps young people fight against their mental health, and according to them, bullying effects over 1 million young people a year. That’s a lot of people, and with that there are so many different types of bullying. Verbal bullying, where the bully will use name calling, threatening remarks and insulting behaviour towards there victim. Then there’s cyber-bullying, the form of bullying that is most common amongst young people. Cyber bullies can at times be hard to identify as they are hidden behind a screen whilst sending people hate, abuse, and threats over social media networks such as Facebook and Instagram etc.
I could go on forever about how many different types of bullying there are, but the outcome is always the same! There are so many statistics to show the affects bullying has on young people.
The England and Wales In your Face report, carried out by the youth charity YMCA, found that 53% of young people who have been bullied, have later suffered with anxiety and 29% said that it caused depression. 1 in 10 of these young people said that them being bullied pushed them to have suicidal thoughts and then 9% admitted to having self-harmed.
I had a conversation with 17-year-old Amy. She not only lost her friend because of the aftermath of severe bullying, but she has also experienced it herself.
Amy was only 14 when her best friend Holly committed suicide because of being bullied at school. Amy told me that it was a ‘random group of boys’ that would pick on her.
‘They would throw her about, come up behind her and pick her up and basically make fun of her for everything.’—Amy
This was just some of the things that they used to do to Holly when she was in school. I asked Amy if Holly ever spoke about how the bullying made her feel, and she said that her friends were constantly asking her ‘Do you want to go to a teacher to see if they can do anything about it?’ Her response was ‘No, because no one cares.’
As a young child, being bullied is a scary but confusing time. If it’s something that is happening for the first time to them then they may feel confused about it and not quite know how to handle the situation. Or in other cases, like from previous experience, a child will feel that telling someone about it will only draw attention to the situation and it will only make things worse for them. As a result of this, young people will tend to keep the fact that they are being bullied to themselves. They will just suffer in silence.
''She literally came to school that day and said to me 'Oh, I will see you tomorrow!' and was talking about what we were going to be doing in lessons tomorrow. She seemed really happy."—Amy
This is a prime example of someone suffering in silence. A young 14 year old girl telling her school friends she was going to see them tomorrow. But tomorrow never came in this case, as that night was when Holly took her life.
"She was so bubbly. She would never stop smiling. It was weird!"—Amy
It doesn't matter how happy someone can be to everyone else, when they are on their own they can feel so much sadness and no one will ever know.
There is worry these days that suicide will be seen as a way to handle bullying. There are fears that young children, who are at an age where they are easily influenced, will see the rise in suicides due to bullying and cause a copycat effect causing more young people to suffer.
A study in Britain has shown that at least half of the suicides committed by young people, are due to them being bullied by their peers at school.
For a parent it's important to be aware of the potential signs of a child being bullied, so that it can be noticed sooner and then something can be done to stop it and prevent it. Changes to behaviour, changes to their eating habits, sleeping badly, worrying about going to school; these are all things that can be signs of a child being bullied.
I spoke to Luci Palmer, the mother of a 17 year old girl. Her daughter was badly bullied when she was only 14 years old. She spoke about the things that her young child had to go through and they are shocking to say the least.
“She would get text messages off of her friends telling her that they wish she would just go and die."
“She was sent a picture on Snapchat of a tree with a stick women hanging from it that they had drawn on themselves.”
“She would walk past these group of girls and they would push her in the corridor.”—Luci Palmer
These were just a handful of things that happened to Luci's daughter when she was in school. With being bullied she also had some of the signs that parents were told to look out for.
“She was horrible. I would get calls from the school telling me she had been caught with razor blades in her bag along with suicide notes. This would happen on average once or twice a week.”—Luci Palmer
An analysis showed that people are twice as likely to have any sort of suicidal thoughts because they are being bullied, than someone who isn't a victim of bullying.
23 year old University student, Leah, shared with me also, her experience of growing up and experiencing bullying pretty much her whole life, and how years later, it still affects her.
“The bullying started when I was in nursery and continued till I was in college. So it went on for about 13 years.”
“I got called names, I had people throwing things at me, some would threaten to smash the windows in my house, I was told to go and kill myself. The main area of bullying for me came from online. I received a lot of online hate.”
“It made me feel like I was never good enough. That I didn't deserve to have friends or be happy. The long term affects are now that I suffer with depression and anxiety, and from bad mental health issues in general. It got so bad not too long ago that I no longer wanted to live and tried to take my own life."—Leah
There are a lot of long term effects bullying will have on someone, especially when they have been bullied for the majority of their school life. Long term effects can include things like self destructive behaviour, anxiety, depression and can even lead to substance abuse.
Sometimes, the long term affects can be worse than the short term affects. The fact that someone's words and actions from such a long time ago, can cause someone to still feel hurt about it now, is devastating and something needs to be done to prevent it.
I had a conversation with Ian Benson, who is the Senco of a pupil referral unit in Islington. This means he is a part of the senior management team and sees first hand cases such as bullying going on in schools.
It was really interesting talking to him based on the experience he has had in the 16 years he has been working at schools.
However, when talking to Luci , Leah and also Amy. Every single one of them mentioned that the schools were not very good in dealing with things like bullying.
“When the school found out I was being bullied, they did nothing.”—Amy
Who better to hear from then an insider himself to see what they actually do to help prevent bullying and the aftermath of it.
I wanted to know, throughout his career what was the worst case of bullying he has witnessed.
“One of the pupils had a serious disability and it used to be that nearly everyone got on his case. This made it hard for us because it wasn't just one person being the bully it was a school wide issue. We worked quite closely with him and his mum, to give him strategies on how he could deal with it when he feel threatened.”—Ian Benson
But is this enough? Is being given advice on how to handle bullying, going to make being bullied any easier for someone? According to the charity MenCap, young people with disabilities are more likely to be bullied than there other peers.
Using this young boy being bullied for example, does it stop just because you tell someone? No not always. And this goes back to my point about suffering in silence. In a survey, 36% of young people who have a disability said that the bullying still continued even though they told someone about it.
This is why there is such a huge stigma around bullying, because it happens so often yet it's extremely hard to stop it altogether which is why there is help in place.
“We have quite a strong adolescent mental health service available to our pupils. We have someone on site three days a week. Normally, the school will have councillors and pastoral assistants to be there for the kids to make sure that they are alright.”—Ian Benson
Pastoral care is to help with the physical and mental well being of young people within schools. For it to be successful the children must feel safe and happy at school. But is this always the case?
“They had teachers walking her from class to class, so that the kids couldn't get to her.”- Luci Palmer
Some children just feel too scared to go to school, and sometimes there is just nothing that the school can do to stop someone from feeling like that. This is why they put things like pastoral care, and councillors in the school so that the students know that the support is there if they really need it.
Author Shella Bethel, once quoted in her book 'Making a Difference', 'students don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care.'
Pastoral care may not help every young person in a school, but even if it helps one child, then you know it is working and that it is helping someone.
“The rise of social media has been quite an issue. Instagram and Snapchat etc. has heightened the way that someone can be bullied. As a school we have limited scope when it comes to things like bullying online, so in these cases we tend to pass it on to the relevant authorities."—Ian Benson
Going back to the point made about cyber bullying being the main cause of bulling in young people; Ian Benson even said himself, after having a career in schools for 16 years, 'Instagram and Snapchat etc. has heightened the way someone can be bullied.'
There are many statistics to back up the idea that cyber bullying is becoming worse within schools and amongst young people.
Through the Cyberbullying Research Centre, it was fond that around 34% of young people ages 12-17 have been the victims of cyber bullying within their life. Aswell, 23% of those young people on the receiving end of hate online, have had suicidal thoughts.
It's so easy to talk about the affects bullying has on the victims, but what about the people that actually commit this hateful crime?
Of course we are going to have less sympathy for the bullies, but we have to hear two sides to every story right? And yes, there are many different reasons as to why someone may bully other people.
Most bullies will target people with some sort of uniqueness about them. They use it to gain some sort of power and control over other people so that they feel like they are on top.
In a Ditch the Label study, 8,850 people were asked if they have ever bullied anyone based on their own definition of bullying and 1,239 people responded yes!
Another study showed that those who bully others are more likely to have experienced stress or trauma in the last 5 years. This could mean having issues with your home life, experiencing trauma themselves; perhaps they have been bullied themselves, and also people who lack in self confidence.
“Regardless of what this young girl did, rather than being punished I felt as though she was giving some sort of protection because she had a rough home life. But, I know a lot of people that have had a rough upbringing and have had a rough home life and they didn't turn out to be a bully.”—Luci Palmer
Luci, the mother of the young girl that was bullied, stated that the girl that was bullying her daughter was in fact going through a hard time at home. But her point is, does that give her the right to bully people?
Lily is 19 and she lives in Canterbury and has done her whole life. She was brave enough to admit that she did in fact bully people when she was in school.
“I never physically hurt anyone but I used to torment people and pick on them about things like their name, their appearance, if they were slightly weirder than me they were a target as well.”—Lily
Having a difficult home life is one reason as to why someone might bully another person. 1 in 3 people in the Ditch the Label study said that their parents don't have enough time to spend with them. These people are also more likely to be living with people other than their biological parents.
“My dad passed away when I was just 2, my mum left me to go and live in Turkey with her boyfriend when I was 13 years old. I still saw her but she wasn't around much at all. She would only come back when she felt like coming to visit. Since then, I live with my Nan and Grandad.”
“I went through a bad time when I was younger, but I am far from that person now which is why I am happy to openly talk about it. The thought of having made anyone feel sad or hurt or bad about themselves upsets me, but we all have to move on and I will never be that person again.”—Lily
Bullying in young people is so highlighted when you're in school, because you're there five days a week and you're around the same people every day and have no way to get away from it.
Still to this day bullying is a massive part of many peoples lives. If you see it, stop it. If you're experiencing it, tell someone. Because you may not be able to help stop it completely but you might be able to make your life or someone else's life a lot better.
There is always places to go to get help with bullying. They have the National Bullying Helplines, they have night line chats for those that are suffering and feel as though they have no one to talk to.
It’s something that will always be a part of people’s lives but there are always ways to deal with it and help yourself. Never stay quiet. Never pretend you're okay when you're not okay. Because there is nothing worse than being the one to suffer in silence because it will never get better that way. It will only get worse.