Bullying: The Impact on Mental Health

Bullying: The Impact on Mental Health

Bullying is a persistent and deliberate behaviour in which an individual or a group of individuals intentionally hurt, harm, or intimidate another individual who is perceived as weaker or vulnerable. Bullying may take many forms such as physical, verbal, social, or cyberbullying. For example, a child at school could be physically hit or pushed around, repeatedly called names or verbally abused, be socially excluded from events, or be sent threatening messages over social media.

Bullying often involves a power imbalance where the bully has more social status and popularity, physical strength, or access to more technology than the victim. Bullying can occur in various settings such as schools, workplaces, online communities, and neighbourhoods, and it can have a profound impact on physical and mental health in both the short and long term.

The Impact of Bullying

Bullying can cause immediate psychological distress and emotional harm to the person being targeted. The short-term impact of bullying on mental health can include anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and feelings of shame or social isolation. Victims of bullying may also experience physical symptoms of stress or anxiety such as headaches, stomach-aches, and difficulty sleeping.

These factors may lead the person being bullied to have difficulty completing activities at work or at school as they are unable to focus due to physical symptoms, or may be preoccupied with the threat of bullying. This may even lead to that person to avoid coming to school or work for fear of being bullied. In turn this may lead to worsening mental health if the person is unable to find a resolution to the bullying.

The effects of bullying can also persist into adulthood and have long-term consequences on mental health. Studies have shown that individuals who have been bullied in childhood are at a higher risk of developing mental health issues including anxiety, depression, feelings of being worthless, and thoughts of taking their own life. Bullying can also lead to social and emotional issues in adulthood, including difficulty forming and maintaining relationships and thoughts of low self-worth.

How to identify bullying

Parents, educators, employees, and community leaders need to be aware of the signs of bullying in order to be able to take steps to prevent it. These signs can be seen physically but may also be seen through changes in a person’s emotion and behaviour. For example:

  • Physical signs: Look for bruises, cuts, or other injuries.
  • Emotional changes: Pay attention to any sudden changes in the person’s behaviour or mood, such as becoming withdrawn, anxious, or flat.
  • Changes in behaviour: Look for any changes in the person’s behaviour, such as a sudden reluctance to go to school or work.
  • Social isolation: If the person is suddenly avoiding social situations or no longer spending time with friends, this could be a sign of bullying.
  • Changes in academic performance: If the person’s grades have suddenly dropped, or they are struggling with homework or tests, this could be a sign that they are being bullied and having trouble concentrating at school or work.


How to prevent bullying

Prevention of bullying in school and and workplace settings could include implementing anti-bullying policies. This could be a statement publicly issued by the school or workplace stating their commitment to the prevention and response to bullying and describing what actions will be taken to to prevent bullying. This policy should also describe what specific actions will be taken to address bullying if it is reported or observed in the school or workplace.

Providing education and training to students and staff is another way to prevent bullying. This training involves education and resources for individuals to better understand what bullying is, how to recognise it, and how to prevent and respond to it if they were to see it. The goal of this training is to create a safe and supportive environment to empower them to take action against bullying when they witness it, rather than ignore it.

If you see someone being bullied, there are things you can do to take action:

  • Speak up: If you feel safe to do so, tell the person who is engaging in the bullying behaviour to stop. Let them know that their behaviour is not acceptable and that it is hurting the other person.
  • Get help: If you don’t feel comfortable confronting the person who is bullying, get help from a teacher, manager, or someone that can intervene and provide support to the person who is being bullied.
  • Support the person being bullied: Let the person who is being bullied know that you’re there for them and that you support them. Encourage them to seek help from a trusted person and offer to go with them if they feel nervous.
  • Report the incident: If the bullying behaviour continues or if you witness it happening again, report the incident so that it can be investigated and appropriate action can be taken.


Reducing the impact of bullying

If someone is being bullied, it is essential to seek help and support. People that are experiencing bullying could talk to someone they trust, such as a teacher, counsellor, parent, or a close friend. Counselling and therapy can help individuals cope with the emotional impact of bullying and develop strategies to manage feelings of stress, anxiety and depression that may be the result of bullying. They may also help the person to find ways to take action to improve their feelings of self-worth. For example, by engaging in activities that promote well-being, such as exercise, meditation, and hobbies.

There are many things we can do to help identify and prevent bullying to ensure that workplaces are a safe and inclusive space for everyone. If you are aware of bullying it is important to not stay silent on the matter. If you see someone being bullied, and you don’t feel comfortable speaking up at the moment, consider who might be someone you can report the incident to that can take action on your behalf. Tackling bullying isn’t something we have to do alone and it is important that we work together to help address this issue.


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