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bullying and mental health

bullying and mental health

a distressing experience that can have a profound impact on the emotional and psychological wellbeing of individuals from all walks of life

Bullying is a widespread issue that impacts people from all backgrounds and ages. It comes in different forms, like hurtful words, physical actions, or online cruelty and can happen in places like schools, workplaces and on the internet.

The harm caused by bullying goes beyond the initial hurt, leading to severe emotional distress for both children and adults. In Scotland, about 3 out of 10 students report being bullied in school. Bullying often leaves painful emotional scars, causing fear, shame and a sense of powerlessness. Victims can experience prolonged harassment, isolation and even physical harm, which can result in long-term mental health issues.

How does bullying affect my mental health?

Bullying leaves more than just physical bruises; it deeply wounds one’s mental health. Research has revealed a distressing connection between bullying and a range of mental health conditions.

depression

Bullying often leads to deep sadness and hopelessness. The constant hurtful behaviour and feeling powerless can contribute to depression. The emotional distress caused by bullying can become overwhelming, sometimes even leading to thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

anxiety

Bullying is a significant source of anxiety. You may worry constantly about the next coming hurtful incident or how to avoid bullies, which can lead to general anxiety. Bullying can make you feel on edge all the time, contributing to anxiety disorders like PTSD.

loneliness

Bullying isolates you, making you feel as though you have no one to turn to. It often leads to social withdrawal, leaving you feeling lonely and disconnected from friends and family. Loneliness can make mental health issues worse and make it harder to deal with the effects of bullying.

Young people & bullying 

Bullying for young people can be particularly harmful as it can impact their lives as they transition into adulthood. Bullying may involve hurtful words, repeated teasing, negative discussion about someone’s appearance/character, spreading rumours and so on. This part will give you tips on talking to young people about bullying and how to help them if they’re being bullied.

How do I support a young person who is experiencing bullying? 

Supporting a young person when they are bullied can be challenging due to the emotional impact, fear of reprisal and the complexity of bullying dynamics. It’s often difficult for adults to fully grasp the extent of the victim’s emotions and provide effective support. If a young person tells you that they are being bullied, you should: 

  • Let them know they did the right thing by coming to you.
  • Be a listening ear. They might need someone to talk to.
  • Understand exactly what happened; it’s important to get the facts.
  • Find out what the young person wants to do next. Help them explore their options and decide on their next steps.

How do I speak to young people about bullying?  

When talking to pupils and students about bullying, be sensitive.
Use examples and scenarios to discuss bullying without pointing to a specific person or group. Keep things more general.

Acknowledge that there are many forms of bullying and let students know that bullying can be very upsetting and even scary. Ask them about their experiences and what they think about friendships.

Talking about how young people can help a friend facing bullying is a great idea. Start by asking them what they’d do in that situation. Would they talk to a teacher? Would they encourage their friend to do so? Let’s have an open and honest chat to figure out solutions for those who might be unsure about how to handle it.

Let them know that there are some helpful things they can do to help them be resilient during what can often be a tough time.  

Choice 

Sometimes, bullying happens within groups of friends. It’s important to let young people know that they always have choices. They can choose to step away from friendships that bring negativity into their lives. Remind them that friends change throughout life and that your friends should impact your life in a positive way.  

Sense of proportion – keeping things in perspective

Let them know that if they’re going through bullying, it can make them feel really helpless. But it’s important to remind them that what they’re going through won’t last forever and talking to a trusted adult can help them deal with and fix the problem.

Building support networks

Many young people keep their experiences of bullying to themselves. Encourage them to reach out to someone they trust if they believe they’re being bullied. It’s essential to have a support system in place.

Can friends become bullies? 

Sometimes, bullying sneaks into friend groups, disguised as ‘banter’ among pals. Young people should learn to tell the difference. Start by asking them about their role in their friend group. Are they usually the centre of attention, or do they prefer to stay in the background?

It’s a good idea to chat with young people about what they think a friendship should be like. This can make them think about the good and not-so-good feelings they have in their current relationships and why that happens.

Lastly, remind them that everyone has the power to choose their friends and no one can force someone to be a friend. Friends should bring kindness and positivity into your life. Encourage them to reflect on their friendships and take action if they notice something that looks like bullying.

Lastly, remind them that everyone has the power to choose their friends and no one can force someone to be a friend. Encourage them to reflect on their friendships and take action if they notice something that looks like bullying.

Our Bloom on Clic E-learning modules give educators guidance on how to discuss friendships and bullying with young people.

I’m an educator. How can I support my students?

If you are an educator or work in student support, Bloom and Your Resilience provides school staff with the opportunity to develop their skills and confidence in having open conversations about mental health and support young people in transitioning to higher education. Learn more about the different Young People’s Programmes and contact us for more details.

Bullying in the workplace

Workplace bullying is a distressing issue that affects employees in various industries. It can harm a person’s wellbeing, confidence and job satisfaction. In this section, we’ll explore what workplace bullying looks like and why it’s crucial to recognise and address this harmful behaviour in professional settings.

Workplace bullying includes:

  • Verbal Abuse: Using offensive language, shouting, or making demeaning comments toward a coworker, creating a hostile work environment.
  • Intimidation: Making threats, yelling, or using aggressive body language to scare or control a colleague, causing emotional distress.
  • Exclusion: Leaving someone out of work-related activities, meetings or social events which can lead to feelings of isolation.
  • Cyberbullying: Harassing a coworker through electronic means, like email or social media, which is emotionally damaging.
  • Public Humiliation: Criticising or belittling a coworker in front of others, whether they are colleagues, supervisors, or subordinates, can be deeply humiliating and harm a person’s self-esteem.

I’m being bullied. What should I do?

  1. Document incidents: Keep a record of bullying incidents, including dates, times, locations and the people involved. This documentation can be helpful if you need to report the bullying.
  2. Discuss internally: If you feel safe, report the bullying to your immediate supervisor or the human resources department. If you are a member of the union, ask for their support. They can help address the issue.
  3. Use external resources: If internal measures don’t yield results, consider seeking assistance from external organisations or hotlines specialising in workplace bullying.
  4. Consider legal action: In extreme cases, consult with legal counsel about potential legal action to protect your rights and wellbeing.
  5. Think about changing team or workplace: If workplace bullying continues and significantly affects your wellbeing despite your attempts to address it, consider looking for a new job or transferring to a different department or team within your current organisation. Your mental and emotional health should always be a top priority.

I’m an employer. How can I support my employees?

As an employer, it is essential to create a safe and inclusive workplace, not only for the wellbeing of your employees but also to adhere to laws and regulations aimed at preventing workplace bullying in the UK.

Laws and policies 

In the UK, there are laws and regulations in place to address workplace bullying. The Equality Act 2010 and Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 protect your employees by ensuring health and safety at the workplace and guaranteeing their equal rights. Workplace bullying can have a detrimental impact on an employee’s mental and physical health, which may result in a breach of these acts.

To address bullying effectively, you should establish clear antibullying policies. These policies should define what constitutes bullying, outline procedures for reporting incidents and detail the consequences for perpetrators.

Training and good workplace culture 

As an employer, you can provide mental health training to raise awareness of mental health in the workplace and educate employees and management about the impact of bullying. This training can help identify and prevent workplace bullying. Providing mental health support services, such as counselling or access to Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), can help individuals affected by bullying cope with the emotional impact.

You can promote a culture that encourages good workplace wellbeing. Employers can create an environment where respect, inclusivity and empathy thrive, which is essential for maintaining a healthy and productive workforce.

If you’re a rural employer with a team of fewer than 50 members, discover the transformative potential of our Rural Connections training programme. It’s designed to elevate mental health awareness, ignite meaningful conversations and empower you to confront and conquer the stigma surrounding bullying and mental wellbeing. 

If you’re seeking a proactive approach to mental health and wellbeing, consider Insight into Mental Health. The following programme focuses on unaddressed mental health issues that lead to staff turnover, such as bullying.  

support

Our Advice and Support Service is open Monday to Friday, 10 am to 4 pm, where advisers can signpost you to local support that most fits your needs, including our Change Mental Health services. We offer initial advice on money worries and help to deal with emergencies.  

Contact 0808 8010 515, email us at advice@changemh.org or fill out the enquiry form on the Advice and Support Service page. 

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