For Anti-Bullying Week 2020, one of our student writers has put together this piece on how to help someone who is being bullied.
Anti-Bullying week is a really important week to recognise the impact of bullying, and to work towards creating a safer environment, particularly for young people in schools. It can be difficult when someone you know is being bullied and you’re not sure what to do, So, here is a guide to how you can recognise when bullying is taking place, and what you can do to help someone who is being bullied.
Bullying may not be obvious
When we think of bullying, we often think of images of physical abuse or name-calling, but it can be much more subtle than that. If you notice someone always seems to be excluded from things, is the butt of the joke more often than not, is humiliated frequently under the guise of ‘banter’ or is often made fun of behind their back by a large group of people; these are all signs that bullying is occurring.
Generally, if you get the gist that someone is being treated or talked about in a not-very-nice way repeatedly, this is a form of bullying, which can have a very negative impact on the mental health of the person being bullied. It can be difficult to know what to do next in this situation, and so here are some steps you can take if you think bullying is happening in your community.
Try to include people
Often the person being bullied is someone without many friends. By trying to include people who seem alone, even if those people aren’t generally viewed as ‘cool’ or aren’t accepted by the group, you can make it less easy for them to be targeted. Perpetrators of bullying tend to pick on lonely people, so by forming a support network, you help protect against the bullying. Also, generally, it’s kind to include people who are treated as outcasts, and nice to make new friends.
If an act of bullying is occurring, get the person away from the situation and check if they’re okay
All this means is finding an excuse to leave alongside the victim and taking them somewhere safe to make sure they’re okay. Remind them that no one deserves to be made miserable, and everyone has the right to be happy. Ask them what they need in order for that to be true for them.
At first, support the person affected by bullying with what they personally feel they need in order to feel better about the situation, even if you think there is a better course of action. Doing something drastic too soon could upset them and alienate them from your support.
Stand up to the perpetrator if the person affected is too afraid
This is the part that some people find daunting, but don’t worry. A really simple way to completely derail an act of bullying is just to let them know that what they’re doing isn’t funny. By showing that the person affected has your support, and pointing out that the perpetrator is in the wrong, you make other bystanders less likely to continue to take the wrong side or stand by.
Help them build up the courage to speak to someone
Often, the person affected will not want to speak to an adult in fear of worsening the problem, and so helping them build up the courage to do so can be really important. Evaluate the different options, e.g school nurse, school counsellor, head of year, trusted teacher, parent, even a hotline or charity such as Ditch the Label. Discuss the options that would provide emotional support, such as counselling. Even with your efforts, they will need some form of support, even if they do not want direct intervention at this point.
If bullying continues, speak to a teacher or trusted adult
If the bullying continually occurs, here is where you must reach out to a teacher or trusted adult, especially if you feel that someone is in danger. Simply find an adult you trust and explain the situation. This part can be difficult, since it can feel as though you are betraying the person affected if they don’t want to tell anyone, but you must do it anyway for the sake of their own safety – it is in their interest that you must alert someone of authority.
Even if you’re worried they’ll have a negative reaction to it, it is more important that they are safe and also that you are not the only person they have to depend upon, and that the burden is not solely on your hands.
The most important thing to offer is friendship. Be kind to others and you will set an example.
By demonstrating your kindness towards not just the person affected but to others in general, you set an example for others to follow. A large reason why perpetrators of bullying are successful is because they set a precedent for others to join in with them. By demonstrating a kinder approach, people will be less inclined to follow the person they know is in the wrong. By showing friendship and kindness you help to create a kinder environment.
Remember to always keep your own mental health in mind when dealing with a bullying situation, and if it becomes difficult to support someone on your own, make sure to reach out to an adult who is better equipped to handle the situation and can give your friend the support they need.