Your Mental Health Matters – Bullying
What is bullying?
Bullying is when someone deliberately and persistently does or says things that are hurtful to another person. It can be carried out by individuals or groups and can take many different forms. Bullying can happen anywhere, to anyone, at any age. Some young people experience bullying at school, at home or online and it can involve someone physically hurting you. Other young people experience persistent name-calling, teasing, verbal threats and being ignored. Both can be very distressing, so if you or someone you know is being bullied speak to someone and seek support.
How do I know if my child is being bullied?
It can sometimes be difficult to tell if a young person is being bullied, as some are good at hiding their feelings and want to hide what is happening to them. There are a number of signs which you may want to look out for:
- Sudden dislike for going to school or youth club
- Physical indicators – cuts, bruises, torn clothes
- Doing less well at school
- Falling out with good friends
- ‘Losing’ money or asking for stolen belongings to be replaced
- Being quiet and withdrawn, or moody and bad-tempered
- Not sleeping or eating properly
- Wanting to avoid leaving the house
- Aggression with brothers and sisters
What should I do if a young person I know is being bullied?
Bullying UK suggests that if you are worried that your child is being bullied one of the first things you may find helpful is to ask them a few simple questions and give the young person an opportunity to talk. Here are some suggestions:
- What did you do at school/youth club/with your friends today?
- What did you like about it?
- Is there anything you did not like?
- Are you looking forward to going to school/youth club/out with your friends next time?
Parents and carers have an important role to play in helping a young person overcome bullying. If a young person tells you they are being bullied:
- Listen carefully and take seriously what they are saying – remember, telling someone takes courage.
- Reassure them that they have done the right thing in telling you and encourage them by saying you believe them. They may be feeling frightened about the consequences and many young people feel that no one will believe what is happening to them.
- Don’t promise to keep it a secret, as something has to be done.
- Reassure the young person that they are not to blame – this will help them feel better about themselves.
- Find out as many details as possible about the bullying– who is carrying it out, what is being done, where, when and how often – this information will be helpful when reporting the bullying.
- Ask the young person what they think should be done – what have they tried already, what worked, and didn’t work?
- Encourage your child to keep a diary of their experiences. This can be presented to a member of teaching staff at their school.
- Together, come up with ideas on how to deal with the bully, such as practising what to say, and avoiding situations when the young person is alone – this will help them to feel more in control of the situation.
If the bullying is taking place in school the worst thing to do is to over-react and storm into school demanding action. Remember that if you didn’t know your child is being bullied then the school may not have realised it either.
- Make an appointment with the class or form teacher to discuss your concerns and find out if they have noticed anything unusual. Try to avoid being confrontational or aggressive – bullying will be more effectively dealt with if families and schools work together and stay on good terms.
- You may find it valuable to write to the head teacher of the school and inform them of what has been happening to the young person. It is also a good idea to ask the school for a copy of their bullying policy – all schools are required by law to have a policy in place. This will outline the school’s procedure on dealing with bullying so you will know what response to expect from them.
- Remember to keep a record of each contact and appointment you have made to the school regarding the bullying. It is also a good idea to write to the school after a meeting informing them of what was discussed and what you understand will happen now following the meeting.
- If you are not satisfied that the school is doing all it can to deal with the situation, put your concerns in writing to the Chairperson of the Board of Governors.
Don’t give up
Remember to be realistic in your expectations. For many young people, bulling can be dealt with successfully in a short space of time, but for others it may take you, your young person and the school some time to resolve the issue properly. There are, however, many sources of support for you and your young person and people who want to help you.
Why not have a look at some of the following websites for more information on bullying:
In particular you may find it helpful to look at www.bullying.co.uk; a U.K based anti-bullying charity. The website provides a message board service for worried parents with personal experiences and advice for others.
For further information on local organisations and sources of support, contact AMH MensSana on 02838 392314 or e-mail [email protected] Confidentiality will be respected at all times.