Children and teenagers have been impacted by bullying for millennia. However, the impacts of bullying on mental health, which affect not just the victim but also bystanders who watch it and the bullies themselves, have only lately come to light.
What is bullying?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, bullying is a kind of “youth violence” when a bully (who may be an individual or a group) attacks a victim. Bullying results from an imbalance of power, whether actual or perceived, based on social status, financial status, physical strength, or size. If it happens consistently over time, bullying may harm a person’s physical, psychological, social, or intellectual well-being.
Bullying differs from one-time actions or isolated situations like disagreements and fights due of its protracted character. Bullying actions consist of:
Threats, property destruction, forcing the victim to do something they don’t want to do, physical intimidation or harm—tripping, striking, pushing, or spitting on a victim; social isolation; making fun of the victim; mocking; name-calling and/or insults;
Texting, apps, forums, and gaming platforms are used by cyber bullies to harass their victims in public, privately, or even anonymously. But in addition to their standard arsenal of gossip, threats, and name-calling, cyber bullies are also able to send victims pornographic photos or share images of victims with others thanks to social media and texting.
Social media content is a permanent digital record that may be problematic for both bullies and victims unless it is reported and taken down.
Prevalence of Bullying
In the age range of 12 to 18, one in five kids report having been bullied. At least once a week, it takes place in 14% of public schools. Middle schools had the most occurrences, followed by high schools and primary schools.
Teenagers are bullied online by an even higher percentage. Nearly two out of every three American teens, according to the Pew Research Center, have experienced cyber bullying.
Bullying is more common among kids and teenagers who are perceived as “different” due to their appearance, sexual orientation, cultural identity, or handicap. They could be freshmen or may have fewer pals. Bullies themselves may be popular and well-known individuals or strangers. They could bully people right now or may have bullied others in the past. Kids are more likely to bully others if they struggle to obey rules, have absent parents, or believe that violence is acceptable.
Mental Health Effects of Bullying
During school years and into adulthood, bullying may have an impact on a person’s mental, physical, and emotional health. Physical harm, psychological distress, and in very extreme circumstances even death might result from it.
Children and teenagers who have been bullied are more prone to suffer from despair, anxiety, and occasionally long-term self-esteem issues. Victims frequently feel alone. Some bullied individuals may retaliate with excessive or abrupt violence.
Bullies are more likely to engage in antisocial, occasionally violent actions including picking fights and vandalizing property. They frequently experience academic difficulties, even to the point of quitting out. They have a higher chances of substance use. This can persist into adulthood, when they are more prone to mistreat their wives, partners, or kids, or to commit crimes.
The worst consequences occur to bully-victims—those who are both the bully and the victim of bullying. They are more susceptible to mental and behavioral issues than just victims or bullies. The highest rates of despair, anxiety, and attempted and actual suicide are found in this population.
There are two types of bystanders: those who intervene to halt bullying and those who do not. The latter may be angry that they didn’t step in when they wanted to and fearful of reprisals. They could become more depressed and anxious, which could hinder their academic performance. They might also use drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes more frequently. However, bystanders who halt bullying experience positive results, such as higher self-esteem.
Bullying and suicide don’t necessarily go hand in hand, and trauma comes in many different forms. However, bullying can exacerbate the overwhelming sense of hopelessness and helplessness that underlies suicide conduct. Bullying victims or bullies are more likely to act suicidal if the bullying is ongoing and frequent. The greatest risk for suicide conduct is among bully victims.
Victimization through bullying is a kind of toxic stress, particularly when it accumulates over time and happens repeatedly.
The Importance of Addressing Bullying
It’s crucial to pay attention to the indicators of bullying since it may have a negative impact on everyone involver’s mental health.
Bullied children may return home with inexplicable wounds, “lost” books, or broken items. They can struggle to fall asleep and lose interest in past pastimes. They could skip lunch if they’re too terrified to go in the cafeteria. To avoid going to school, they can make up a sickness, which would hurt their academic achievement. Victims may injure themselves or flee in an effort to cope.
Bullies, on the other hand, could escalate their aggression, and other bullies might wind up becoming their pals. Using bullying as a coping strategy for stress or abuse in their lives is possible. They could engage in the “blame game,” avoiding accountability for their deeds. Other red flags include unexplained wealth or goods.
Bullying is painful for all parties involved; therefore it’s critical to deal with it as soon as you can. To guarantee safety and minimize bullying in the future, parents and teachers may collaborate. Techniques for reducing stress and relaxing can also be beneficial.