We pass bullying off as something that happens in our youth, and try to laugh it off in popular culture. We treat it as a ‘rite of passage’, or even as an essential character-building experience. We may even participate in it in our workplaces. We lambast those affected by it for their ‘weakness’, and say that they should ‘stand up for themselves’. However, despite what society tells us, bullying is a serious problem, and one which we really should take a lot more seriously. New evidence shows that the effects of bullying can haunt a person for decades – and have a serious impact upon lives.
Bullying is Seriously Damaging
Bullying doesn’t have to be physical to physically damage you. Those who are being bullied are frequently incredibly stressed as a result – and chronic stress is very bad for your body. Those being bullied are, as a consequence, likely to feel and perform at decidedly low-par, which may in turn encourage more bullying. This is obviously very bad. However, the stress and pain of bullying can provoke some very serious consequences for the psyche, including depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems, increased likelihood of substance abuse, isolation, and suicidal tendencies. Much of this leaves a more or less permanent scar on the victim’s psyche. A study by King’s College, London, revealed that victims of childhood bullying were still suffering the emotional, social, mental, and even physical effects of bullying aged 50. Bullied individuals are likely to grow up with inferior cognitive and psychological health, are less likely to enter into successful relationships with other humans, are more likely to be unemployed, have a higher risk of suicide, and may even suffer reduced health in comparison to their non-bullied counterparts. Clearly this is a very serious issue.
Tackling The Problem
Sadly, bullying is a problem which will probably never go away. It’s existed since the dawn of time, and will continue to exist. However, we can perhaps reduce its prevalence and its impact. Up until now, focus has tended to be upon the victims of bullying and what they can do to alleviate the situation. This is unhelpful, not only because it’s frequently useless, but also because it implies that failure to stop the bullying is the fault of the victim (who already probably feels vulnerable and worthless, and does not need that internal narrative reinforced). It is perhaps a better idea to shift the focus on to the bullies themselves – making them aware that their actions are cruel, and have consequences. There has been discussion about the criminalization of bullying, and attempts to prosecute or otherwise punish severely those responsible for bully-induced suicides. This may go some way towards making bullies think a little more about the human impact of their actions. Or, if they truly are lacking in human compassion, making them fear judicial retribution for their crimes. In the meantime, rather than ‘teaching’ victims to deal with bullies in the immediate sense, we should perhaps be concentrating on enabling their psyches to holistically heal and reject bullying-induced damage.
Healing The Scars
Healing from something as profoundly damaging as bullying (particularly if that bullying occurred during childhood, when the psyche is still developing) is something much easier spoken of than done. Indeed, some of the consequences of bullying may require medical or therapeutic intervention, particularly in the case of mental illness such as depression or even PTSD. However, some progress can be made in the psychological healing process if the victim gains a degree of self-validation, self-respect, and personal-compassion. With one’s faults picked out and displayed for mockery on a regular basis, it can be very easy for a bullied person to find themselves unable to enact some self-forgiveness for perceived faults, but self-forgiveness is precisely what is needed in order to truly heal. A good support network can provide some crucial aid in this endeavor, particularly if they have a good working knowledge of philosophies of social support, compassion, and selfless help for one’s fellow humans. There are plenty of resources out there for those who need help, and browsing this very website may well give bullied people who feel the need to heal some ideas regarding the commencement of their healing journey.
By Anne Grange
About the author:
Anne Grange used to work in the healthcare sector – primarily with people who suffered from mental health difficulties. Anne also worked as a volunteer for a number of mental health charities, too. After her marriage and starting her family, she took a step back and started a career as a writer writing informative articles on the subjects she was initially trained in.