Young people suffer greatly as a result of bullying in school

When I was a school Principal, my colleagues, a few parents, a few students and I drew up an anti-bullying policy, and I had to intervene in some bullying episodes involving boys or girls. It always took much longer to sort out bullying by females. They tended to bring victims’ families into the conflict by making insulting statements about family members, and especially about their mothers. A common insult was ‘your mother is a slut and a whore’. I found, too, that girls were as likely to be involved in physical abuse as boys were.
Frequently, those children who inflict pain upon others are themselves the victims of abuse and of dysfunctional families. As with adult abusers, child bullies have particular characteristics, such as low self-esteem. They are insecure, shamed, sensitive to criticism, lack social skills, and become easily upset.
The impact of abuse on young victims is enormous. It leads to depression, and sometimes suicide. Their self-esteem is destroyed, their happiness undermined, and they become restless. I remember one victim spending an entire counselling session bent over fiddling with his shoelaces. Victims with low esteem often feel they are to blame and deserve to be abused. Bullying makes them feel worthless, hopeless and alone, and they become conscious of being different. School bullying can lead to eating disorders, cutting and anxiety. One of the worst aspects of bullying is that it can hinder students from reaching their potential, because they experience fear, and no longer do their best. Their creativity is stifled. Unfortunately, some victims play the role the bullies determine for them by putting on a false front to appease them. This only increases the power of the bully over them. The abusive personality tends to torture, and will not be appeased.
One of the things I have learned as a counsellor is that the debilitating effects of bullying can be carried into adult life. The loss of self-esteem does not seem to ease with age. The psychological scars of school bullying can remain fresh and unhealed into middle age. Some children’s life stories, and perhaps their identity are defined by school bullying, and the psychological shackles remain for years, preventing them from reaching their full relationship and vocational potential. I have seen this many times with adult clients. This impact is enormously increased, if the child comes from an unloving home.
It is, therefore, essential to confront bullying when it is occurring. Parents often find it difficult to do this, and fail to see the detrimental effects of bullying. Perhaps they see it as part of growing up. But, it is always necessary to be extremely sensitive to abuse, never to excuse it, and, above all, to name it. It is only when bullying becomes intolerable for their children that parents are forced to take a stand. There is also the reluctance of children to disclose that they are being bullied. They may fear the consequences of increased bullying. In Ireland, disclosure is also seen as informing, and informers have always been held up to public odium in Irish history. The tradition perhaps lingers.
Adapted from Jim O’Shea’s book Abuse. Domestic Violence, Workplace and School Bullying published by Cork University Press

Posted in abuse, workplace and school bullying