In the past year we’ve heard some awful stories about teenagers in particular who’ve harmed themselves or even taken their own lives as a result of, perhaps among other things, bullying. Cyberbullying got a lot of press coverage because a lot of this trouble took place on social networking sites. Suddenly we saw hundreds of news reports, school assemblies and magazine articles focused on bullying. People decided something had to be done about it. All of this progress, and the tremendous will to make a difference, was great... but it still made me a little angry.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that people have been bullied since people existed. Humans always have and probably always will do things to make other humans feel bad. Maybe leaving people out makes us feel popular, maybe picking out the flaws in others helps us ignore our own... We will never really know what motivates bullying, but it is a part of life, hard-wired at this stage into our society. I was upset because for the past years I’d never heard anything much done about bullying. Maybe the odd half-hearted poster tacked to a wall to be adorned with graffiti a few days later, or the throwaway comment that someone’s door was always open... but nothing major. Nothing life-changing. This always seems to be the way: we construct the speed bump after the child is run over; we focus on anti-bullying after someone takes their own life. It simply doesn’t make sense that we choose to ignore these problems until something truly and terribly drastic happens. For this reason, I can’t help but feel that bullying will soon become a forgotten issue if we go a few months without a serious tragedy.
Of course there needs to be support there for bullies. Schools and organisations need to do everything they can to ensure everyone is happy and safe. There needs to be less laughing it off and more taking the issue seriously. Above all, victims of bullying need to feel like they have somewhere to turn where they won’t be disbelieved or ridiculed.
For all that, I’d like to focus on the responsibility of the person being bullied. If you’re suffering, of course it’s not your fault. There’s no such thing as the wrong hair, the wrong interests, or any of the other rubbish that people have been telling you, that maybe you’ve been telling yourself, is to blame. The only person to blame is the bully. Life begins to improve the day you decide that you no longer want to be bullied. Of course nobody enjoys getting picked on, but I speak from experience when I say that life changes dramatically the moment you stand up and say: “I will not be bullied anymore.”
You need to make the decision to avail of the help that is out there. This is an unfortunate thing that’s happening to you and it shouldn’t be happening. You need to make sure people realise that. The next nasty text message? Show someone. The next nasty remark? Tell the person you’re not happy with the way they’re speaking to you. Go to a teacher. Go to a parent. Tell someone. Make them understand, no matter how long it takes. I know that this is easier said than done, and believe me when I say that I wish it wasn’t so hard. However, unfortunately, until something more is done to eradicate bullying at the root, it’s up to the rest of us. We are all going to have to be very brave and very strong. I think that if we ask for and accept the help that’s already available... we might just manage it.
You can read more of Catherine's material on her blog.