‘You sit quietly at the front of the classroom, staring but not absorbing what’s being written on the board. You hear shrieking laughs, and the faint sound of mind-numbing gossip echoing from behind you, pushing you even further into a frenzied state of paranoia.
You turn your back ever so slightly only to witness two girls in your class pointing their fingers at you, waving them around hysterically whilst giggling and smirking.
Your heart sinks — a feeling of dread and panic electrifies your body, marring your skin with a trail of goosebumps, as you realise yet another vicious rumour will be spun, twisted and spread around the whole school by tomorrow morning.
Deep breaths do nothing to calm your jittery nerves, to keep your mind from racing, or to warn off that inevitable anxiety attack approaching.’ You try to whisper ‘I’m being bullied. I need somebody to help me’, but your mouth stays silent and nobody can hear you…
In today’s society, children are unbeknown to the supposed ‘monsters’ that lurk under their bed or in their closet because their demons are found in the real world — in the form of their ‘peers’. It is estimated that over 3.2 million children annually experience some form of mental or physical bullying, resulting in at least 4,400 unnecessary deaths per year.
Even at the age of 19 I know how mean words can plague your thoughts, years after they have been callously hurled at you. They replay in your mind, like a video player stuck on ‘rewind, play, pause’, often spiking a sense of remembered pain.
It can stab you at an unexpected moment — unlike a nightmare where you wake up crying, and seem to magically forget about what caused you the pain in the first place. The painful memories of the experience tend to linger at the back of the mind, always there, but never addressed. Numerous case studies have shown that this threatening behaviour has been linked with countless mental disorders such as PTSD, clinical depression or even schizophrenia in children.
However, that’s not to say that bullying only occurs during childhood.
Bullying has no age limit.
What if that man we see strolling past us every day to fetch his newspaper is being intimidated by his boss? What if that woman at the bus stop who purposely avoids all eye-contact is being consistently undermined by her co-worker?
Bullying can no longer just be deemed as a ‘natural’ act of progression from childhood to adulthood. It can’t be deemed as just a ‘kid’s thing’. After all, such cruelty has no boundaries — it doesn’t know where, when or how to stop.
This has often led us to fostering a specific term for those who are bullied — they become a ‘victim’. Personally, I prefer the term ‘survivor’; surviving when all odds are stacked against you. Just like the Evergreen tree; even in the harshest conditions, where there is very little nourishment, even less nurture and whilst the other wildlife slumbers during the painstakingly cold -50C, the tree still somehow manages to flourish into a tall, magnificent, strong being.
Even though you may feel lost, tormented, or that anywhere is a better place than the position you are in right now, you have to remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel — whether that’s the Channel Tunnel or the Backbone Tunnel, Tennessee (a mere 3m in length) — there is always a way to mitigate the problem.
For instance, do not wait too long to tell someone — the longer you wait, the worse the situation is likely to become.
Share your problems with someone who is close to you, and someone who you can trust.
In addition, avoid social isolation. Join a society outside of school/work — this could even be an anti-bullying/prevention group which aims to support those who have been in your situation. Sometimes, just having someone listen to you can help alleviate some of the issues surrounding bullying.
Furthermore, schools/places of work can help to resolve this problem by establishing clear bully prevention policies and procedures. For example, the institution could develop rules, responsibilities, and a firm code of conduct which includes a strict disciplinary policy stating the consequences of the behaviour in order to try to combat this issue.
Most importantly, involving others in the process may be beneficial, as this enables them to fully understand and adhere to the rules. This should help to establish an inclusive environment, whereby both children and adults feel safe, included and secure during work hours.
In addition, if you happen to witness somebody being bullied, report it, you could even report anonymously. The worst gesture you could give to somebody who is experiencing bullying is to slowly turn your back away, pretending it doesn’t exist even after you have witnessed the torment and suffering they endure every day…
He sees her every day, shy away from the class, pushing her seat further and further into the desk, willing herself to vanish.
He watches her hands clench and shake as she realises ‘they’ are making more snide, vicious remarks about her…probably sending an unfounded rumour to her peers. A small scrap piece of paper is pushed onto his desk; he slowly glances down and reads her name.
At the same time, he hears a faint whisper from her direction ‘I’m being bullied. I need somebody to help me’. His heart plunges into a deep abyss, and the feeling of his own security diminishes.
Closing his eyes he scrunches the paper until it is small enough to fit into his pocket. The bell chimes in the hallways…he leaves the class. He has the evidence, and now it’s his time to do the talking.