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Bullying and its effects on Mental Health

Simran Raghani

Bullying, literally, means hurting someone with the intention of harming them or establishing dominance or power over someone. Bullying is known to take place in schools and colleges, workplaces, public and most importantly, at homes too. In a broader sense, people of authority like politicians are also known to bully the weaker sections of the society. When looking at it as a whole, bullying takes various forms and can be identified in various ways.

The first one being physical bullying and as the word suggests, it is when a bully physically tries to abuse them. Actions like slapping and even touching someone without their consent comes under physical bullying. Another type of bullying that is widely witnessed is verbal bullying which includes hurling abuses at someone or saying cruel things about the trauma a person has gone through. Lastly, and the most common type of bullying in today’s age is cyberbullying which is also known as online bullying and is the most dangerous one of all. Cyberbullying is when a bully degrades a person on social media or even a gaming platform by commenting nasty things about them. It also includes things like sharing private pictures of someone for blackmail or for any other reason.

Bullying does not only happen once but repeats over time. It causes physical, psychological, emotional and social trauma which may leave behind unattended scars that can lead to many mental health problems like anxiety, depression, eating disorders, isolation and can even result in thoughts of suicide. So many children get bullied for their physical appearance, sexual orientation and even for being knowledgeable and vulnerable. People who are bullied often become extremely conscious of their environment and also lose their confidence in fear of being hurt. Research says that 42% of the children in school are bullied and 37% of Indian children are cyberbullied. India comes third in rank after China and Singapore when it comes to cyberbullying.

After looking at these statistics, one is bound to wonder; what actually drives someone to become a bully? Even though it may not seem like it, there are many reasons as to why people bully others and hence it is important to understand the psychology of the bullies and what makes them want to do this.

The first thing that would come to anyone’s mind is unresolved trauma, and it is one of the main reasons behind this behaviour of the bullies. Time and again, studies have shown that people who tend to bully others, face emotional and physical torture at home themselves, which they then imitate in other environments and that leads to trauma which hasn’t been looked after. Bullies may look very dominant and powerful but like everyone else, they may have their own wounds from their past which may be unattended. Unresolved trauma does not go away without getting the right kind of help but it just becomes worse with time and as a coping mechanism they start bullying others. Bullying is a ruthless cycle which if not broken can harm many people.

Another reason which is quite relevant as to why bullies are driven to bully is the feeling of being threatened by others. The victim of bullying may have qualities which makes them stand out and they might even get a lot of appreciation and praise for it. This usually does not sit well with bullies and therefore the bullying starts as a means of making them feel better about themselves. It is known that somewhere bullies are aware of feeling threatened, even if they keep on denying it.

The third and the most familiar reason is vengeance. A perfect example is how this is portrayed in movies. Many bullies bully people because they genuinely feel that the victim has caused harm to them, intentionally or unintentionally and the only way to satisfy themselves is by taking revenge and harming the person in return. Violent video games and movies have become really influential and most of the young kids are either plastered in front of the television or have an electronic device in their hands. They watch or play a lot of violent games which include kicking, slapping, punching and there is also blood involved in these games, which often leads to normalizing this kind of behaviour. And hence, many young kids think that this behaviour might be okay and hence can reflect the same on their peers, siblings and even their parents. While growing up, every child is taught to believe that power has a lot of importance in the world and therefore, when children grow up, they often feel the need to have that sense of authority and power, and some just end up taking this literally. Bullies want to feel powerful and they do that by bringing someone down, even if it may cause a lot of damage to the victim and they like it when people fear them and are intimidated by them.

It is possible that you may experience this kind of behaviour in your environment and there are a few things that you can keep in mind if this ever happens to you, or anyone close to you. Firstly, it is necessary to report to a higher authority. Any kind of bullying is a serious crime and bullies need to be punished for their behaviour and the damage that has been caused. An important reason why bullies keep up with their actions is because they think that victims of bullying are weak and won’t be able to do anything. They do not seem to have any sense of accountability and this only leads them to keep on going. Hence, it is very important for the victim to report to any higher authority, it can be a parent, a professor, a head, anyone who can assess and take matters of bullying further and help the victim.

It is said that being a witness and not saying anything is just as bad as committing the crime, if not worse, which is why it is crucial to report if you’ve been a witness. Often victims are too terrified of reporting in fear of seriously getting hurt but there are so many witnesses who do not do anything about it as well when they can. If you stand and watch it happen, you’re allowing this behaviour to continue. Stand by the victim and offer your support so that the bully knows that the victim is not alone or as mentioned earlier, report to the higher authorities.

If you have ever experienced bullying, the most important thing to keep in mind is to know that you are not alone and you are loved. Bullies want the victims to feel isolated but if you are a victim of bullying, remember that you can seek help, you are loved and you have people who would listen to you and be there for you. You can also talk to a friend or a counsellor and take guidance from them. This will make you feel supported and heard, even if they are unable to help you.

As a parent, it is extremely crucial for you to recognise the signs and help your child. You need to be extremely gentle, understanding with them and not force them into reporting the bully if they aren’t ready for it just yet.. If you force them into reporting, there is a chance they might stop sharing things with you and just keep on getting hurt which is why it is so necessary to go slow and give them their time to decide what they want to do and how to go on about it. Another way to help is to make them understand that what they are going through is not their fault and that they are doing nothing wrong instead of saying ignorant things like asking them to be strong or to not pay attention to it. Most of the time, children just want you to be there for them and lend them shoulders they can lean on.

In conclusion, to put an end to bullying, it is very important for parents to teach their children how to be kind to others around them. Apart from this, teachers and parents need to be understanding and open, in terms of being approached to, so that kids feel comfortable around them and are able to open up about their experiences and struggles. There is also a need for stricter anti- bullying laws so that no child or adult ever feels that there’s no way out.

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