*NOTE: There are some helpline numbers at the end of the post.*
I’ve waited a while to write this piece about bullying, even though it’s been on my mind a lot lately. See, a girl committed suicide not far from where I live and bullying was named as one of the things which had had an influence on her decision to take her own life. I didn’t want to be seen as jumping on the bandwagon to write something; which is also why I won’t name her here. What I will add is: she was only twelve when she shot herself. So I’ll mostly be focusing on bullying at school.
Bullying is most often seen as “something that always happens” and “just something that kids do” — it’s “kids being kids”. Even at work a few people said “Please, kids will be kids, you can’t give that as a reason. She should’ve just gotten over it”. On the radio many callers said the same thing. I ended up just switching it off after a while.
I know that bullying is present in all schools and also in other spheres of life. But that doesn’t make it right. I don’t see why it should be some kind of rite of passage. I don’t see why kids’ lives should be made hell on a daily basis because they are different. I don’t see why teachers shouldn’t do anything if bullying happens right in front of them. I don’t see why bullies should be seen as the only victim — the one who acts out “because they have issues of their own, you know” (more about this later).
My own experience
It will come as no surprise that I was bullied at school. A kid who always had her nose stuck in books. Who actually liked classes. Who liked fantasy and to crochet and embroider and craft. A kid who always came last in every race and couldn’t do sport to save her life. A real and proper nerd. I was basically an outsider from day one. And I couldn’t wait to finish school so that I could get out of that environment. Not that it was a bad schools – quite the opposite. I was blessed enough to go to really wonderful schools.
But I did learn two things: bullies don’t miraculously stop bullying you if you “just stand up to them” and you’ll be told over and over again that you shouldn’t take notice of it; the bullies just have their own issues they need to work through. As if that suddenly makes everything peachy. Actually what you are saying is that it’s my fault that I was bullied. That I shouldn’t be such an easy target. That I’m obviously going to get bullied because of who I am and somehow that’s ok. After all, they have the issues they need to work through, so you should feel sorry for them.
Fit in. Conform to popularity. Don’t be different. You’re just stressed about tests, they’re not really bullying you. You’re blowing everything out of proportion. You should learn to take a joke. Kids will be kids. Yes, I was actually told that I’m just stressed.
And this it what really gets to me.
How about teaching bullies that what they are doing is wrong and teach them a healthy way to work through their issues. Or jealousy, or whatever you want to say their reason is for being bullies.
Can mental illness play a part in how bad you experience bullying? I would say definitely. If you already have depression, or it’s just waiting to be triggered, bullying can certainly be bad enough to trigger it, I believe. After all, you’re forced into a toxic environment for hours every day and it will take its toll. And that’s just depression — never mind all the other mental illnesses. Do some bullies also suffer from mental illness? It’s possible, of course — and that is also why they need help.
I don’t know if people who were at school with me will read this. I don’t even know if teachers will read this. Most probably not. They have probably forgotten what they did or think that it was just a bit of fun and that what they did wasn’t that bad. After all, I was never actually beaten up. (Though apparently it was a lot of fun to throw me with stuff.) One thing that will always stay with me is a teacher laughing along while I was being taunted by 90% of the class. But I did make it through and the bullying did come to an end.
But, just maybe, this will make both teachers and students think twice about the way bullying is perceived in schools. Or at least show that bullying does have an end. It just sometimes takes some time.
If this is you
And if you are being bullied: it does get better. I promise you it does. And you can make it through. Think of the stuff you want to achieve and focus on that as much as you can. And, if you suffer from depression or are contemplating suicide, please seek help. Please, please, please. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
Sadag (South African Depression and Anxiety Group): 011 234 4837 / 0800 70 80 90 / 0800 21 22 23 /
South Africa: 0800 567 567 – SMS 31393
USA: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Britain:+44 (0)8457 90 90 90 / 90 91 92
Australia: 13 11 14 / 000 (if life is in danger)
Or just Google your country name and “suicide hotline”. (I only stated the countries where most of my readers are.)