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Anti-Bullying Week: overcoming the impact of bullying

Anti-Bullying Week: overcoming the impact of bullying

Being bullied can have a major impact on us, however old we are when it happens. This week (15th-19th November) is Anti-Bullying Week in the UK, and the theme is all about kindness: how we’re all different, and the little acts of consideration can break down barriers.

While the campaign is especially aimed at children, it’s an important opportunity for us as adults, too, to think about the impact of bullying – whether we’ve experienced it in the past, or it’s something we’re going through now. Unfortunately, the problem of adult bullying isn’t uncommon: research by the TUC shows that nearly a third of adults have been bullied at work.

We’ve probably all seen the effects bullying can have on someone’s self-esteem and confidence. These can be long-lasting, affecting things like health, relationships and career progression later in life. They can also contribute to mental health difficulties such as depression and anxiety, in particular social anxiety disorder.

If you or someone you know is experiencing effects like these, here are some techniques that might help with tackling them.

Quiet your inner critic with a positive data log.
Sometimes people constantly ‘hear’ in their minds the harsh words that were spoken to them, or talk to themselves in the same way their bullies did – which takes them right back to how they felt when it was happening. For example, someone who was called ‘stupid’ might tell themselves ‘you’re stupid!’ when they make a mistake.

Challenge this voice by deciding how you would really like to see yourself – intelligent, competent, good at your job, practical. Each day, look for examples that demonstrate these qualities in yourself, and write them down. For instance:

What I did: I raised a point in a meeting that no one else had thought of.
What this says about me: I have good ideas and make valuable contributions at work.

Write a letter to your bully (for your eyes only!).
If you’re still carrying around a lot of anger about what happened, getting it down on paper, and explaining exactly how the bully’s actions hurt you can be very helpful. It doesn’t matter if you never send it, as the act of writing itself can be very therapeutic – you may even want to shred or burn the letter afterwards!

Remember the positive bits.
It’s human nature to remember the negative parts of what we experience most strongly. If you’re troubled and weighed down by the bad memories you have of times when you were bullied, remembering good things that also happened at the time can help to balance your thoughts and feelings. Did you receive kindness and understanding from anyone? Were you able to achieve some positive things at work or school? Did you have any enjoyable and pleasant experiences?

Take steps to problem solve where you can.
If you’re being bullied at work, for example, the government recommends first talking to a manager or member of the HR team. If it can’t be sorted out at that stage, you can use the organisation’s grievance procedure and, if necessary, take legal action at an employment tribunal. ACAS has a lot of useful information here.

While bullying isn’t against the law – unlike harassment, which is illegal under the Equality Act 2010 – most schools, companies and other organisations will have an anti-bullying policy in place. They will also take their responsibilities around preventing and addressing the problem very seriously. This government website has some really useful information on workplace bullying and harassment.

In line with the message behind Anti-Bullying Week, we can all play a part in being that point of kindness in someone’s day; if they’re feeling shy or like the ‘odd one out’, one word or smile could make all the difference. We can also speak up if we see somebody being bullied, harassed or mistreated. If your child mentions that there’s someone at school who’s always on their own, you could encourage them to smile and say hello.

Some of the actions we suggest in this blog might be difficult to do on your own. If you’re struggling with the effects of bullying, and you’re experiencing depression or anxiety as a result, online CBT could help you to understand and manage your feelings and move forward with your life.

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