It is estimated that 30 percent of young people in Ireland will experience bullying in their lives, which unfortunately often continues into the workplace as an adult.
Bullying itself can take many different forms: physical, exclusionary, exertional and verbal just to name a few. All forms have their own negative impacts in a victim’s life at the time. For children they often feel afraid, lack self esteem and can start to feel anxious in social situations. According to Spunout.ie bullying in the workplace is often more subtle and leaves victims feeling undervalued, ashamed and ignored.
At the time bullying can make a person’s life miserable, what is even more worrying though is the list of lifelong effects victims can suffer with. During the time of bullying victims can feel low in self-confidence, many avoid going to school or the workplace where they are being bullied and, worryingly, many end up self-harming or with suicidal tendencies.
The Anti Bullying Centre at Trinity College Dublin identified the main effects of bullying as part of their research for Spunout.ie in 2013. Problems with mental health such as anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and even sleep disorders are among those at the top of that list.
Some of these causes and symptoms are easily guessed at, or are effects that make sense to most people and would be easily understood. Some consequences, however, are more unusual, but have a prolific part to play in victims’ lives.
Children who have been bullied are more likely to run away from home and engage in more self-destructive behaviour. Dr.Linda Kennedy from ‘Overcome Bullying’ also found that victims of bullying are more likely to report suffering from migraines and are more at risk to have trouble with alcohol and drug abuse.
What is interesting about these findings is that a lot of these symptoms are found in people who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD). Many people with PTSD have returned from war, suffered through abusive relationships or have been involved in serious accidents.
Although the cause of PTSD is closely linked to war veterans, studies now reveal its link to people who have experienced bullying or other traumatic events. Victims who suffer with this often have to live with flashbacks, and are known to have a defensive nature.
A study by Yale School Of Medicine reinforced this information and found an alarming correlation between being bullied and suicide in children.
Anyone that has been bullied will be familiar with the view that bullying will “toughen you up” and we have all heard the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but names can never hurt me.” But that simply is not true.
A study conducted by Dr. Mark Dombeck from the ‘American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress’ found victims are likely to be more of a lone wolf, and are also more likely to have a perception of themselves as a victim who is oversensitive. When people have this image of themselves it can be hard for them to move past the trauma of being bullied. Dr. Dombeck’s study showed that victims are often left with lifelong feelings of bitterness and resentment.
Living with this kind of regret is the ugly truth of life after bullying. Dr. Dombeck explained how being bullied teaches a victim they are undesirable, an incapable individual, which is why victims are more susceptible to mental health disorders.
“It would be great if the average person was possessed of unshakable self-confidence, but this just isn’t how identity works. Identity is a social process. Other people contribute to it,” the report says, “Particularly when people are young and have not yet survived a few of life’s trials, it is difficult for people to know who they are and what they are made of.”
The negative effects of bullying, however, are not limited to just victims. In a recent American research trial, six out of ten children who identified as bullies in middle school were convicted of a crime by the time they reach 24.
This coincides with many studies, including statistics from bullyingstatistics.org, that bullying is often a defence mechanism. People can become bullies for a variety of reasons. One being because we live in a society which values winning, power, and glorifies violence in a way that celebrates bullying. But often the root cause is to do with the bullies’ life experiences, including family issues, social issues and also as a result of being bullied themselves.
No matter where you end up in a bullying situation, bully or the bullied, there are negative impacts that can follow you through life, long after the bullying has ended. It is vital that we work to solve these problems in schools and teach our children how to speak up about their experiences before this takes hold.
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