THE BLOG

Put a Stop to Bullying

22/08/2013 11:04 BST | Updated 21/10/2013 10:12 BST

You may well ask "what has bullying got to do with ill health?" Unfortunately children that appear different or fragile in some way, usually are the ones who fall victim to being bullied. When a child is chronically ill, or even has the smallest of disability, other children will spot these differences a mile off, and like sharks honing in on the tiniest drop of blood, they pick on the weakest child. Children can be terribly cruel, attacking verbally and even physically, making life pure hell. Parents may take little notice of stories their child relays, hoping it will blow over in time and that it's better to let a child battle their own fights. But sometimes intervention is necessary and a child cannot cope or manage the situation alone. Bullying should be taken seriously, for if not stamped out immediately, it can persist and become a continuous torturous situation where both bully and victim get caught in a cycle that is difficult to break.

Unfortunately I am speaking from personal experience, as I was bullied at school. I was very thin, short, pale complexion and developed far later than any of the girls in my year. I was often missing from school for extended periods of time due to ill health, but none of the pupils in my class knew why I was absent or that I suffered from a rare disease called Gaucher. Forty years ago, bullying was being made fun of and laughed at, called names, spat on and harassed continually. My books were stolen, I was constantly pushed and shoved and once someone appallingly urinated on my school bag. I wont bore you with more detail, but I think you grasp the picture.

Sadly today bullying is more insidious due to technological advances it can now extend further than the school grounds and reach the victim in the "safety" of their own home. Via the Internet and social networks which today's generation are so busy with - bullying has regrettably taken an extended step.

A child who is unwell, or even a healthy child who simply has a gentle demeanor may suffer from humiliating and hurtful bullying. A child does not necessarily have the skills or experience to know how to take care of this problem themselves. As parents we have to step in and put our foot firmly down, with the help of school staff, making the perpetrator realise and understand that this is unacceptable behaviour, and cannot continue.

Had I been advised and given the chance to speak to my classmates during school hours, in an orderly planned "show and tell" type lesson, maybe things would have been very different. Once children understand that a class mate only appears different due to a health issue, are given the opportunity to ask pertinent questions and become educated about a particular disease or disability, the cycle is broken immediately. It takes a lot of guts, but if a child has the courage to speak out in front of their class, with the backing of teachers, there is no longer an incentive or is it seen cool to continue bullying. Today many schools have the right approach and accommodate pupils in wheelchairs, making the school disabled friendly with ramps, wide doorways and corridors, and have a "no tolerance policy" to bullying. Things were very different in my day, but I suspect that bullying is still widespread and sadly is not going to disappear all by itself. If you know your child is being bullied, like in my case due to suffering from a chronic disease, or even if your child is healthy but for some unknown reason is being picked upon; don't stand idly by and let it escalate. Take action, with the backing of the school, bring the bully out into the open and stop the situation NOW!

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