A third of young victims of bullying report having “suicidal thoughts” and a quarter have self-harmed, according to a survey of 9,000 12 to 20-year-olds in the UK.
The poll, published by anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label found that 22% of young people reported having been bullied in the last 12 months, and half of those said it made them feel depressed, with 45% saying it made them anxious.
It’s not just the victims who are impacted, witnessing bullying is also leaving young people feeling stressed and scared, but many are unlikely to do anything to stop it happening, according to the survey.
Campaigners are now urging young people to turn from “bystanders into upstanders” and safely report bullying when they see it.
“Unfortunately, bullying remains a real issue in the UK,” said Ditch the Label’s chief executive Liam Hackett. “The never-ending development of new online platforms means there are more places than ever that young people can witness bullying or be bullied. We need more of those people who witness bullying to turn from bystanders into upstanders, by safely reporting what they see.”
Overall, more than one in five (22%) of the young people polled said they have witnessed bullying. A fifth of these (20%) said it had made them feel stressed, while a similar proportion (18%) said it left them scared it would happen to them.
Half of those who had witnessed bullying said they sometimes intervened to stop it, 23% said they rarely stepped in, and 9% said they never did.
When young people who reported being bullied were asked why they thought it had happened, more than half (57%) said it was because of attitudes towards their appearance – the most common answer – followed by attitudes towards interests or hobbies (40%), and attitudes towards the clothes they wear (24%).
Most commonly, young people said they had been bullied by a classmate (59%), with a third (33%) saying the perpetrator was someone at school they do not know, and the same proportion saying it was an ex-friend.
Other findings show that nearly one in 10 (9%) say they were bullied by someone they only know online and the same proportion said they were bullied by a teacher. A fifth (21%) had played truant from school or college.
In a message in the report, Children’s Commissioner for England Anne Longfield said it was worrying that one in five children are experiencing some form of bullying.
“The impact bullying has on children can be enormous, affecting a child’s confidence, self-esteem and their mental health,” she said. “More needs to be done at home and in schools to help those who are the victims of bullying and also, crucially, to prevent children from bullying in the first place.
“Children who are experiencing bullying need to know that they can approach their parents, teachers or Ditch the Label to talk about what they are experiencing.”
A Department for Education spokesman said: “Bullying of any kind is totally unacceptable. Schools should be safe places for all pupils and they are required by law to have a behaviour policy in place to prevent all forms of bullying.”
Liam Hackett was part of HuffPost UK’s Young Activists, a docu-reality series that follows the lives of a unique and aspirational cast of young activists in real time. You can follow his journey here.