I distinctly remember being about nine or ten and mentioning to a teacher, who asked me why I was crying, that I was being bullied. They told me that I wasn't being hit so it couldn't be bullying. It was, unfortunately, something that really stuck with me but at the time struck be as being completely wrong. I didn't understand that, despite being told by another teacher, bullying was wrong but in the eyes of someone more senior... it wasn't a thing. It took me a long time to realise that during times at school when I was excluded by people who I considered as friends or teased or generally picked on; that it wasn't due to there being something inherently wrong with me but that I was being bullied.
I really lacked self-confidence and had low self-esteem. I don't think it was the sole cause for me developing mental health problems, but I do wonder if it was something that challenged my sense of self enough to be a contributing factor. It's strange, but it feels like it was such a long time ago and of course I have found a way to find closure on what happened. I hope it's enabled me to have a greater awareness and empathy for the young people I work with who are experiencing bullying in many different forms at the moment.
According to statistics from Anti-bullying Alliance;
'nearly two thirds of young people reported that they were bullied at school; 44% say it impacted on their mental health, over 57% said that being bullied caused them to change their behaviour and 43% experienced body image problems and 46% had long term effects on their self esteem.'
This week is Anti-bullying week 2015 and the theme is 'Make a Noise' about bullying. Perhaps the way to make real changes to stop bullying is to make small changes to our perceptions of it. Thankfully things have changed since I was a young child being told that bullying stereotypes were true and being made to feel completely invalidated about the struggles I was having. I believe that no child, young person or adult should ever have to tolerate or 'put up' with being bullied. We live in a time where I do believe; with the right education and awareness, bullying to be made to be seen as wholly unacceptable. If as a society we no longer tolerate bullying, perhaps we can start to see changes in people's attitudes towards it. It may seem like a bit of a far fetched idea but working with young people inspires me, their level of acceptance is already so impressive that with a little encouragement perhaps we could start to see proper long lasting change.
I hope that by sharing my story and helping prompt the start of a conversation about bullying, other people may feel empowered to share their own story or make an effort to not turn a blind eye to bullying. One of the greatest maintaining factors of silence, making others aware of what's going on and seeking support can enable individuals to get through being bullied.See Kate's full blog here.