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The Terrible Bind of Bullying

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

At 14 years of age young people are at a peak influence from their peers. “Young and mid-adolescents are more likely to engage in risky behaviour when with their peers than when alone (Dishion and Tipsord, 2011, Gardner and Steinberg, 2005)”.

Bullying is a double twist in this as it is not only the pain of verbal and physical pain, but the pain of rejection and social exclusion can be heart-breaking to young people. As much as schools can try to deal with bullying, it is very hard to deal with. A young person who has been bullied and has damaged self-esteem can often become a target for bullies even if they move schools.

There is no easy fix.

Often young people won’t even talk about bullying, as much as it is out in the open more, it has a certain stigma attached to it, and the acknowledgement of bullying can seem like admitting defeat in being accepted.

Young people can often find themselves in new groups. Often with other people who have experienced bullying. While this can often be really beneficial, sadly there can be coping mechanisms within these groups that are very detrimental – self-harm and disordered eating. So many of the young people I have worked with say that a friend was part of them beginning to self-harm or restrict eating. It's not that their friends are bad people, they're just people trying to cope with really difficult issues.

"One survey estimates that 1 in 10 young people self-harms at some point in their teenage years (Samaritans and The Centre for Suicide Research, University of Oxford, 2002)6 . Another recent survey published by the Priory, which is a private sector provider which treats mental health problems and addictions, found that as many as one in five girls between the ages of 15 and17 had self-harmed and just under one in five adolescents - both boys and girls - has considered self-harm. This survey of 1,000 young people between the ages of 12 to19 also found ‘unacceptably high’ levels of mental distress, associated for example with bullying and violence in the home (The Priory, 2005)9 . If extrapolated to the whole UK population this would suggest that more than one million adolescents have considered self-harm and more than 800,000 have actually inflicted injuries on themselves."

From the Truth Hurts Report, of the National Inquiry into Self-harm among Young People.

It is so important to keep communication open with young people and to demonstrate kindness and acceptance. There are many charities and coping strategies that an help with self-harm.

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