The pain, the suffering, the internal struggles and low self-esteem. The heartache, the isolation, the depression – so many emotions and thoughts run through a young individual’s mind when they are subjected to the torments of teasing, taunting and relentless bullying. Above all else, a victim feels their power, their sense of identity, being stripped away, and when it’s (temporarily) over, they often end up feeling more isolated and alone than they ever have before.
Unfortunately, bullying in schools occur more than it should. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, one in every four students (22%) report being bullied during the school year. That equates to millions of kids and teens on the receiving end of bullying, which can then cause an increased risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties and poor school adjustment (Center for Disease Control).
Luckily, there are several things you can do if you witness bullying. If you are a bystander to bullying, don’t let the opportunity to help fade away, even if it can be scary. Students who experience bullying report that allying and supportive action from their peers were the most helpful actions from bystanders.
What can you do as a bystander? Use these tips to help elevate you from bystander to upstander!
- Never laugh or join in on the bullying. Majority of the time, the bully is looking for an audience, and laughing or talking will only encourage them.
- Stand up to the bully and support their victim. Tell the bully to stop. Recent research showed that more than half of bullying situations (57%) stop when a peer intervenes on behalf of the student being bullied.
- Get an adult who can help resolve the issue. Often, there are deeper issues at play than just a bully picking on their victim. An adult can help deal with it in an appropriate manner.
- If you are unwilling or unable to leave the area because you want to assist the victim or provide support, use a cell phone to call or text for help.
- It can take just one person to break the bystander effect, which is when individuals do not offer any means of help to a victim when other people are present. Enlist the support of other bystanders to stand up to the bully.
- Support the victim. This is the most important thing you can do. It can include spending time with student, talking to them, helping them get away or giving advice. Make attempts to avoid bullying in the first place – if you notice someone being isolated from others, invite them to join you or include them in activities.
There is strength in numbers. Unite with fellow classmates, community members, friends and family to bring an end to bullying.