Bullying is any systematic, intentional act of aggression or hostility that inflicts harm upon another person. It can include physical violence, verbal attacks, and isolation; these bullying forms may be different, but the consequences are almost the same. Some key bullying effects include social exclusion by the bullying victim, depression, anxiety, and increased stress level, but a few measures can be implemented to mitigate bullying among people. Bullying comes in different types, but with a lasting impact on the mental health of victims, leading to negative consequences, including suicidal thoughts; therefore, society should discourage it.
Types of Bullying
There are three types of bullying: emotional, verbal, and physical. Emotional bullying is damaging because it undermines a person’s self-esteem and sense of worth. It can involve teasing, sarcasm, humiliation, spreading rumors, or ignoring someone (Chen et al., 2018). All these tactics can damage a victim’s emotional health and well-being. Verbal bullying is name-calling, ridiculing, or making fun of someone. This type of bullying can be very hurtful and leave the victim feeling embarrassed (Chen et al., 2018). Physical bullying is any type of attacking behavior that causes physical harm to someone. It could include hitting, punching, kicking, shoving, slapping, spitting on someone, or taking their belongings away from them.
Effects of Bullying
Bullying has a profound impact on individuals, both emotionally and mentally. Firstly, bullying can cause mental and emotional damage to victims, leading to long-term problems like depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. There are a few reasons why bullying can result in such severe impacts on the victims. According to Okeke & Tshotsho (2018), bullying can lower self-esteem and increase loneliness and isolation. This can make the victim feel like they have no one to turn to and are alone in their struggles. Hutson (2018) also confirmed that, among the victims, low self-esteem and loneliness are common. Victims of bullying are often ashamed of their experiences and believe that they are to blame. They may feel alone and unsupported, which can lead to depression and social isolation, and this low self-esteem can lead to problems in school and work.
Likewise, bullies often use verbal attacks that are hurtful and humiliating. Harman et al. (2018) explained that these verbal attacks could cause the victim to feel unworthy, unloved, and helpless. Verbal abuse is a form of bullying that is often used to control or dominate another person and is always hurtful and leave lasting emotional damage. Koller & Darida (2020) similarly supported that verbal abuse can include screaming, insulting, threatening, and ridiculing someone. It can also involve manipulative behavior, such as convincing someone they are not worthy of love or respect. Finally, bullying can also increase stress levels and lead to anxiety disorders. The victim may constantly be worried about what the bully will do next or whether they will be targeted again (Hutson, 2018). All of these factors can combine to create a perfect storm of depression and anxiety in victims of bullying.
Secondly, bullying may lead to social isolation and problems forming relationships with others. The victims of bullying may be too embarrassed to tell anyone about their experience, or they may not feel that anyone will believe them, while others may believe they are weak (Hutson, 2018). Additionally, bullies often single out their victims, making them feel they do not belong at school or in any social situation. This exclusion causes the victim to withdraw from friends and activities, further exacerbating the feeling of isolation. Potard et al. (2021) equally affirmed that bullied people often disconnect from close people around them as a way to cope with bullying pain.
Furthermore, when someone is repeatedly attacked, they may find it hard to trust anyone. They may think that they are not good enough and that no one would want to be their friend. This type of emotional isolation can make it harder for victims of bullying to get help and can lead to further distress (Potard et al., 2021). It is important for those who have been victimized by bullies to have a strong support system of close friends or family members who can provide comfort and understanding.
Lastly, victims are more likely to engage in risky behaviors like drug and alcohol abuse, self-harm, and suicide attempts. For example, victims may use drugs and alcohol as a form of self-medication to try to cope with the pain and emotional distress caused by the bullying (Maniglio, 2017). Equally, they may turn to self-harm as a way of dealing with their feelings of anger, frustration, or helplessness. Finally, some victims may resort to suicide attempts to escape the pain and misery they experience. Okeke & Tshotsho (2018) also found that victims of bully normally believe that they have no other way out and that suicide is the only way to escape the bullying. Generally, bullying can be incredibly emotionally damaging and make victims feel there is no escape.
On the contrary, suicide is not the best way to evade bullying for a few key reasons. Firstly, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem (bullying). However much the bullied person may run away from the bully problems, the bullies will still exist to harm other people. Secondly, suicide leaves behind pain and suffering for friends and family members (Nurtanti et al., 2020). These close individuals are often left with guilt and regret that they may do more to help the person who killed themselves. Similarly, they may feel hopeless following emotional attachment or dependence on the person who committed suicide. Finally, when someone commits suicide, it sends a clear message that bullying has won (Nurtanti et al., 2020). It reinforces the idea that bullies can get away with their behavior by pushing someone to take their own life, and this only encourages more bullying and can have tragic consequences.
Bullying Reduction Measures
Bullying is often motivated by a desire to control or dominate others, and it can be very damaging to the victim’s mental health and well-being. That is why it is vital for society, in general, to be aware of the signs of bullying and know how to intervene if they see someone being victimized (Chen et al., 2018). Some common signs of someone being bullied include feeling scared or uncomfortable in their surroundings, experiencing verbal abuse or threats, and being excluded from social groups or activities. Other signs include having their belongings stolen or damaged and physical violence or intimidation.
There are many ways to reduce bullying in schools and communities. According to Konishi et al. (2017), one way is to create a safe and welcoming environment where everyone feels respected by establishing clear school or workplace rules and expectations and enforcing them consistently. Cismaru & Cismaru (2018) expounds that by implementing policies and procedures that create a safe and respectful environment, institutions can reduce bullying by establishing codes of conduct, reporting mechanisms, and educational programs on bullying prevention. It is similarly essential to provide positive reinforcement when students exhibit good behavior.
Another way to reduce bullying is to teach individuals how to handle conflict peacefully. This can be done through programs such as social-emotional learning (SEL), which aids people in developing self-awareness, empathy, and problem-solving (Paolini, 2020). Haymovitz et al. (2018) also mentioned that conflict management education assists in reducing bullying activities by teaching people how to communicate their feelings and needs to resolve conflicts peacefully and effectively. This can help to create a calm and positive school environment where students or employees feel safe and respected.
Finally, it is significant to keep an open dialogue about bullying with students and parents or employees and employers. Open dialogue about bullying can help to reduce bullying behavior in many ways. An open dialogue creates a culture where bullying is not tolerated (Shaw et al., 2019). By openly discussing and condemning bullying, students, parents, and employees learn that it is unacceptable behavior. Similarly, the dialogue aids the victims of bullying in feeling supported and heard. When victims realize that adults or leaders are talking about the issue openly, they become more comfortable coming forward with their experiences and seeking assistance. Samara et al. (2017) also emphasized that open dialogue aids bullies in understanding the consequences of their actions. By explaining the effects of bullying on victims and the school or workplace, bullies can begin to see the negative consequences of their behavior.
In conclusion, bullying can devastate victims, both in the short- and long term. It can lead to lower self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and even suicide. In addition to the emotional toll bullying takes on victims. It can equally have physical consequences, such as increased health problems, and therefore, bullying is a problem that needs to be addressed. All members of society need to work together to create a safe and supportive environment for victims of bullying so that they become comfortable coming forward and seeking help. Schools, parents, and community organizations all have a role to play in stopping bullying.
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