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Blog: what to do if you’re being bullied

26 Jun 2019
Unfortunately, bullying can happen to anyone. It’s so common that a quarter of people aged 14–25 have experienced it in the past year.

Bullying isn’t the same for everyone – it can happen at work, school, online or in your own home. It may involve physical violence, someone saying nasty things to you, or it could even involve your closest friends.

Being bullied can make you feel a lot of things. You may notice feelings of loneliness, fear, stress, shame or rejection. It may feel like there’s nothing you can do to make it stop. Sometimes there can be people who witness bullying, like your friends, and they don’t do anything to help you.

It’s important to remember that being bullied is not your fault. There’s nothing wrong with you, and you don’t have to go through it alone.

If you’re being bullied, there are some things you can do to take back control.

Plan your response

Bullying can be really confusing. You might not even realise that it’s happening to you at first. It may even be something that starts as a ‘joke’, but doesn’t stop or gets worse. Or perhaps it’s more physical, like someone at school shoving you whenever they walk past.

When you become aware of bullying that’s happening to you, take a moment to consider how you’ll respond. There are a few ways you can approach it.

Talk it out

If you’re feeling really brave, you might be able to tell the person or people who are bullying you to stop. This may be enough to end the bullying, because they might not realise they’re doing it or how much it’s hurting you.

Ignore it

Another way you can respond to bullying is by ignoring it or walking away. In many cases, bullies feed off your response. If you get angry or upset by their actions, they might continue doing it. If you ignore it, they might get bored and stop doing it.

Delete it

In some cases, it may be best not to respond at all. For example, if someone is sending you hateful messages online, sending a response may make the situation worse. It could even cause them to send more nasty comments. It might be best to just delete the message and block the person who sent it. You could even click on the ‘report abuse’ button, which alerts the social media site to take the content down. If you're not finding the social media platform helpful, you can report the incident and have it removed by the eSafety Commissioner.

Take action

If you’ve asked someone to stop bullying you and they still keep doing it, there are some other things you can do to try and prevent it from happening again.

Get some backup

Ask your friends to stay with you while the bullies are around. This way you’re less of a target and you have backup if they start being nasty.

Change your privacy settings

If the bullying is happening online, you can change your social media privacy settings so that certain people can’t see your posts or send you things.

Tell someone you trust

It can be helpful to speak to an adult that you trust about it. This might be a teacher, a parent, an Elder, or a manager in your workplace. It’s useful if you write down the things the bully has said or done, so you can take a list of evidence to the person you tell.

It might seem daunting to tell an adult about the bullying, especially if it feels like you’re ‘dobbing’ on someone – but remember that it’s a really brave thing to do. Someone older than you may have some useful advice on how to stop the bullying, or they may be able to take action themselves to stop it from happening.

Find support

The most important thing to keep in mind when you’re being bullied is that you don’t have to go through it on your own. Keeping it to yourself can mean that the bullying doesn’t stop, and that you continue to feel bad about it.

Don’t stay silent. Tell a trusted friend or adult, or chat to someone like a headspace clinician.

In extreme bullying situations, you may feel so bad that you have harmful or suicidal thoughts. If this happens to you, make sure that you reach out to triple zero (000) for immediate support. Other telephone support services include: Kids Helpline and Lifeline. They can help you find support and resources to get through this experience.

If you don’t feel like speaking to someone, you can find help online too. Bullying. No Way! has some great advice and information, and Friendly Schools also has tools for dealing with bullying.

Bullying is never okay, regardless of whether it happens in school, online, at home, or in the workplace. Find out more about bullying and how it can affect your mental health, or get in touch with your local headspace centre for more help.