Social Health Indicators: Bullying

Bullying is a serious hazard to physical and mental health and should never be ignored.

Bullying can cause psychiatric injury (which should be carefully distinguished from endogenous mental illness), with a risk of depression and suicide (which some have started to call “bullycide”). The risk arises from the nature of bullying in which trauma to a person’s mental and physical well-being is repetitive and persistent, leading to symptoms typical of complex post-traumatic stress disorder.  Bullying can be hard for teachers and workplace managers to detect, because  individual instances may appear trivial, and much of it takes place when no one else is looking.  It is the relentless, ongoing targeting of an individual for hurtful remarks and/or behaviour that causes harm.

Symptoms can include:
panic attacks
reactive depression
thoughts of suicide
poor concentration
flashbacks and replays
excessive guilt
an unusual degree of fear
sense of isolation, insecurity, desperation
acute anxiety
reduced immunity to infection
aches & pains with no clear cause
chest pains and angina
high blood pressure
headaches and migraines
sweating, palpitations, trembling
hormonal problems
physical numbness
emotional numbness
irritable bowel syndrome
shy bladder syndrome
loss of appetite/comfort eating
excessive or abnormal thirst
waking up more tired than when you went to bed
irritability/angry outbursts
low confidence
low self-esteem

The fact that in many known cases, thoughts of suicide have been turned into the final act itself, makes this an urgent matter for us all.  It is important that people who are being targetted by bullying, whether in school, the workplace, the home, or any other social setting, receive help in stopping the behaviour that is injuring them.  It is also essential to provide help and support for their recovery from the mental and physical injuries sustained.

In the clinic we have found that many symptoms listed above can be successfully treated and helped.  We have certainly observed people healing over time.

However it is absolutely essential that the situation causing harm is stopped – this requires dealing with the people responsible for keeping workplaces, schools, etc, safe.  (A process which may be time-consuming, frustrating and draining, in itself.  Sometimes a move away from the school or job is the only way to stop being exposed to ongoing injury by bullying).

It will be hugely beneficial if the person who has been bullied receives from the people close to them, and from the relevant authorities, acknowledgment of the harm they have suffered, and of the fact that this is not due to any failing on their part.

And it is helpful to be patient and remember that most injuries will get better in time, once the cause of the injury is removed.

I would recommend browsing through the following websites for further information on bullying, to see if it is affecting you or anyone you know:

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