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Bullying 101

Many of us have experienced some form of bullying in our lives. But what exactly is bullying? And how can it affect us? 

Bullying is defined as, “any unwanted, aggressive behaviour” that is repeated over a period of time. It entails “a person intentionally and repeatedly causing discomfort or injury to another individual without cause”.

From watching movies and TV shows, we are often quick to think that bullying is explicit and easy to see. But that’s not always the case. 

Sometimes bullying can be quite subtle. Although it may be difficult to notice at times, covert forms of bullying can significantly impact an individual, making them feel more isolated, unheard and alone. 

There are two broad modes of bullying: direct and indirect. 

Direct bullying occurs between the people involved in a situation whereas, indirect bullying involves others (i.e. spreading rumours). This form of bullying can damage a person’s social reputation, peer relationships and self-esteem. 

Just as bullying can happen to anyone, it can happen anywhere! Bullying can occur in any place, context or location, including face-to-face, online or via a smartphone. 

There are four types of bullying: Physical, Verbal, Social, and Cyber. 

Physical Bullying: the most overt (or visible) type of bullying. It includes harming a person’s body or possessions (i.e. hitting, kicking, tripping, pinching, pushing or damaging another person’s property). 

Verbal Bullying: entails saying or writing mean words. It can include: name calling, insults, teasing, intimidation, inappropriate sexual comments, homophobic or racist remarks or verbal abuse. Verbal bullying may start off harmlessly or in a joking context. As a result, the person who is being bullied, as well as any bystanders, may overlook the seriousness of it, or be unsure of whether they should report it. However, this type of bullying can escalate quickly and cause whoever is involved great emotional distress. 

Social Bullying: often harder to recognize, as it involves harming someone’s reputation or relationships. It usually entails leaving someone out on purpose; telling people not to be friends with another person; spreading rumors and/or intentionally embarrassing someone in public. 

Cyber Bullying: can be overt or covert, as it is carried out through technology (ie; cell phones,  computers, etc.). This type of bullying can happen at any time through the sending of abusive texts, emails, or social media posts; a deliberate exclusion of a person online; spreading rumors and imitating others by using their login information. 

The Effects of Bullying 

Bullying affects everyone involved, including the targeted individual, the bully, and the people who have witnessed what has happened. 

Bullying can impact a person’s body and mind. Specifically, it can harm a person’s mental health, leading to increased feelings of sadness and loneliness. As well, individuals who are bullied are at a higher risk for developing depression and anxiety; and are more likely to experience substance abuse and suicidal thoughts. 

On the other hand, bullying can cause changes in sleep (i.e. insomnia, exhaustion) and eating; loss of interest and desire in activities; more physical health complaints; and an inability to focus and perform (i.e. at school or work). 

What to do if you are being bullied 

If you are being bullied, remember that you are not alone. Reach out to a close friend or family member, or seek professional help. 

What you are experiencing is real, and it is not OK! You don’t have to suffer in silence, help is within your reach. 

Report the bullying to your school, workplace or social media platform that you are using, so that the pattern does not continue. It may also be helpful to record what has been occurring, where and when it has been happening and what kind of things have been said or done. Screenshot and print instances of harassment so that you are able to provide documentation. 

Lastly, create distance between yourself and the bully. This may be difficult to do, especially if you are being bullied online, but it is possible. Refrain from responding to any harmful messages and block and/or delete certain individuals so they are unable to contact you. 

Check out these additional resources to learn more about bullying and how to put a stop to it!

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