Bullying. This is a huge topic and cannot be covered in one blog. Teasing, picking on, harassing, pushing, shoving, name-calling — all these behaviours fall under the umbrella of bullying. And even though, society has worked on educating us, there seems to be an epidemic of bullying.  (See:  http://bit.ly/GN3LfY)

Bullies: no one likes them, but they can be extremely intimidating. In fact, sometimes, they can be downright terrifying and they can make other people miserable, so much so, that with repeated bullying, victims can begin to suffer lower confidence and self-esteem, and their academic performance can be affected.

I have clients who too readily recall the names they were called in grade school. They recall the degradation and humiliation they felt. At times, the shame and embarrassment, and the feeling that there is something wrong with them appears to follow them into their adult lives. Witnessing bullying can be just as traumatic. Some siblings try to protect their younger brothers or sisters by standing up for them or taking them away from harmful situations.

If left unchecked, children, teens and adults can become afflicted with mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder. The most severe consequence is suicide which, unfortunately, has been an all too real consequence in some cases of extreme bullying.

Many children don’t know how to deal with bullies, and so behave submissively which often reinforces the bully’s behavior. Often children are afraid to tell their parents or teachers that they are being bullied either by another child or, at times, by a group of kids. Sometimes the bully can be an adult:  a teacher or neighbour.  Parents may believe that the child should learn to stand up for himself and choose not to intervene. Children may be scared of the repercussions of “telling”, and therefore, keep the bullying a secret.

Whatever the case, if bullying continues unchecked, it can lead to a number of problems. Not only can children be left with physical scars of bullying but mental scars and issues can develop. Sometimes symptoms emerge as physical ailments such as stomach aches or other illnesses that come on abruptly. Or a child may begin to become depressed and show signs of sadness, including crying, trouble sleeping or nightmares.

In recent years, bullying has emerged in a new form, via instant messaging and text messaging. Cyber bullying has changed the culture of bullying to a certain extent and the number of people that report being bullied has increased as a result. It has another dimension in that the bullying can be anonymous which means you do not know who to be on the look-out for.

In general, being bullied usually leaves us feeling helpless, powerless, fearful, anxious and sometimes angry. Although upsetting, it is important to deal with bullying as quickly as possible, whether it be to “block” an e-mail address or walk away from a situation and find help. It is important for the adults to address the bullying in a firm and definitive manner.

Counselling and therapy can be helpful in order to offer support and allow the child (or adult) to find inner resources and coping strategies for dealing with the effects of bullying.