Bullying and Mental Health

Bullying can happen to anyone, at any age and in various situations. Yet most articles that I have read whilst writing this piece, only talk about bullying amongst children and students. Adults can also be bullied, at home by ‘loved ones’, in the workplace, or even on the streets in public. It is important that we talk about all forms of bullying and that people are able to spot the signs and speak up.

First, let’s look at some statistics of bullying:

  • In 2017, School Crime Supplement indicated that, nationwide, around 20% of students aged between 12-18 experienced bullying.
  • Approximately 30% of young people when surveyed, admitted to bullying others.
  • 70.6% of young people said that they have seen bullying occur within their school.
  • 70.4% of school staff said that they have seen bullying at some point in their career.
  • 62% of school staff said that they have witnessed bullying two or more times in the last month.
  • 41% of school staff said they have seen bullying once a week or more!
  • When bystanders intervene, bullying stops within 10 seconds 57% of the time.
  • Only 20-30% of students being bullied will notify an adult.
  • According to a YouGov poll, which interviewed over 2000 people, 23% reported being targeted online.
  • Those between the ages of 18-24 were the most likely to experience cyberbullying, with 55% of the respondents in this age bracket sharing their experiences. This was followed by 33% of people aged between 25-34.
  • The most common form of cyberbullying is harassment (when someone sends repeated hurtful messages to another individual) – 1 in 8 people taking part in the poll had experienced this.
  • Facebook is the most common platform for cyberbullying, followed closely behind by Twitter.
  • 53% of people who experienced cyberbullying, reported the incident directly to the platform.

These are just some facts and figures among the very many that I came across. There are a number of campaigns in place for tackling childhood bullying, yet the statistics found by the YouGov Poll show that the figures amongst adult bullying are also a cause for concern.

What types of bullying are there?

Cyberbullying – This is a form of bullying which takes place online via social media, chat rooms or email. This could be receiving threats to publish information about the individual, hurtful and hateful messages to upset the individual, threats of physical violence, anonymous hurtful messages and so on and so forth.

Social Bullying – This is where the perpetrators go out of their way to isolate their victims from wider social networks. They may do this in a very open and obvious manner, like saying things such as ‘we do not want you to sit with us’ or ‘you are not invited’. Or it could be done in a very subtle manner, where the perpetrator acts kind and friendly to their victims face, but tries to pull apart their relationships with others, by talking about them behind their back and damaging their reputation so that no one wants to interact with them and they start to become isolated and lonely. This can be done by spreading rumours, ostracizing, sharing the individual’s secrets, giving them the silent treatment, or deliberately embarrassing them.

Verbal Abuse – This is where the perpetrator relies solely on their words in order to hurt/upset the individual. Children have been taught mantras such as ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me’ Phrases such as these are damaging and are considered to be counterproductive as words can very much hurt a person and can have lasting effects to their mental health. Verbal abuse can be in many forms, such as name-calling, routine criticism, teasing, hurtful comments, written notes passed to the individual with hurtful/cruel comments on them and threats.

Physical Bullying – This accounts for any act where the perpetrator uses their physicality to hurt, or irritate the individual. Such acts can range from flicking the person repeatedly to putting their life at risk. It is important to remember that even the small acts of physical violence can have an impact on an individual’s mental health. Physical bullying can include, pushing, hitting, kicking, tripping them up, throwing things at them or causing damage to their property.

Manipulation and control – This can sometimes be difficult to spot and although it may also fit into the category of social bullying, it can also be seen as a separate form of bullying too. The perpetrator, in this case, is likely to be someone who the individual classed as being a ‘friend’ or a ‘loved one’. As an outsider, people may class their relationship as being toxic, though this can be hard for the individual to understand and/or accept. For example, the perpetrator may make the individual feel guilty for not putting them first, or for being friends with somebody else. They may control what the individual wears and who they see. They may use manipulation to make the individual feel as though they are the ones doing wrong. This can have a large impact on mental health and self-esteem. This can cause the individual to feel lonely and isolated.

Adults are less likely to report bullying to another person face-to-face. If they are experiencing cyberbullying, they may report the perpetrator to the social media platform, but they are less likely to tell another person about their experience. There are many adults who feel as though they are being bullied in the workplace, but do not feel like they are able to report it, especially if they are experiencing bullying from a higher-ranked member of staff.
Bullying is something that needs to be spoken about more, not only amongst children but adults too.

Signs that someone is being bullied

If someone is experiencing bullying they may show some of the following:

  • Being more isolated than usual, not joining in with activities, not being as talkative, sitting alone in their room, being more anxious than usual.
  • Getting defensive at home, argumentative or ‘on edge’. May have a shorter fuse than usual, showing signs of anger and frustration.
  • Bruises or unexplained marks on their body (physical bullying or self-harm)
  • Jumpy, double-checking everything, making sure their clothes are okay, throwing old clothes out and changing their style suddenly. Not seeing their usual friends and family members as much as they used to.
  • Avoiding going to school or work.
  • Showing signs of anxiety before going into school or work.

Everyone reacts differently to bullying. So it is important to check on those you love and care about if you feel they are acting differently to usual.


You can find helplines and useful resources for bullying here.


PsychologyToday – Ways adults bully each other


BullyingStatistics.org – Adult Bullying

Bullying in England – statistics

Independent.co.uk – Cyberbullying and adults

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