People often view bullying as an unavoidable part of school life, or of childhood in general. They might think it is a pity that some children get bullied, but they also think it is just a reality – just a harmless bit of playground fun. But in actuality bullying can invade every aspect of a person`s life. Nowadays, with the on-set and increasing incidences of cyber bullying, people of all ages can be bullied by complete strangers in their own homes. There is also bullying in the workplace; either by the manager, or a group of colleagues. So somebody can potentially be a victim of bullying their entire life, unless something is done to help them. When you actually step back and take a look, bullying is prevalent everywhere from primary school to retirement homes. The concept that bullying is something that happens to someone when they are at school, and then it`s all over is simply not true. But perhaps a more dangerous thought is that any form of bullying doesn’t have a long-term impact on the victim.
The idea of the playground bully has become so ingrained in our society that it is almost as if we just view them as a normal part of life; just somebody who is there and does a job in society like everybody else. But the long-term damage they can cause is probably worse than the majority of people would ever give them credit for. It would be silly to say that all bullies are evil, or are even bad people. Of course their own circumstances could be contributing to them becoming bullies, but this is no excuse. And it really depends on the severity of the bullying; lot of people have difficult home lives, but they don`t all chase people through lanes of traffic just to kick them in the head. If you take adult bullying out of the equations and just look at a scenario of somebody who was bullied through primary and high school, it is not uncommon for those years of school to feel almost like a prison sentence for that individual. It must be torture for someone who is being bullied every day to have to continue to go to school. At every other point in our life our perception of time is that it goes incredibly fast, and yet in our childhood and early teens we perceive time as trickling by slowly, and so if somebody is being bullied the idea of school stretching on for several more years can feel so daunting that many children often contemplate suicide as a way out – the fact that otherwise healthy children can contemplate killing themselves should put in to some perspective just how psychologically damaging bullying can actually be. Often the victim will begin to feel worthless, and almost as if they deserve to be bullied. People can become physically ill and develop mental health issues such as panic attacks or depression, and of course there are often physical injuries as well. Even when the child has left school those feelings of worthlessness and depression will often remain.
Being bullied is often extremely traumatic. Because everybody knows somebody who has been bullied, to describe it as a trauma might be looked upon as being a little over the top – but if somebody is surrounded by a group of people who beat them up, and verbally abuse them over a period of years then what is this other than traumatic? Another aspect of why the after effects of bullying in childhood can last so long is that there is hardly ever any real come-uppance for the bully themselves; most children who bully might get some kind of superficial punishment, but it is nothing at all in comparison to what they have done. This may seem fair as a lot of people will later grow up to regret what they did in childhood, and even hate themselves for what they did to others. But this is of no help to the people they have hurt. It is hard to get over something when there is no closure; if a bully has made every day of an individual’s life hell for years, and then they simply walk a way to happily get on with their own life, then it is incredibly difficult for the target of that bully to feel like things are actually over. And so there is often a long-term, emotional impact for people who have been bullied.
I am not offering advice on how to deal with the long-lasting effects of bullying for multiple reasons: the first being that I may well cover this in another blog later on in the week. Another reason is that I suppose it would completely depend on the individual, and the type and severity of the bulling they have experienced – so there is no simple solution to this problem. I am sure if you have experienced bullying yourself you don’t need me to tell you – or remind you – about the long-term effects, but hopefully this blog has been of use to some of you. I should also point out that I am not writing specifically about people with autism here – bullying is an issue that can affect anybody in society, and its severity should never be underestimated.
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