As thousands of young people head back to school for 2017, parents, teachers and students are being urged to call out bullying and “act early” when they see it.
The message from mental health service ReachOut came after it released a survey of 14 to 25-year-olds showing one in four had been a victim of bullying in the past 12 months.
It also found the highest incidence of bullying occurred at school — 52 per cent — followed by the online space with 25 per cent, and the workplace at 25 per cent.
ReachOut chief executive Jono Nicholas said more needed to be done to break down the stigma of being a bullying victim, given the survey found only half of those affected spoke out and sought help.
“We know this is a really big concern for young people and their parents,” he said.
‘The most important thing to do is to act early’: ReachOut
Mr Nicholas said the best way to deal with bullying was to tackle it quickly and head-on.
He acknowledged it was usually difficult for victims to overcome their fears and take that first step, but urged them to do so anyway.
“Often people hope that it will go away, hope that if they’re quiet it will magically change,” he said.
“The most important thing to do is to act early.”
Mr Nicholas said people should first try to remove themselves from the situation, but if that did not work, then speak to somebody.
“Absolutely talk to your parents, or talk to the teachers, and seek a resolution,” he said.
“One of the things we’re saying to parents is, they should go into those conversations saying, ‘We want this resolved’.”
Former victim continues to suffer
Former Sydney schoolgirl Isabel, 20, said the bullying she experienced in high school still had an impact on her today.
“It went on over a year — between Year 7 and halfway through Year 8,” she said.
“Even today I still have self-esteem issues with regards to my appearance, just from things that were pointed out to me then.
“It really affects your mental health.”
Isabel said she was often teased about her appearance, including her braces and the way she wore her hair.
“I felt like an outcast, I felt really alone, I felt scared to turn a corner in case [they] would be there,” she said.
“It was really hard — I couldn’t really talk to any school teachers because it would make the situation worse.
“[The teachers] would just get those kids in trouble and that made it really hard.”
‘You don’t have to put up with it’
Isabel said she was initially reluctant to tell her parents about the scale of the bullying she was experiencing, but when she did, things changed for the better.
“They made a call on the night to pull me out of the school,” she said.
“If you have a good support program behind you and you can turn to it, it makes all the difference.
“Year 11 and 12 was amazing for me.”
Mr Nicholas said young people should use counselling services if they found it too hard to speak to family or friends.
“Online services like ReachOut have peer support forums,” he said. “Great counselling like Kids Helpline can be really vital to give young people the support they need.
“We want young people, who experience bullying, and their parents to know that you don’t have to put up with it.
“There are things you can do right now to address bullying behaviour.”
If you or someone you know needs help, call:
Lifeline on 13 11 14
Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978
Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467