What to do if you’re being bullied

When you’re dealing with bullying it can feel like there’s nothing you can do about it.  You can convince yourself that trying to stop it might make things worse.

couple watching sunsetIf it’s happening in school, telling a teacher can seem like the last thing you want to do. Will your parents freak out and make a big fuss about it? If it’s happening in work, will anyone even believe you?

Everyone has the right to live, work, study and play in an environment free from bullying, harassment, discrimination and violence.

No one deserves or asks to be bullied and you certainly shouldn’t go through it on your own. Don’t forget that. There are things you can do about it.

Asking someone for advice

Telling someone else what’s going on is really important. If you feel threatened or you think you might be in danger. Don’t keep it to yourself.

You’re not giving in and there’s nothing wussy or weak about reporting it or asking for advice. Anyone would need help with that. 

If you’re dealing with bullying – be it verbal, physical, online or on your phone – it can really help how you feel by telling someone about it and ask for advice.

This can take a bit of courage but you’ll be amazed by how much better you feel just by getting it off your chest.

Asking for support is actually a pretty brave move. Not sure what to say or how it could help? Read up on the benefits of talking to someone.

Who to ask

There are loads of people who might be able to help. Talk to your friends, or to older brothers or sisters if you have them – they might’ve been through this stuff and will understand.

If it’s happening in school, think of a teacher you trust. Teachers and counsellors are specially trained in these situations and it’s their job to help.

Also, it’s good for the school to know it’s happening. There might be other people going through it and they need to  figure out how to prevent it. So think about it as helping other people.

Talking to family

It’s understandable you might be worried your parent or guardian will completely explode if you say anything and run down to the school screaming their head off. We can’t say it won’t happen, but remember they want to help, and they actually might.

They’re also probably more clued in than you imagine, so explain to them if you don’t want them to do that and they might well get it.

They could have suggestions you had never even thought of. Even if you don’t want them to do anything, it lightens the load, and that in itself is pretty good.

In the workplace

If you’re having a hard time with bullying in work, the person to talk to is your Human Resources manager. They deal with this sort of thing all the time.

In the case where there is no Human Resource Manager or they’re not being helpful, talk to your manager or someone senior who can look into what’s happening. 

Alternatively, contact your union rep, the Health and Safety Authority or the Equality Tribunal. These organisations give advice on your options and rights. You can also ask them to act on your behalf if you don’t feel comfortable doing it.

Have a look at workplace bullying for more information on your rights and what you can do. 

If it’s getting you down

If dealing with bullying is getting you down and affecting your day-to-day life, there are loads of people who can help, listen and support you. For more information on how people can help, see getting help.

If you need to talk to someone straight away, see telephone help for a list of helplines, like Samaritans, that run 24 hours a day. If it’s an emergency go to I need help now. Someone will be able to help.

Tips for getting help

  • If you’re worried about speaking to someone, take a friend with you. If you don’t feel like you can talk about it out-loud or face-to-face, write it down or put it in an email. If you’d like to talk to someone outside the situation, have a look at face-to-face help and online and telephone help.
  • Talk to whoever you tell about what they’re planning to do. They might have a responsibility to act if they’re a teacher or counsellor and they’re worried about your safety, so make sure you check with them. They should run all of this by you first. Be clear about what you want and don’t want to happen. Read up on confidentiality and consent.
  • If you don’t feel as if you’re being taken seriously, or if no action is taken, it doesn’t mean what’s happening is OK. You were right to bring it up. Tell someone else and keep at it until something changes.

Dealing with bullying can be really tough. It affects your self-esteem and your confidence, and can end up affecting your work and your relationships too.

It’s really important to do something about it. If you feel you need a hand dealing with the impact of it, speak to someone like a counsellor to help you work on these feelings.

Working it out yourself

Depending on how bad the bullying is (and as long as you aren’t feeling in danger or physically threatened) you might decide to try to work it out yourself.

Here’s some ideas that might help with this:

  • Be confident and assertive

People who hassle other people usually set their sights on someone who seems nervous or unsure of themselves because they think they won’t stand up to them.

The old “turn the other cheek” doesn’t really work. Walking away and trying to ignore can still be the reaction that the person bullying wants to happe.

Being confident about who you are can actually be your best defence. Stand firm and look them in the eye. Let it be known that you don’t think is OK. Even if you don’t feel it, as the not-so-old saying goes, “fake it ’til you make it”.

Suggestions for using your confidence to deal with bullying:

  • Tell them to give it a rest – don’t be aggressive, just calm and sure of yourself
  • Be assertive – look them in the eye and keep you rbody language firm
  • Turn around and be nice – killing them with kindness can throw them right off track
  • Use humour – it can throw them off.
  • Use positive self-talk – tell yourself you’re a better person than all that
  • Have a mantra – a saying or a statement that you repeat to them, like “whatever” or “well, if that’s what you think”. This can make you feel confident enough to just block them out (could be a line from a song or a film, whatever works)
  • Remember there are people who accept you for you who are. They’re the ones that matter.
  • Use visualisation

This might sound daft and it won’t work for everyone, but it can keep you from getting  overwhelmed. Picture yourself as being miles taller than whoever’s hassling you, or imagine them in some ridiculous costume. This can help you realise they’re only human, and probably not as tough as they make out.

  • Stay positive

It can be hard to remember your good points when someone is doing their best to put you down. However, try to think of all the things you’re good at and proud of and stuff that makes you laugh. 

Some of the world’s brightest, funniest and most talented people get a hard time when they’re young. Remember this will pass, and loads of people get through it and go on to do amazing stuff with their lives.

  • Safety in numbers

You’re safer in a group, so hang out with other people when you can. If you’re by yourself and worried about being hassled or feel threatened, be aware of places nearby where there’ll be other people.

Moving on

Sometimes no matter how you or other people try to resolve a bullying situation, there might be no real solution other than to move school or change your job. This can seems like a massive deal, but sometimes making a fresh start is actually the simplest way forward.

This isn’t always a possibility and it’s not the first option. But, when it’s the right thing to do it can actually be the best decision you ever make. You’re not giving up up, just moving on.

Parents can sometimes be resistant to the idea of moving school, but talk to them about it and explain how you feel. That way you can figure out what your options are.

More information and places that can help

There’s loads of information out there on bullying. Worldwide there are projects and campaigns to try and deal with it, which will show you how common it is. Checking these out can be great ways to get some help yourself.

So many people can feel the same way you do, and know that bullying is a really serious issue we all need to do something about. Start with the helpful sites below.


Helpful sites

Comments Show all comments

  1. Derek (admin) says:

    Hi Nora

    We're sorry to hear that you and your daughter have had such a negative experience with bullying. Although it doesn't seem fair, you did the right thing by taking your daughter out of the college - sometimes it's the healthiest way to move past and beyond a bullying culture. We hope your daughter is doing ok now? Perhaps you would be interested in looking at the content on a related website ReachOutParents which was developed to help parents help their sons and daughters get through tough times. Bullying is covered on the site and there are some practical tips and suggestions on how to support a son or daughter who has been bullied, especially around issues like self-confidence. Please do check out the site and let us know what you think.

    On a more practical note, if you still want to issue a formal complaint around the bullying, perhaps the college has a board of management that you could write to? Or, depending on how the college is incorporated (e.g. as a company limited by guarantee) there may be a board of directors to whom you could write.

    The most important thing is that both you and your daughter begin to feel better and move past this negative experience - mind yourself, and your daughter,

    Take care


  2. Nora says:

    My daughter was bullied by her tutor who was also the owner of the private beauty school she attended. It got so bad that I had to remove my daughter from her establishment and when I went to see the tutor with my daughter to try to resolve this situation, the tutor didn't feel that she was doing anything wrong. All she was bothered about was her ' 98%' pass rate. I found out that there is no authority that I can make a formal complaint against this tutor as the college is private. My daughter lost her self confidence and felt belittled and humiliated and there was nothing we could do about this individuals bullying.

  3. roisin says:

    Hi Holly,

    I'don't quite understand your question. Experiencing bullying can really have a negative affect on mental health and self-esteem. If you or someone you know are being bullied it's a good idea to talk to somebody about it. Bullying is never OK and nobody ever deserves to be bullied.

    I hope this helps,

  4. holly says:

    I need to know if a bully can teach you anything?

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