This year, Anti-Bullying Week runs from the 16th – 20th of November and is built around the theme of ‘United Against Bullying’. It is hard to think of a more fitting theme – bullying is a dangerous and toxic behaviour that cannot be vanquished without a coordinated effort.
Typically, many of our first experiences of bullying start at school (this is, of course, not true for all), and can take many forms, whether it be cyber-bullying, verbal, or physical abuse. Sadly, these experiences are likely to affect young people throughout their lives, creating long-lasting mental health problems that they may never fully recover from.
Unfortunately, for many who experience bullying, in whatever form, there is a sense of shame and self-blame attached to it, which is why it is so important we have awareness events such as Anti-Bullying Week. It helps show people who are experiencing it and who have experienced it, that they are not in it alone – and critically it also highlights the importance of speaking up and not suffering through it in silence.
In many ways, the ongoing pandemic makes this issue even more important. Although, there is less contact between people, schools are currently open and there is still the very real issue of cyber bullying for those studying from home. The isolation of the pandemic may make it even harder for those suffering to speak out about their experience and lead to more young people feeling as though they have no one to turn to. Making it all the more important to raise awareness about what support is available, and to form a loud and united front against bullying.
There are so many initiatives which schools can implement to take a stand against bullying and support students they are worried about, here are just a few ways you can do your bit this week:
Create a support network
First and foremost, ensure that every student knows where and who they can go to if they are being bullied, and that they will be given all the support they need. It is also important to have multiple ways they can reach out, whether this is by phone, email or in person, it’s vital that help is as accessible as possible.
What does ‘bullying’ mean?
Secondly, it may seem too simple, but talk to your students about what constitutes bullying and the affects it can have on other people. The perpetrators may not realise their behaviour is bullying, or they may not realise the impact they are having. Any chance to remind everyone that right now is a harder time than ever, and that we all need to be as kind as possible, is a positive thing.
Raise awareness and understanding in the classroom
Thirdly, during this week, you can have all classes adopt a theme of standing united against bullying. There are some really engaging anti-bullying lesson plans out there, that are designed to not only highlight the dangers of bullying but also help young people understand why it is so important to form a united front against bullying. These range from history lessons based on groups who came together to combat oppression and IT lessons themed around creating a social media platform that actively prevents bullying, to PSHE lessons that get students discussing the importance of being yourself and why concrete conceptions of what constitutes “normal” and “abnormal” are so damaging.
The Anti-Bullying Alliance who founded Anti-Bullying Week, have a range of really valuable resources available for schools, pupils and guardians, to help raise awareness of the effects of bullying and guidance on how to put a stop to it. Equally, YoungMinds has advice for young people being bullied and a helpline where they can access free support. Finally, it’s important to reiterate, anyone suffering from bullying or abuse should know they are not alone, there are so many people and places you can turn to, and so many people who understand what you are going through; never be afraid to ask for help.