Young people from all backgrounds, in all communities, are affected by bullying... but when you’re the one being pushed around or called names, it can feel like you’re totally alone.
As a newcomer to Canada, if you’re being bullied, you might even think it’s somehow your fault—maybe because you have a different accent, dress differently, or have different customs and habits than native Canadians. But the truth is no one deserves to be bullied, and whether you’re the one being bullied, or even just someone who’s watching it happen, you can take actions to put a stop to it.
Bullying can take different forms...
When you think of bullying, you might imagine a big kid pushing a little kid, or someone getting their lunch money stolen, but there are lots of other forms bullying can take. It can be whispering about or excluding someone, spreading rumours about them, or even posting mean things about them online.
How does bullying affect the victim?
Getting bullied feels horrible. Many victims of bullying have trouble sleeping or focusing on school work. Sometimes they’re afraid to go to school at all! Bullying can even cause physical problems like headaches, or anxiety issues as the stress builds. Some victims also get depressed or have suicidal thoughts because the situation feels so hopeless.
What do bullies want, anyway?
It seems hard to believe, but bullies are usually insecure. Often, they’re people who have been pushed around themselves and who are looking for attention to make themselves feel better about it. They’ve never learned to deal with conflicts in healthy ways and might come from families where people shout, call each other names or hurt each other physically. Still, the fact that bullies might be having a hard time themselves doesn’t make it okay for them to hurt other people.
What should you do if you’re being bullied?
If you’re being bullied, there are two things you can do: the first is to stand up for yourself; the second is to get help.
Standing up For Yourself:
Standing up for yourself isn’t about fighting back with force. Instead, it means doing your best not to give the bully the attention they’re looking for. If someone is bothering you, stay as calm as you can. Tell them to stop, or else just ignore them. If you can, walk away. You might have to do this a few times, but after a while, most bullies will lose interest in a victim who doesn’t react.
To keep yourself safe, it’s also a good idea to avoid the person who is bullying you as much as possible or to stick with your friends—the people who treat you with the respect you deserve. Of course, if you’re ever afraid for your safety, or if the bullying is too much for you to handle on your own, you need to get help right away.
Asking an adult for help isn’t ‘squealing’ or ‘tattling’—it’s looking out for your own safety. You can try talking to a teacher, a parent, the principal of your school, the guidance counsellor, or another adult you trust. If the first person you talk to doesn’t believe you or won’t help you... try someone else. When you do find someone you can count on, tell them exactly what happened, how often it’s been happening, who else has seen it happen and how you reacted.
What should you do if you see someone else getting bullied?
We know bullies push other people around for the attention. But where do they get that attention? From the people who are watching, of course. If you see someone else getting bullied, you have the power to change the situation by standing up for them. If you’re comfortable doing it, you can speak up right then and there. Even a few words like “That’s not funny,” or “That’s definitely not cool,” can go a long way toward taking away a bully’s power. If you’re scared of what the bully might do to you, you can also help by reporting the incident in private to an adult you trust.