Updated: Nov 16
Just a couple of months into starting secondary school, Oliver found himself amidst a whirlwind of bullying. A group of kids targeted him, hurling cutting remarks about his looks and behaviour. Despite the absence of any physical harm, the torment weighed heavily on Oliver, stirring up intense anxiety. Although he had enjoyed primary school, at secondary school this swiftly transformed into a dread at the thought of going in every morning.
At the end of year 7, his parents managed to move Oliver to another school. This time, he was instantly taken in by a large group of friends. Things improved greatly; he met his new friends outside school regularly and felt a bit more confident about being in school.
Fast forward to his GCSE year. Oliver still has a strong friend group and there has been no bullying at his new school, but for the past eighteen months, his attendance has become more and more patchy. He has fallen behind in his school work, which makes it harder when he’s in school. He only wants to stay at home, in a darkened room, on his Xbox and some weeks he won’t even reply to messages from his friends.
This is a true story and tragically it mirrors countless others. The aftermath of bullying often lingers, haunting many children long after the torment ends.
The Facts about Bullying in the UK
In a survey from 2019, 22% of young people aged 12-20 said they had experienced bullying behaviour in the past 12 months. 45% had experienced it at least once a month, and 31% had experienced it at least once a week
The same survey found that more than 60% of young people who have experienced bullying behaviour in the last 12-months said it had a moderate to extreme impact on their self-esteem (67%), confidence (66%), optimism and positivity (63%), and social life (64%).
In the UK alone, over 16 000 young people aged 11–15 are estimated to be absent from state school with bullying as the main reason, and 78 000 are absent where bullying is one of the reasons given for absence.
An Uncomfortable Truth
Regrettably, no matter our efforts, the harsh reality looms: eradicating bullying entirely remains an uphill battle. Its manifestations are diverse — be it the direct intimidation of individuals, the relational bullying amidst friend circles, or the complex challenges posed by cyberbullying. Schools often serve as its breeding ground, but its insidious presence extends beyond, infiltrating offices and any gathering of people.
Not only is bullying likely to continue but sadly, in addition to the varied immediate effects of childhood bullying, there are often long-term effects that can continue into adulthood.
The emotional distress caused by bullying can often translate into ongoing physical symptoms, such as colds, headaches, stomach aches or sleeping problems. Victims are also more likely to develop anxiety or depression and are at significantly increased risk of self-harm or thinking about suicide in adolescence.
More worrying still, they are also more likely to experience health, financial and social problems into adulthood.
Help with Bullying
If we can’t stop bullying completely, what can we do to help children and teens who are experiencing or have experienced bullying?
What protective factors can we put in place to protect them from the impact of bullying and help prevent the long term negative effects?
When bullying has become an issue, early school intervention with victims and bullies is a key factor in reducing impact, but alongside recognising and acting fast, there are other strategies schools and parents can adopt to support children and teens.
In Oliver's case, if he had been supported to build key psychological skills that would have prevented the stress and anxiety from lingering, helped lessen the damage to his self-esteem and boosted his ability to not just build, but also trust his new relationships, would he be in a better place now?
Studies have shown that improving children’s resilience can reduce the long-term effects of bullying. Being able to develop psychological skills, such as reduced impulsivity and stronger relationship and social skills can be protective factors. Even better, greater resilience in younger children has also been shown to make them less likely to become bullies or victims of bullying.
Resilience builds the ability of young people to bounce back from challenges and setbacks, and by bouncing back they also experience increased confidence. It also helps reduce the likelihood of developing anxiety and depression later in life.
Used alongside other school-led early intervention strategies, Resilience building can provide protection against the worst effects of bullying.
How can we build resilience in our children and teens?
The good news is that resilience can be learned. Although environmental factors help children become resilient, they can also develop resilience by learning and practising key psychological skills.
Resilience can be built through simple techniques. Helping younger children to create strong structures and routines that support mental health and wellbeing, such as making time each day to be outdoors or taking part in enjoyable exercise, can create a foundation that will lead to greater resilience in later life.
Equally, by helping children to build strong and trusting relationships and teaching them how to seek help when it’s needed, we give them the skills that will support them in the face of life’s challenges.
It is exactly these skills that students learn through eQuoo. Our revolutionary, clinically-proven, story-telling app has been developed specifically to help young people to understand, learn and practise the key psychological skills that build a resilient mindset.
Skills are taught through a variety of stories, providing examples of these skills in real life scenarios, testing understanding of them and then progressing to games to practise these new skills in a safe environment.
And students can keep track of their progress by regularly checking their resilience score…seeing a boost to their baseline resilience in as little as 5 weeks.
Contact our team to find out more about eQuoo and the power of resilience to help children and teens bounce back from life’s challenges.