Opinion | Anti-bullying week is more important than we think

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By Charlie Osborne, Second Year, History

The penultimate week of November bore witness to the seventeenth annual anti-bullying week across the United Kingdom. The event, hosted by the Anti-Bullying Alliance, seeks to raise awareness of the devastating impact of bullying throughout the British education system.

This year, perhaps, it is more prevalent now than ever. Whilst the scheme focuses the majority of its attention towards primary and secondary education, the residual effects of bullying often stay with victims long after their school departure. The British Medical Journal reported in 2015, that up to a third of early adulthood depression was directly linked to bullying in teenage years.

The investigation, conducted in the wider Avon region, deduced that teenagers who had been frequently bullied (more than once a week) at the age of 13 were more than twice as likely to suffer from depression for an extended period of time than those who had not been bullied at all.

Five years on, the conclusions of the report are still painfully damning. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has made matters much worse for those reliant on support regarding their mental wellbeing.

In March of this year the government axed a scheme aimed at eradicating anti-LGBTQ+ bullying throughout the UK, this is one of a number of setbacks in the campaign to end abuse in the education system.

The situation at the University is little different. The recent rent strikes elucidated the fact that lockdown restrictions within halls have prevented many undergraduates from accessing wellbeing services, often vital in limiting the psychological impact of bullying.

You don’t have to be an active bystander to offset the impact of bullying

Services such as Wellbeing Access and the Report and Support system do exist to assist students impacted by bullying, but many feel that they are not doing enough. With waiting lists long and resources spread thin, support schemes are failing to reach all those in need of help, many of whom have reported increased symptoms of depression as a result of the COVID-19 restrictions.

A study recently conducted by the Cambridge University Hospital, the University of Cambridge and King’s College London revealed that several major triggers for mental health issues, such as cyberbullying, have been exacerbated by quarantine measures implemented as a result of the pandemic.

Whilst the aggravating conditions of a national lockdown can cause us all to act out of sorts, it is imperative that we do not project our irritations onto innocent parties. The consequences of our actions can go a substantial distance further than slight indignation, inflicting long-term mental harm at a time when support is most scarce. In the light of the many University student suicides, we must take it upon ourselves to support those most in need.

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You don’t have to be an active bystander to offset the impact of bullying - providing a friendly face and a means of communication to those you feel could use it certainly goes a long way. Don’t put it off. Reach out to those you haven’t spoken to in a while, catch up, and be there for those who might need it.

A number of external services also exist if you feel in need of support. Ditch the Label is an anonymous online community that exists to aid those suffering at the hands of bullying and poor mental health. Nightline also offers free support every night from 8PM to 8AM, for those seeking a confidential, impartial conversational service.

We must ensure that this Anti-Bullying Week does not slip by unnoticed. We can all do a thing or two, today, to look out for one another during these difficult times. Be thoughtful, be helpful, be a friend.

Featured Image: Epigram / Tom Taylor


How important do you think Anti-Bullying Week is?

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