Can anyone be immune to bullying? Very few people can claim that they haven’t been affected in some way at some point in their life, whether they were the victim, the abuser, or a bystander, whether it happened forty years ago or the previous day.
A few years ago, near the middle of my sophomore year of high school, that could have been my arm; the bullying got so bad I considered taking a razor to my skin, cutting myself to make it go away. Thankfully I was always too afraid to do it. Eventually, and with help from friends, I was able to confront my abusers and get through my pain without resorting to violence. I don’t want to imagine what I could have done to myself had I not been able to face my bullies, if it had been online, or worse: anonymous. How do you cope when you can’t put a face to the abuse, not knowing if it stems from an individual or a group, afraid to trust anyone because they might be involved?
Bullying has consequences, both physical and mental, but the increase in technological use increases the range a bully has to torment an individual. A friend, who we’ll call “Kenzi” here, was harassed via Tumblr posts for weeks; it reached a point where she essentially decided to go off the grid: she shut down all of her social media accounts, didn’t check her email, didn’t even answer her phone. But it didn’t help. Kenzie thought that everyone felt that way about her, even her closest friends. She started cutting, doing drugs, drinking, anything she thought would help make the pain disappear, to make it feel like she wasn’t some horrible disease no one speaks of and everyone hates. We found her in the bathroom one day ready to cut herself again, but when she saw us she broke. Kenzie is now clean and healthy, but still has to attend regular therapy to keep herself from falling back into a death spiral. While Tumblr users often don’t use their real names, you can still report usernames as abusers. However, there is an option to “ask” or send electronic notes anonymously to people, which can cause people a lot of grief and pain when those notes are used to harass.
Mental health problems like depression and suicide are huge effects of bullying in any form. We are the ones who have to change the statistics. As a bystander, do something: stand up for the victim, go for help; by standing by and doing nothing, you become just as bad as the bully. When you remove the element of power from the bully, it becomes less of a problem. To the victims, help is out there. Suicide or other means of harm aren’t the only options to solving the problem. Talking to someone can help, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time.
We all deserve the opportunity to lives our lives without fear or pain. We just have to be the ones to see it and make it a possibility for everyone.
Something to check out is “To This Day” by Shane Koyczan. It delves into bullying and some ways to get past it, and is a very powerful and moving piece.